A VAT inspector goes missing as he hunts for an illicit cider still responsible for brewing The Beast, a potent local hooch. At the Midsomer Abbas spring fayre which celebrates its friendship with Midsomer Herne, Barnaby and Jones sample the local cider, while temperance preacher Norman Grigor calls on residents to repent of their drunken ways. Suddenly, Barnaby is violently ill as the body of missing man Peter Slim is found floating in the cider vat.

Whilst temperance campaigners, led by fervent, recovered-alcoholic parson Norman Grigor, protest against the Midsomer Abbas May Festival, the body of Peter Slim, a revenue inspector investigating illicit stills, is found dumped in a cider vat. The murder weapon, an apple tree harvester which shook him to death, belongs to boozy cider mill owner Anthony Devereux, a man with something to hide though he denies murder. Then Barnaby discovers a secret connecting Slim to a village girl and a party to that secret is murdered. As pub landlord Samuel Quested leads the villagers in the revival of an old fertility custom Barnaby and Jones find themselves in peril during the night of the stag.


[Reverend Grigor has gatecrashed a Cider Festival at the local brewery and is preaching fervently about the evils of alcohol. He even accuses the vicar of being a fornicator] Samuel Quested: Tell me, Norman. If "the other" is so wrong, how come you've got six children of your own? [crowd laughs] Samuel Quested: Six we know of, that is. [more laughter] Rev Norman Grigor: I can assure you, Samuel Quested, that I made those children to glorify the Lord. The act itself gave me no pleasure. Chloe Baker: I'm sure your wife would say the same. [uproarious laughter]