Sidra Asturiana: Be Accurate or Be Thirsty

Cider. Such a household classic drink in the UK, and who would blame them? Sweet, fizzy and widely available in every pub around, this alcoholic delight is sorely missed by many when they travel to Spain, and I distinctly remember having to research bars in the places I was visiting with my one of my best friends. While the type we are familiar with in the UK is starting to become more available across the country in recent years, in the north of Spain, where the grass is just as green as it is back home, has had cider in it’s blood for hundreds of years. However, You will be in for a shock as to how different it is.

While there are some regions in the north, like the Basque Country and Navarre have some sort of sidra culture, Asturias is the place that takes massive pride in it, and I would say it would be on the same level of popularity as beer, possibly even more so. It’s very common to find sidrerías (cider houses) in every town there, and most of the country’s producers are based there. But what is so different about it compared to the UK stuff?

First of all, it’s corked and always found in a glass bottle or in a wooden barrel. The reason being that it is cloudy and for the most part, flat, more similar to that of cloudy scrumpy cider, only not as bad. The way you pour it and drink it is what makes this such a cultural affair as there’s an art and science attached to it. You have to pour it from above your head, to a tilted glass at the waist, or below, known as escanciar la sidra. The idea is to generate bubbles to enhance the flavour, which is why the tumbling effect from the pour is so important.

Other important factors to take into account when you pour the sidra, is to fill the glass only about 1/4- 1/3 full, because you are going to down all of it except the very last dreg or culín. That part at the bottom of the glass is typically used to wash the glass, ready for the next pour. Sidrerías will have buckets or sinks in place for the almost inevitable misses, or alternatively just let you have a go on the terrace and let the cider run off onto the square or street. Other places will not allow you to pour for yourself, instead barmen or waiters will do it for you, which in that case, you are pretty much guaranteed a perfect pour. You might also see machines or pumps set up as a sure way of getting 100% out of your bottle, or cut corks to help control the flow out of the bottle.

Most importantly though, What is the taste like compared to British cider? I’m not an expert, but I would say the apple flavour hits you a little harder in sidra asturiana, like you’ve just pressed an apple but then you get the fermented alcohol aftertaste. despite the efforts, the level of fizz is much higher in English ciders, which also naturally slows your drinking pace down (or at least should). Sidra asturiana also packs more of a punch, being at least 6% alcohol, but I’ve seen some over 7% and given a bottle is almost as big as a standard bottle of wine (0.7l), you are getting a lot.

Another adjective I would use to describe sidra: CHEAP. Bottles will cost about 2.50€ possibly less. In the supermarkets I got one for 2€. It must be noted though, that outside Asturias, the price is likely to go up, and bars may offer you a bargain at first, but only one serving of sidra in a glass, and that accumulates. If you compare prices with beer, it would be similarly priced but usually cheaper to get sidra. Variants may also pop up, though difficult to find in a bar, even a sidrería, for example, sidra de pera (pear) and corked fizzy cider, the closest thing to a British cider available, and they come in a glass bottle, corked and opened like a bottle of champagne, and again just a couple of euros. Sidra is also used in cooking, so don’t be confused if you see it on your lunch menu, it’s pretty normal to see.

That pretty much covers it for sidra asturiana, the only cider in Spain with protective origin status. A must try whether you are a cider drinker or not, and happen to be in Asturias, or other neighbouring regions of Green Spain. Don’t be offended if someone tries to teach you how to escanciar, it really does make a difference and it’s fun to do it even if half of it ends up on the floor. The best piece of advice, enjoy trying or get yourself a beer next time.

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