It’s amazing how many things you can fit into a weekend. The weekend of the 23rd of June was filled with German cider, sausages and soccer.
Written and photographed by Tess Jewell-Larsen
The night of Friday, June 22, I arrived in Frankfurt. I was greeted at the train station by the excited shouts of German soccer fans drunk with euphoria (and other substances) from winning 4-2 against Greece in the 2012 Euro Cup.
Black, red and gold—the colors of Germany’s flag—decorated buildings, people, food, fountains… pretty much everything. Obviously a happy affair. The rest of the weekend I spent in Frankfurt the city was still celebrating its win against Greece and the entrance into the Semi-Finals of the Cup.
Saturday, June 23, started my weekend jam-packed with German cider. Most of the cider visits happened on Saturday, though. Sunday was more of a visit of the city itself seeing the sights and getting to know the area a bit better—of course accompanied by cider, sausages and good conversation.
In the morning on Saturday, Eduardo Vázquez Coto picked me up from where I was staying in the outskirts of Frankfurt and we headed into the main city. Coto is an Asturian who lives and works in Frankfurt and is also a fellow writer. He writes about international cider for the Asturian magazine, La Sidra. We met several months ago through e-mails because we both work in the cider world. And then in March he led a group of cidermakers from Frankfurt to Asturias to see what the cider culture was like. I met up with them one of the days of their trip and visted a couple ciderhouses and the cider museum in Nava with them. After meeting the group, I promised I would go to Frankfurt to visit them—I just didn’t know when exactly, until I bought tickets mid-May for the 23nd through the 25th of June.
Coto kindly spent his whole weekend trucking me around the city, showing me the sights, the ciderhouses, the cidermakers and the cider shops. Coto has integrated himself quite nicely into the cider network of Frankfurt over the past five years of living there and I couldn’t have asked for a better guide.
Ciderhouse Kelterei and its cidermaker Jörg Stier
Our first stop was at the ciderhouse, Kelterei, of the cidermaker Jörg Stier. Stier makes traditional and specialty craft ciders. He has at least 14 different craft ciders and a few apple juices. The craft ciders range from very acidic (a couple so acidic that according to German law, they can’t be considered cider) to sweet. Some of the ciders are made with an addition of different local fruits. Stier has also written several books about cider and the little shop in front has everything from cheeses to candies made with cider. It is quite an extraordinary shop.
Every year Stier makes about 200,000 liters (52,834 US gallons) of cider a year. His production isn’t big, but as he said when he showed us the cider tanks,
“I would rather have a high quality cider in low volumes than a normal quality cider in high volumes.”
The majority of the cider made by Stier is sold within Frankfurt or within 50 kilometers (31 miles) of the city.
One of my favorite ciders of his I tried is called Emma-Schoppen. It is made with a local fruit that gives the cider a pink-rose color. The cider is not quite as dry as I usually like, but it was smooth and full of flavor. I especially enjoyed the history behind the name. It’s based off the story of Emma, the supposed daughter of Charlemagne, and her romance with Charlemagne’s private secretary Einhard.
The little shop was busy with customers trying out ciders—and in the case of a few kids holding onto their parents’ hands they got to try different apple juices—and talking with Stier. Coto and I said gave our thanks and slipped out of shop to give space to more people entering as we left.
Cider shop Apfelwein JB Handlung
Coto took me to a different part of the city where there was a very strong sense of neighborhood. The houses and apartment buildings were brightly colored and many people sat out in terraces of cafés enjoying the warm afternoon sun.
We made our way to a small cider shop, Apfelwein JB Handlung, which also bustled with customers when we arrived. Coto’s friend, Jens Becker, owns the shop that sold different local ciders and other goods made with cider. One of the things I tried was a cider balsamic vinegar. Delicious.
As Coto puffed on a pipe, Becker brought out a couple traditional Frankfurt sausages with a bread bun and mustard for me. As well as a glass of cider—of course. The cider was lighter than those that we tried at Stier’s, but it was good none-the-less. Very refreshing for a warm day and it went well with the sausages and mustard. I ate while sitting on a bench attempting to understand the conversation Coto and Becker were having in German. Needless to say they could have been talking about how awful I looked and I wouldn’t have known. Coto told me later they were just catching up on news about mutual friends.
As we sat there, several people walked in and out of the store. A couple of them bought sausages and cider and ate them there. One guy, another friend of Becker I am guessing, sat outside on the windowsill of the store surrounded by his groceries, munched on the sausages, sipped the cider and every so often made a short comment in the conversation.
Spanish Shop Tortilla Meets Äppler
With a full belly of sausage and cider—and an earful of German—Coto swept me off to another part of Frankfurt to visit a Spanish goods shop (which sells Asturian cider) and coffee house, Tortilla Meets Äppler. The owner, Désirée Piniella, was born in Germany but is the daughter of Asturian immigrants who moved to Frankfurt for work. Her store shares a little bit of Spain in the heart of Frankfurt. She sells Spanish foods and drinks, Asturian ciders and accompanies it with a cute little café.
While we were chatting with Piniella, two German men bought a bottle of Trabanco cider and sat outside enjoying a touch of Asturias in the sun. When asked how they liked the Asturian cider they both agreed that it was good and wouldn´t I take a picture of them to show the world that two Germans in Frankfurt were drinking Asturian cider.
For lunch Coto and I met up with his wife, Paula Caso. We had lunch at a traditional ciderhouse (restaurant only). Coto and Paula both noted that most of the traditional ciderhouses are frequented mainly by the older generations of Frankfurt. The younger people have lost interest in the houses, looking instead for Irish bars or similar.
Open House of Apfelwein Kontor
After lunch we went to the open house of Apfelwein Kontor, a cider shop that is dedicated to selling international ciders. The shop is owned by three of Coto’s friends: Johannes Kalveram, Konstantin Kalveram and Michael Rühl. They have cider from many different European countries including France and Spain. They also worked with a local cidermaker in Frankfurt to make a house cider. A very light, delicate cider that goes well with light appetizers. The cider was poured from traditional blue and cream cider pitchers.
“Be sure to keep your thumb over the rim of the pitcher to give the handle more support,” said Norman Groh, a young local cidermaker and distiller for Weidmann & Groh. Groh told a story about his grandfather always telling him to keep his thumb over the rim and then one time when he didn’t and the handle broke off his grandfather asked him, “Did you have your thumb over the rim? No? Well, what did I tell you!?”
Groh and his wife, Eva, have a ciderhouse and farm outside of Frankfurt with lots of different types of trees like apples, cherries, and pears. I wasn’t able to make it out to visit them, so I promised I would return one day (maybe next year?) to go out and see them.
The open house party was attended mainly by family and friends of the three owners, but a few passers-by stopped in to see what was going on as well. Throughout the party we tried several different ciders. Coto poured a couple bottles of Asturian cider in the traditional way for everyone to try. We tried a couple different French ciders, one that was decent, and another that wasn’t my favorite. Everyone relaxed in the waning sun and in the company of each other.
As the breeze picked up and the sun lowered in the horizon, Coto, Paula and another Asturian friend of theirs, Carlos and I headed off to our last destination of the day: A Spanish restaurant to watch the Spain vs. France Euro Cup game.
I might have been in Germany, but in those 90 minutes of the game I was in Spain. The waiters were Spanish and spoke Spanish to us, the food was Spanish and the majority of the custom was Spanish. The game ended with a 2-0 win and continuation onto the Semi-Finals for Spain and we headed off home with happy hearts and full stomachs.