Cider and Perry lovers head to Rotterdam’s Cider Festival
If anybody was still unconvinced about the amount of interest in artisanal cider, all doubts were answered by visiting the Fenix Food Factory in Rotterdam at the beginning of June. A widespread fascination in cider (which also includes perry) generates a lot of awareness about the annual Cider Festival, and this year’s event attracted many local, national and international visitors who made the day a great success. Any unconvinced disbelievers in the joys of craft cider would have struggled to deny that the large numbers of visitors indicate its popularity is sharply on the ascent. This is cider’s moment. Despite there being no wane in the appeal of cider over recent decades — no discernible drop in the number of hardcore fans — craft cider has been discovered by a new wave of drinkers who seek a refreshing alternative to beers, wines and hard liquor.
The growing fascination with real cider and real perry mirrors the growth of Craft Beer, yet they’re unfortunately far less reported. The reputation of cider has had its ups and downs, too, with many people still making inaccurate parallels between cider and irresponsible drinking; incorrect assumptions generated by a sensationalist press that likes to manipulate fact in order to scandalise. Events like the Cider Festival serve to increase the good reputation of cider as a traditional beverage enjoyed by discerning drinkers, a historic thirst-quencher that has been lovingly and artisanally produced for a thousand years or more. Cider is comparable with good wine, high-quality craft beer and the best in hand-crafted liquor. Cheap industrial, mass-produced apple-flavoured liquids that are often misrepresented as cider are no relation to the real thing — real cider and real perry are things of beauty, something akin to art.
The art of cider-making and perry-making is evident here today, with an abundance of high-quality, delicious craftsmanship on offer, attracting a diverse cross-section of society to the Cider Festival in order to discover and partake in some of the best ciders on the market. Knowledgeable and long-standing cider-lovers gently sip nature’s bounty alongside novice cider-fans here to learn more about this most-ancient and simple of drinks. Everybody stands shoulder-to-shoulder in their quest to learn about the red, green and yellow alchemy, how nothing but apples and pears can be transformed by natural fermentation — modified by nature itself — into a nectar-like drink of wonder.
The Netherlands is a country that has been decidedly slow in embracing authentic cider and perry till now, and yet there has been an astonishing increase in interest about cider and perry over recent years. Besides a few industrial brands offering pale imitations of the genuine article, there has been no widespread adoption of pure, fermented apple or pear juice in Dutch cafés, bars and restaurants, most likely the result of the recent dearth of real cider or real perry producers in the Netherlands. However, the number of Dutch cider-makers is steadily climbing year-on-year, and six of the best are are here today alongside numerous other Dutch cider professionals – importers, exporters, distributors, retailers and others motivated by the recent boom in interest for the humble apple and humble pear.
Cider-makers from all corners of the Netherlands are represented here today. From the north, Groningen’s Doggerland Craft Cider has made the 2-hour journey to be here with its delightful ciders, produced in a manner similar to how the nascent art of cider-making began: local residents exchanging their home-grown apples for cider, and the by-product returning to nature by means of the cidery’s two pigs, Klok and Huus, who consume the harvest leftovers. From the south is Tilburg‘s De vergeten Appel, well-known and as popular as ever, reinforcing the fact it has been making cider for quite a while and is now something of an elder of Dutch cider-making. Elegast distillery from Utrecht has a special relationship with nature and focuses on the sights, sounds and smells of the wild to create something of a unique flavour in its Hard and Wild ciders. One of the most visible cider-makers in the land is ‘s-Graveland’s Bear Cider, here today with their Dutch Cider award winners that need little further introduction — the quality speaks for itself. Local cider-maker Rotterdamse Appel Maatschappij (RAM) is already popular with the Rotterdam faithful, as will be Lightship Cider, a newbie on the Rotterdam cider-scene.
Present too are cider-makers from four countries vying for the title of being cider’s ancestral home, despite the fact the ciders from each country are all very different beasts that serve to complement each other well. No country is ever likely to win the debate about where cider’s ancestral home is, and neither should there be a winner, since all cider that’s tenderly crafted is great.
France is represented by La Galotière and Cidre Wignac, Spain’s Sidra Viuda Angelon Pomar puts in an appearance and from the UK we have Hoxton Cidersmiths and Severn Cider. It’s always great to see real cider from Ireland, so there’s a lot of interest in Finnbarra Cider – known to our Irish readers as Stonewell.
Two countries that do not spring to mind when thinking about cider are Luxembourg and Latvia, yet cider-makers from both are here today, ably demonstrating they’re as proficient and capable as anybody else. In fact, both win awards today, indicative of these countries having great cider-scenes. Abavas vīna darītava hail from Latvia, and Ramborn Cider Co is from Luxembourg.
The cider that has travelled furthest to be present at the Cider Festival comes from Australia’s The Hills Cider Company, and the cider-maker that has travelled furthest to be here today is Germain from Nova Scotia’s Bulwark Ciders, which is located on Canada’s Atlantic coast.
Then there are the attendees. International is a dominant adjective, and it’s not just the cider-makers and cider-drinkers who are international. A short stroll around the Cider Festival rewards the eavesdropper with an interesting insight into an underworld populated by cider professionals from across the globe. Cider appears to be an incredibly popular commodity for importing and exporting.
It would be fair to say there are few major languages that cannot be overheard here today, and that’s what makes a great cosmopolitan and international festival. Proactively welcoming and inspiring multinational attendance, engagement and inclusion is something the Netherlands does well, and it ought to be heartily applauded and encouraged. Beer and cider travels well, and they’re quite unique products insomuch as they’re extensively imported into countries that have their own buoyant beer and cider industries — everybody enjoys trying a beer or cider from another country.
The overall impression of the Cider Festival is very favourable, and organisers Raúl Henriquez (ciderwinkel.nl) and Wouter Bijl (cidercider.nl) should be commended for bringing the world of cider to the Fenix Food Factory. Special thanks should also go to the army of international volunteers whose tenacity and attentiveness also contributed to the day’s success.
Whether or not the Fenix Food Factory can sustain the increasing interest in cider and growing attendance at the Cider Festival (and other drinks festivals) is unclear, although the infrastructure seemed perfectly able to cope today — no queues for the toilets (and no fee to pay) and effortless entry into the festival via the glass and tokens stand.
We hope the Cider Festival goes from strength to strength and grows into the definitive public face and celebration of cider in the Netherlands. The selection of ciders and perries on offer is excellent, the friendliness and affability of the cider-makers is welcoming, and a one-day event just doesn’t seem enough.