Cider Houses culture
Cider is a drink with a low alcohol content made from fermented apple juice, produced, and drank mainly in Guipuzcoa and Asturias.
Every year, from mid-January to April, the cider season attracts thousands of people to the more than 70 cider houses in Guipuzcoa, where tourists and locals will enjoy this drink traditionally: directly from the barrel.
The traditional ritual goes like this: Following the shout "Txotx!" made by the cider house manager as he opens the kupela (barrel), the cider spurts and the guests fill up their glasses. Once all of them have been served, the person in charge closes again the barrel and waits for the yell again tosignal the opening of the next barrel where the new cider is going to be tasted.
At the very beginning, the Txotx started as a tasting meeting between the cider producer and the wholesalers, restaurants, and gastronomic societies. Representatives from each would go to the cider house, try the cider from the different barrels and then choose the one they wanted to buy and bottle it. Nowadays, it has become a popular and legendary gastronomic event within Basque traditions.
This tradition is mainly found around 24 small towns of Guipuzcoa, and most of the cider houses are located in Astigarraga, Usurbil, Urnieta, and Hernani. However, drinking cider is not the only thing which can be enjoyed in these establishments. The traditional menu is also worth trying:
. Cod omelette
. Cod cooked with green peppers
. Ox steak
. Local cheese with quince preserve and walnuts
Although the methods of production are changing, it is obvious that cider itself is responsible for a big social party and a tradition to be proud of.
The cider season starts in the town of Astigarraga, which is a reference point in the cider sector. This town is proud to have 17 cider houses in total.
In Guipuzcoa, a cider house (refered to as a "sagardotegia" in the Basque language) places the barrels around the dining area. This way it is easier when the person in charge opens each of the barrels during the night as he shouts “Txotx!”. It has to be mentioned that, in these cider houses, the guests pay for the glass only, so for the same price they can drink as much cider as they want.
If you would like to try, we offer you the possibility of going for dinner one night to a cider house accompanied by a guide who will explain to you everything there is to know about this tradition.