As summer approaches, people are spending more time outside and as the weather gets hotter, you’ll need a chilled, refreshing beverage nearby to cool you off. In the beer-crazy Czech Republic, the choice is often obvious, but fans of apple cider often had to settle for the imported stuff. However, high-quality, Czech-made cider does in fact exist. I recently attended the opening of Cidrerie BYOF Bar in Všenory, just outside of Prague, and it was definitely a learning experience.
The first thing I learned is that I was pronouncing the name wrong. At Cidrerie, the featured product is not the usual English “sai-der” but rather the French pronunciation “see-der.” In fact, this is how it is pronounced in Czech as well; it’s just us English speakers have just been saying it differently. For authenticity, they also prefer the French spelling of cidre. I met Cidrerie founder Jáchym Kliment to talk about his favorite beverage, and he explained that not all carbonated, apple-based alcoholic beverages are created equally.
Most commercial cider brands want a finished product as quicky as possible so they rush fermentation and add sweeteners afterwards, but Jáchym’s own brand, Cidre Premier, uses a traditional method called keeving. This all-natural process uses no added preservatives, flavoring or sugar, and takes much longer than commercial methods. The entire process from orchard to your glass takes six to eight months, although it remains drinkable beyond that. Jáchym says this is the truest way to produce cidre, but it requires a lot of experience and patience to know exactly how to do it. Luckily, he has both.
Jáchym’s family maintained orchards growing up, so he was able to familiarize himself with the challenges apple-growers face. He also spent some time in France to study traditional methods of cidre-making. One of the biggest challenges is knowing what blend of apples to use. Not every type of apple is ideal for cidre, so Jáchym prefers to grow his own. Each bottle of Cidre Premier uses 10-15 different kinds of apple to achieve the desired taste, and there are many variables which can affect the final product.
Cidrerie only has a handful of full-time employees, but they enlist the help of family and friends in autumn, when they select and mash apples for the next year’s batch. After extracting the juice, the cidre is stored in a series of tanks for six months or more. It is transferred from one tank to the next to remove sediment, but nothing is ever added. During this time, Jáchym must sample the cidre throughout the process to make sure it tastes just right. The cider is so unpasteurized and unfiltered, so it retains as much of the natural apple flavor as possible. Carbonation occurs naturally in the bottle, which should be stored in a dark, cool place. Each 750-mL bottle is corked like a wine bottle, giving them a classy look and feel.
There are three varieties of Cidre Premier, all of which have their own unique recipe and flavor: sladký, polosuchý, and suchý (sweet, half-dry and dry). They contain 4.5%, 5.5% and 6.5% alcohol, respectively. I was advised to try the sladký first, which was indeed sweet, although not too much, and it retained much more of the apple-y flavor compared to the other two. The polosuchý is their most popular, and provides a nice balance of sweet and dry. In my opinion, it was the most flavorful as well. It had a sweet bitterness about it that hit me in the corners of my mouth. The dry cidre is probably the hardest to describe in words. My guide remarked that it has a quality similar to Brut wine, and it certainly tasted more like a dry champagne than sweet apple cider.
As someone who doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, I preferred the two drier versions, although it was hard to choose which was my favorite. They are all so different that it’s hard to compare. I had certainly never tasted cidre like this before.
Although Jáchym has already been making cidre for several years, he hopes people will come to Cidrerie to see how it is produced for themselves. It is located in the cozy town of Všenory, which is accessible by train or bicycle (about an hour ride in the direction of Karlštejn). Guests can tour the facility, relax in the courtyard, and of course sample the cidre, even directly from the tanks. One interesting part of Cidrerie is the BYOF bar, which naturally stands for Bring Your Own Food. They do not serve food at present, but guests are encouraged to bring their own and make a day of it. Cidrerie will be open every day throughout the summer, so there are plenty of opportunities for your own cidre education.
In addition to Cidrerie, you can purchase Cidre Premier at many cafes, pubs, and bistros around Prague. For more information, check their website. You can also purchase bottles of cidre through their e-shop.
Na návsi 37 252 31 Všenory, Praha-West
Open Mon–Sun 14:00–20:00
You can try cider from Cidrerie at the Apetit Piknik food festival, this Saturday June 21.