Cidernaut guide to Spain
Just as in Wales and the South of England, there are long traditions of cidermaking in parts of Spain, notably Basque and Asturias, hence these Cidernaut guides.
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The Asturias region in the north of Spain is a major cider producing area, as anyone visting will soon gather. The fertile land between the sea and the mountains is covered in orchards, and most of them would appear to be cider orchards. Asturias used to be Spain's main mining region and miners have always been in need of a long and refreshing drink. In most Asturian towns and villages they don't have so many restaurants and bars - they have 'Sidrerias' (cider houses). Cider, as part of a robust local cuisine, plays a very important part in Asturian regional identity - a sense of specialness and separateness from the rest of Spain that was sharpened by the experiences of the Carlist Wars in the 19th century, the Miners' uprising in 1934, the subsequent repression, and the still worse atrocities of the Civil War (1936-39). The main cider areas, centred on Villaviciosa, are precisely the parts of Asturias where the burden of this history is still most keenly felt. Cider drinking in Asturias has acquired a lore and an etiquette, and is strongly embedded in the Asturian attitude to life, with its own leisurely rhythm and a strongly collective, public aspect.
The cider is sharp and strong, served in special cider glasses, and in a unique way. Every Asturian barman worth his salt is able to pour a small shot of cider into a glass held almost horizontally at waist height or lower, straight from a bottle held above his head. They don't do this just to show off, it really does make the cider taste different. This is because the cider has naturally bottled is not so fizzy as the typical Norman product, for example. It does have a petillance, however, which is released by the process of splashing into the glass from a height.
In a restaurant the cider will normally be brought to the table by a waiter or waitress, with the requested number of glasses. It is then delivered ceremoniously into each glass in turn, in fairly small doses. The drinker is expected to drain the glass in one - it is regarded as slightly bad manners not to do so. The waitress will return to the table on request, a number of times, to complete the process of serving the bottle. It is particularly bad manners to pour the cider yourself. You are dealing with people who have pride in their product and in their craft, and should enjoy it in the time-honoured way.
- There is a (Spanish only) website with listings of Sidrerias at: http://www.sidreria.com/index.asp
- For a good overview of the Asturian cidermaking process, try this site which has an English language version: http://www.sidradeasturias.es/res800/en/sidra_y_lagares.html
When touring Asturias, or Northern Spain in general, it shouldn't be difficult to find good quality bottled Sidra Natural in shops and supermarkets, as well as in Sidrerias and some bars and restaurants. On a recent trip it was also discovered that three out of four Asturian Campsites stocked cider in the campsite shop or cafe. There is also a fizzy, usually slightly sweeter, variant of Asturian cider, presented in a "Champagne" style bottle, sometimes with a wired closure, sometimes with a screw cap, and foil cover. This is not quite the real thing (being, presumably, pasteurized and filtered), but it does travel better and keep longer than sidra natural.
There is a good listing of Sidrerias at this website
"Cider houses, or sidrerìas, are scattered all throughout Oviedo, but perhaps the easiest way to get acquainted with the drink is to go to Calle Gascona, a pedestrian road right outside of old town that is lined with always-lively sidrerìas"
From an article with reviews of the sidrerias: Oviedo & Asturias, Spain Travel Guide by Ann Page Austin
Bars and restaurants here all serve cider in the traditional way. The Bizarre has special little stalls in the restaurant area where the waiters and waitresses vie to achieve the best height for delivery. Sit outside, and they lean perilously into the road to deliver the golden liquid expertly into your glass.
Not only a good place to drink cider in bars and restaurants, but the self-proclaimed apple and cider capital of Spain, with a number of museums and exhibitions devoted to apples and cider in the vicinity.
There are a few sidrerias on, or near the Ramblas:
- Amaya (La Rambla 20-24) - Basque restaurant with a narrow bar. Bottled Saizar sidra(5.5%)
We found the Saizar sidra to be very good. Very friendly and helpful bar manager - go inside for the fun and games. Very friendly locals. We were given lessons on pouring the sidra correctly...
