If there is one thing that we all have to admit, is that the Basques have set it up very well in Guipúzcoa. Not only is San Sebastian one of the most beautiful coastal cities of northern Spain, but just over 6 km the wonderful Territory of the Cider (Sagardoaren Lurraldea) is located. In that place, those interested in the world of cider have the opportunity to make a route through the typical Basque cider houses.
With sunshine or txirimiri (the drizzle responsible of the bright green colour of those lands), it is always worth planning a getaway to Basque Country. Near Donosti is the municipality of Astigarraga, which has become the main production center of Basque cider. Other locations that stand out for their concentration of cider houses are Hernani and Usurbil, although we can find many others scattered throughout Gipuzkoa.
Before launching to drink, it´s never late to learn new things. Therefore, we should not miss the opportunity to make a stop at the House of Culture of Astigarraga (Casa de Cultura de Astigarraga). The Basque Cider Museum and the Manzanal Pedagógico, a 20,000 m2 outdoor space to provide visitors a unique experience of the cultivation system of the fruit and its varieties, are also located there. The tour, which lasts about 45 minutes, gives us information about the history of cider and the different types of apples used to make it.
After this useful knowledge there comes the moment we all expected: the route through the cider houses. Each year, the Cider Season begins in mid-January by a famous person from the Basque Country.
The alternative preferred by the Basques to enjoy their cider is the tradition of txotx. In April, when the season ends, people gather around one kupela (barrel) to taste this drink. When removing the txotx (a stick that blocks the barrel), a jet is fired until reaching the glasses of the people who stand in line to taste it. This tradition is not only a gastronomic event, but also the perfect excuse to get together with family, old friends or colleagues.
The complete cider experience includes tasting the ”Cider house menu “. Normally, the full traditional Basque cider house menu is composed of a starter in the form of cod tortilla (Spanish omelet), a first course of fried cod with green peppers and a blunt T-bone steak. Leave room for the delicious dessert; cheese with quince jelly and walnuts. The usual price is around 25 euros, although it may vary depending on one place or another. Something that all cider houses have in common is an open cider bar.
These are the cider houses that we want to recommend you:
Petritegi Cider House
Among the Basque cider houses, the best known of all is Petritegi. It’s the particular temple of the Otaño family. It faithfully represents the cultural values of the cider in the Basque Country: historical elements and Basque instruments, tools for working the land, etc. This House also offers tours to see the elaboration of the cider. It is located in Astigarraga.
The tradition of Sidrería Zelaia has its roots back in 1906 by the great-grandfather of the Gaincerain family. Its cider, which was chosen for the opening of the 2016 season, is served in an elongated room where you usually taste it standing up. This place is located in the town of Hernani.
The Zapain Cider House is another of the cider houses that have opted for the tradition of standing-up drinking and eating. The place is located in the town of Astigarraga, where there are at least 20 cider houses, despite having a population of only 4000.
Esteban Letxundi started producing cider in the 70s, benefitting from the agricultural installations already existed in his caserio. Since then, the facilities of Sidrería Saizar have grown to become one of the largest cider houses in the area with a store that sells excellent quality cider in boxes of 12, 6 or 4 bottles. There is also the option to sit at a table and enjoy your meal. To get to this fantastic Cider House, you have to come to Usúrbil.
At the top of a large hill and after several stops to catch air, you reach Rezola Cider House, which has 2 wineries and 3 dining rooms. You have the option to eat standing-up and also seated. This place is located in the municipality of Astigarraga.
To our list we added many other Basque cider houses, among which the following stand out:
- Gartziategi (Astigarraga)
- Alorrenea (Astigarraga)
- Astarbe (Astigarraga)
- Arratzain (Usúrbil)
- Isastegi (Tolosa)
There are so many more unique Cider Houses you could include in our list! Which is your favorite?