One of Spain’s hidden gems is Asturias, an old mining region along the northern coast which is loved by its locals for the lush green landscape, tasty cuisine and nothing but gorgeous cider. Even this beer lover at heart must admit, the Asturian cider is quite extraordinary.
Asturias is the greatest producer of cider in Spain with around 80 percent of the production, according to the organisation Sidra de Asturias. In fact, the region is the fourth largest producer of cider in Europe. Called the “natural paradise of Spain,” Asturias may not be as warm and sunny as the south but is ideal for apple orchards.
Here, cider-making has a long and proud heritage. For the traditional natural cider, no more than 22 approved types of locally-grown cider apples are used. After harvesting, sorting, grinding and pressing, the apple juice is fermented in chestnut or stainless steel barrels for around six months with natural yeast from the apples, orchards and cider-houses. It makes for a delicious, refreshing, unfiltered cider of around 6% that actually brings to mind farmhouse beers with its funky, barnyard character. It also works really well with the local cuisine.
A way of life
But cider is not just about the fermented apple beverage, in Asturias this is a way of socialising. Friends and families gather at the sidrería to solve the world’s problems – be it politics, football, or what the neighbours are up to – and can stay for hours. Cider is ordered by the bottle and served by an escanciador, a pourer of cider. They raise the bottle over their head and pour a small amount into the glass, held at waist-level, which aerates the cider and releases flavours. One person is served at a time and, unlike the craft beer culture, when drinking cider there is no swirling, sniffing or sampling. The rule is to empty the glass immediately, no sipping allowed!
For those who want to explore more, the Cider Museum in Nava guides visitors through the cider-making process and traditions. Another not-to-miss symbol of the cider culture is the monument of cider bottles in Gijón, the region’s largest city. This cider tree, árbol de la sidra, was constructed in 2013 of around 3,000 cider bottles placed upside down to promote recycling. Apparently, the weight of nearly eight tonnes is the equivalent of the annual glass consumption of one hundred families.
The main attraction is no doubt the Natural Cider Festival in Gijón, usually in the last week of August. The program includes visits to cider cellars, a cider and apple market, food tastings, courses on cider pouring and much more. One of the highlights is the cider pouring competition. Every year, Gijón attempts to break the new world record with thousands of people gathering at Poniente beach. Last year, an impressive 9,580 people took part in pouring cider simultaneously. Quite a feat!
For more information on what to see and do in Asturias, click here.
Author: Malin Norman
Photos: Malin Norman, Turismo Asturias, GijonOnline.org, Sidra Trabanco