- Sukaldari (La Rambla 87) - Saizar sidra
- Mikel Etxea (La Rambla 45) - Saizar sidra on draught. There is a more lively branch at Ferràn 15 with big screen sport and draught sidra. There are much friendlier places with better service than this tourist-oriented bar. Try the Port Vell area.
- Taverna Basca Irati - (Carrer Cardenal Cassanye 17) Small bar with help yourself Pintxos. Bottled Zapiain sidra (6.5%) and a real treat, Zapiain Sidra Brandy!
- Txikiteo (Josep Anselm Clavé 7) - Just off the bottom of the Ramblas, a cool long bar and restaurant with help yourself Pintxos and bottled Guretzeta sidra (6%)
There is a cluster of more traditional Sidrerias near Port Vell area:
- Tasca el Corral (Carrer de la Mercé 17-19) Basic bar with Chorizo and good Pan con Tomate. Sidra is bottled Asturian El Fugitivo (5%) which you are welcome to have a go at pouring yourself. It's much harder than it looks.
- La Socarrena NOW CLOSED (C/ De la Mercé 21)
Casa Delmolinero (C/ De la Mercé 12) have both had sidra on previous visits but had ran out when we visited.
- El Tonnel (Carrer del Tonnel, off Carrer Ample) is a bistro style Sidreria which has just been refurbished. Sidra here is El Fugitivo.
Note: Has become a sushi bar. Closed when we visited - seemed permanent?
At the lower end of the Barri Gotic are a couple of essential visits:
- Sagardi Euskal Taberna (Carrer de Basea 10) Smart Basque restaurant and Pintxos bar in an old stone building. Draught Zapiain sidra. Very nice - but not cheap if you eat the tapas / pintxos! Take plenty of euros!
- Euskal Etxea (Placeta de Montcada 13) Large, airy bar and restaurant with bottled Bereziartua sidra (6%) Very good range of tapas / pintxos, which are priced by the colour of the cocktail stick, so easy to stay within your budget. Good sidra too! Recommended.
We tried a couple of good bars in the Eixample area:
- Txapella (Passeig de Gracia 8-10) One of our favourites. A great selection of Pintxos at this large and popular bar, there is an English menu for those of us who don't speak Basque. Draught Zapiain sidra.
- Txestatu (Consell de Cent 329) Basque bar/restaurant not too far from Guadi's Casa Batlló. Saizar sidra on draught.
We also have reason to believe there is sidra at Norbaltic (Consell de Cent 239)
- If you are interested in some interesting tapas, try the Bar Celta Pulperia on the Carrer de la Merce. Good range of seafood - plus some sliced pig's ears and deepfried pig's lips - if that's your thing... Also sold small bottles of an "industrial" sidra - but much better than we expected.
Dave Matthews has also suggested:
- Sagardi (c.Argenteria 62) draught Zapiain sidra
- Bilbao-Berria (pla.Nova 3) bottled Gurutzeta sidra
- Txirimiri (c.Princesa 11) draught Saizar.
Though not widely advertised, just about every decent bar in Bilbao will have a cool bottle of sidra natural available to try by the glass or bottle. Bottles of sidra are also widely available to buy in shops, supermarkets, the excellent Mercado de la Ribera (calle de la Ribera), and a small range of bottles can even be bought at the smart new airport. There are also two Sidrerias of note:
- Sidreria Arriaga (Santa Maria, 13) Tel: 94 416 5670
Restaurant in the heart of the old town which is very popular with groups looking for the traditional Sagardotegiak experience. The Menu de Sidreria (€28) is a huge 5 course affair accompanied by all the cider you can squeeze in. We would recommend the less obvious menu del dia (€13) where you are encouraged to help yourselves to the draught Saizar Sidra from the little taps set in huge (fake) barrels on the wall.
- Sagardotegi Artxanda (Artxanda)
An essential day out when in Bilbao is a trip up the Funicular de Artxanda (from Plaza Funicular) for spectacular views over the city and beyond. Among the handfull of cafes at the top is a very good sidreria, where a drink and/or meal can be enjoyed. We had an excellent value menu del dia (€12) on the sunny terrace, accompanied by a bottle of very good Saizar Sidra, which is also available draught in the restaurant. There is also a more pricey Menu de Sidreria, and rotisserie chickens amongst other tasty things.
