The love for Basque cider goes beyond borders. In addition to the sagardoa produced in the Basque Country that is exported to the international market, there are more and more cider houses that are making cider inspired by this style in other countries.
Some say that sagardoa is one of the most difficult types of cider to replicate. I would say that it is almost impossible unless native Basque apple varieties are used, there is a similar terrain and climate, and the country’s own indigenous bacterial flora is replicated.
Despite the difficulties, there are many cider makers who embark on the adventure of making sagardoa, and although the result is more or less successful, I must say that among them there are some very laudable and honest examples.
Son of man
Son of Man was founded by Jasper Smith, an American cider lover who discovered the Basque sagardoa and decided to bring its soul to the United States. After several trips to the Basque Country and working with local cider experts, he made Son of Man Sagardo with 20 cider apple varieties of Oregon. It’s a wild fermented Basque inspired cider made in the Columbia River Gorge, “bright, tart, and never sweet”.
Alai means “happy” in euskara, the Basque language. Alai Cider was born in 2013 by Basque descendants in the Ohiggins region of Chile. Sidra del Sorgin is a natural sparkling cider made from apples grown in their own old orchards in Machalí. They describe it as the perfect balance between sweetness, bitterness and astringency.
Brooklyn Cider House
New York (USA)
Raw Cider is inspired by the cider tradition in the Basque Country. “We wanted to make a dry, wildly natural cider with beautiful acidity, and we were excited to see what spin New York apples would give”. This cider undergoes 3 fermentations with wild and wine yeasts and it’s aged on the lees at Brooklyn Cider House in Bushwick. In their cidery they offer Basque inspired cuisine and cider poured straight from the barrel in the typical txotx style.
Buenos Aires (Argentina)
Txapela was born in Argentina as a result of the collaboration between the Basque cider house Petritegi and Xabier Aguirre, a Basque descendant living in Buenos Aires. Their natural cider is made with apples grown in the Rio Negro Valley, in Patagonia. Txapela Sidra Natural Vasca “is the perfect union between the Basque tradition and our best local apples”.
Hawkes is the first London based cidery. Among their large range of products they produce a sagardoa inspired cider, after a visit of their head cider maker Roberto Basilico to the Basque Country. It’s been made with a blend of sweet, sharp and tannic apples, wild fermented for 30 days and matured for 3 months in their big wood barrels, from where they also pour it in the txotx style.
Sidra Zezena is a Basque style apple wine, that is, an apfelwein inspired by sagardoa. According to the label, it has been elaborated “following the method of the oldest cider region in Europe”. It’s made in the Kelterei Stier cider house in Maintal. They use apples from the Hessen region, the largest cider producer in Germany. Zezena means bull in Basque language, and they also produce a variant of Asturian inspiration called Toro Loco (crazy bull).
Shacksbury started bottling and selling Basque cider from Petritegi in 2015. Later they stepped forward and started producing Arlo, “our take on Basque cider”. Cider fermented in the Basque Country is shipped to Vermont, where they blend it with apples they source from New England, creating “a one-of-a-kind dry, complex cider” without any additional flavorings or sweeteners.
British Columbia (Canada)
Nomad Sparkling Sagardo is a Canadian cider inspired by the Basque Country, “where cider is a way of life”. It has been wild fermented with fresh pressed local apples, unfiltered and un-pasteurized. “There is a mild brett and lactobacillus fermentation to gently sour it”. The result is a fresh and crisp cider with a high acidity handcrafted at Nomad cider house in British Columbia.
Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider begun making a Basque influenced cider called Sidra Bravo for the Pollo Bravo restaurant in Oregon. As they say in the label, “sidra is made only in Asturias and sagardoa is made only in the Basque Country, both using indigenous apples and indigenous microflora, neither of which are acquirable in Portland. Nevertheless here lies my homage to those proud cultures. A sharp, sour and funky cider not likely to find appreciation by novice drinkers”.
New York (USA)
¡No pasarán! is produced following the Basque and Asturian styles, the favorite cider production cultures of Black Duck Cidery. Made with 70% heirloom, 15% bittersweet and 15% bittersharp apples from the Finger Lakes, its presented in 750 ml bottles and 20 liter key kegs. Fermented as pomace for ten days before being pressed, different lots are blended to create a still cider that pays homage to sidra natural or sagardoa.
Anxo is the name of a Basque mythological creature, also known as Basajaun (benevolent) or Tartalo (evil). It’s also a common name in Galicia, a less known traditional cider apple growing area. Anxo Cider was founded by restaurant veterans to offer Basque-inspired food. “Nowhere is cider more intricately tied to culture and food than in the Basque Country”, they say, so they decided to link sagardoa inspired cider with Catalan and Basque cuisine working with local ingredients of the District of Columbia in Washington. They use apples purchased directly from farmers, fermented dry with wine and native yeasts, and they produce their own Sidra Natural.
Inclinado means tilted in Spanish, and it’s the California twist on a Basque sagardoa by Tilted Shed Ciderworks. It’s made with 100% local organic Gravenstein and other heirloom apples, wild fermented with natural yeasts in neutral French oak barrels. “A straw gold, deliciously tangy yet restrained cider, with notes of strawberry, clementine, sour apple, blue cheese, honeysuckle, and white pepper”.
Far Cider is a farmhouse style reminiscent of traditional tart Basque ciders. It’s made from a blend of organic Northern California apples, naturally fermented with native yeasts to full dryness. It’s barrel aged from 1 to 3 years, allowing gravity based clearing and adding complexity. “Only a small handful of barrels are made every year and each bottling is done by hand”, in the words of the Far Cider makers.
Millstone Cellars closed in 2018 after some years crafting cider using Basque techniques in Monkton (Baltimore). They use to ferment juice on apple skins “to capture flavor and complexity from native yeast & pectins”. Dry, tart and tannic, one of their creation was Sidra Americana, a rustic Basque Style Cider. They also carried out some Basque inspired collaborations with Anxo.