In the Basque region of Guipúzcoa, it is a tradition to visit sagardotegiak between February and May to drink new sidra from the barrel accompanied by a meal.
The old town (Parte Vieja) is awash with bars offering a dazzling array of pintxos (basque tapas). Bottled or draught sidra is ubiquitous.
- Aralar (Calle del Puerto, 10) Tel: 943 42 6378
This bar had draught sidra squirted from an unusual font, and the rare (and expensive) Zapiain Sidra Brandy, €13 for a treble measure at the very least!
These two sidrerias looked good, but we didn't have time to explore further:
- Sidreria Donostiarra (Calle Embeltran, 5) Tel: 943 42 0421
Dave Mathews writes in the 2005 edition of the CAMRA Good Cider Guide that this sidreria has three draught sidras: Zelia, Zapiain and Astarbe.
- Sidreria Itxaropena (Calle Embeltran, 16) Tel: 943 42 4576
Dave Mathews writes in the 2005 edition of the CAMRA Good Cider Guide that this sidreria has draught Zapiain Sidra from fake barrel ends.
There is a listing of Asturian Sidrerias in Madrid here: http://www.sidreria.com/buscar.asp
The following is a list of Sidrerias we visited in October 2005. All had sidra from Asturias, including a pleasant, sweet, lightly fizzy draught cider (mostly by Miravellas). If it's the dry Sidra Natural you're after, ask for a botella or you're likely to get a glass of this keg version.
The faint of heart may be pleased to know that practically all the sidrerias we visited in cenral Madrid had wall mounted devices to help with the correct pouring and aeration of the cider. The traditional pour, bottle held above head height, glass at the waist, is much more fun, but with the aid of these pumps you're likely to get more of the cider in the glass! All of the sidra we found was from Asturias other than Basque Zapiain from the Corte Ingles Gourmet Food dept.
- A'Lareira (Calle de Leganitos 43) Metro Plaza de Espana
Basic bar with Cortina sidra. Tapas was a very tasty liver dish.
- Asador (Calle de Alvarez Gato) Metro Sol
Expensive restaurant in one of Madrids livliest areas, with Cortina sidra. There was also draught from a small tap set in a barrel-end on the wall.
- Casa de Asturias (Calle de Argumosa 4) Metro Lavapies
Not too far from the impressive Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, and just about handy for Atocha rail station. Sidra is La Llarada, an added attraction is that this is the only sidreria we visited where you can sit out on the tree lined street and drink your cider.
- Aviseo (Calle de Toledo 90) Metro La Latina
Another fairly basic bar with Cortina sidra
- La Burbuja que Rie (Calle del Angel) Metro La Latina
Not too far from the bustling Sunday Rastro (flea market), and one of our favourite Sidrerias. A real family venue, with excellent tapas and hearty Asturian food. There is a good choice of sidra kept cool in a water bath. We tried Cortina and Llagar de la Ferreria, and there were also bottles of Trabanco and La Llarada. The three course menu del dia includes drinks and is excellent value at €8. If you only have time for two sidrerias in Madrid, we would recommend this one and Corripio
- La Camocha (Calle de Fuencarral 95) Metro Tribunal
Airy bar and restaurant on a long road of clothes shops. Pachu sidra
- Corripio (Calle de Fuencarral 102) Metro Tribunal
The somewhat dull exterior gives way to a splendid, barrel lined bar, standing room only. This is a friendly locals bar where local workers pop in for a drink and a slab of the excellent Empinada (a kind of Spanish Tuna and vegetable pasty). The sidra is Miravalles which is a little drier and tarter than most. Duck under the bar and head to the rear for the toilets.
- El Escarpin (Calle de las Hileras) Metro Opera
Popular bar with a fine wood panelled ceiling and a waterfall at the entrance! We had the special of a whole crab and a bottle of Pachu sidra for €12, claw crackers included.
- La Farola (Calle de Tetuan 20) Metro Sol
Narrow sidreria in the very centre of Madrid, though far from exclusively populated by tourists. Sidra is the excellent Cortina
- Casa Lastra (Calle del Olivar 3) Metro Tirso de Molina/Anton Martin
Small, friendly tapas bar with Cortina sidra, which is available by the glass, expertly poured for you by the bar staff.
- El Manantial (Calle de Tetuan 30) Metro Sol
Close to La Farola, and pretty similar, though the sidra is La Llarada
- Casa Parrondo (Calle de Trujillos 9) Metro Opera
Ridiculously popular at the weekend where the crowd spills out onto the pavement. Trabanco sidra and suckling pig on the bar counter.
- Zerain (Calle de Quevedo 3) Metro Anton Martin
If you fancy pushing the boat out, this rather exclusive looking restaurant looked a good bet, though it's recommended that you book. We hadn't so we're not sure what the sidra is, but whilst chatting to the bar staff we observed the sidra being poured from taps set in huge barrel-ends on the wall. The sidra emerged horizontally to be caught in a glass several feet from the tap. The barrels are almost certainly not real, but the sidra definately is. Not too far from the Museo del Prado.
- Lizarran (Fray Luis de Granada, 3) Tel: 957 49 74 83
ukcider contributor Simon Hopkins says: '...visited regularly and neither the sidra nor the tapas disappointed. The sidra is the Basque Edari at 5.5%, served cold, either as a full bottle or in smaller portions of undisclosed quantity'. Part of the Lizarran chain of Basque Pintxos bars.
- Lizarran (Paseo Jesus Santos Rein) Tel: 952 91 15 49
Less than 100 yards from the train station. Edari Cider (€7/bottle), close your eyes and you could almost imagine you were drinking a good west country cider. Part of the Lizarran chain of Basque Pintxos bars. *** Reported as closed but another Lizarran was open in the Miramar Shopping Centre (24/03/09) ***
- Artxanda (Calle Cánovas del Castillo, 12) Tel: 952 22 73 62
Friendly Basque restaurant/bar near the Bullring, and the beach at Playa de la Malgueta. The excellent Basque sidra is Isastegi of Tolosa, albeit under the badge of the Eroski supermarket chain. (No Sidra on a visit in March 2008)
- Meson Astur (Calle Cápitan, 3) Tel: 952 22 69 07
Thoroughly authentic, low frills Asturian cider bar in the heart of Malaga centre. Sidra is a very good L'Argayón (6%) from Nava, and is available by the glass or bottle (€4/bottle), expertly poured by the friendly bar staff. There is a limited, but tasty range of Asturian food. (March 2008: opens 14:00 Cider slightly acetic straight from the bottle but very drinkable)
- Lizarran (Pza. Solidaridad) Tel: 952 36 97 55
One of a chain of Basque style tabernas, which are scattered throughout Spain and beyond (see website). Perhaps a little bit 'Basque-lite' but worth visiting for the sidra, which is Edari (5.5%), and help youself Pintxos. Handy for the rail and bus stations if passing through.
- La Alacena de San Eloy (San Eloy, 31) Tel: 954 21 55 80
Sidreria and Tapas bar. Sidra Natural at 60 Euro cents a shot and tapas at around 2 Euros. Also has another branch in Aguilas.
- Lizarran (Calle Javier Lasso de la Vega, 14)
Part of the Lizarran chain of Basque Pintxos bars, with bottled Edari sidra.
- El Corte Ingles store (Plaza Duque de la Victoria) sells Zapiain and M.Busto, both at 6% and both at less than 2 euros per bottle. Also, the out of town Carrefour, has bottles of sidra natural.
- Lizarran is a chain of Spanish (Basque) tabernas, which are dotted around Spain, parts of Europe, and North America, many of which may offer a Basque sidra, Edari (5.5%). Details can be found at there website here We found a couple of the bars listed on here had been closed for some time. Check before travelling.
- El Corte Inglés stores throughout Spain usually have a small range of bottled Sidra Natural, including Trabanco, Zapiain, and M'Busto, either in the basement supermarket or the Gourmet Food Hall.
- Museo de la Sidra - The cider museum is located in Nava, and there is a good website with English or Spanish versions.
- There is a nice article on Asturian sidra and sidrerias, with some good pics,here
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