Over the last years the Czech Republic has been increasingly experimenting with and delving into the world of cider, giving rise to an ever-increasing number of tasty new things to try. Some of these producers are releasing very refined, flavourful ciders, others still working out the kinks, but I have noticed that they’re getting better and better. In this article we’ll cover some introductory ground on a few Czech ciders and producers.
Cidrerie Kliment is the big name in the small world of Czech artisanal cidres. They’re produced in the French fashion, which generally trades alcoholic strength for flavour and colour, also at the expense of time and difficulty of production. I’ve been told their orchards are 60-80 years old and they grow 15 different types of apples organically. Using different types of apples increases flavour complexity in the finished product. The cidres they produce vary slightly by the year, similar to wine. The cidre ages for a minimum of one year between stainless steel and barrels before bottling, where it ages further to develop natural carbonation; all of the fermentation is spontaneous. They make multiple strengths of cidre, each year it continues to slowly ferment it will become drier and more alcoholic – their sweeter cidres are approximately 3% whilst the drier (older) cidres are above 6%. The taste will change, but all of them are complex and refreshing, bearing lots of tasty tannins and malo-lactic fermentation characters of smoke, cardamom and barnyard alongside the fruity flavours of the cidre. These cidres are possibly the best, most refined in the country.
In 2013, AK Cider restarted cider production in the beautiful Wallachian area of Moravia, Czech Republic. This environmentally friendly producer is using locally sourced, chemically untreated apples and allow the wild yeast on the apple skins to spontaneously ferment the must (fresh, unadulterated apple juice) in oak barrels, allowing nature to run its course. Of course, since I’m first a beer-person, my favourite of their production is the cider dry-hopped with (if memory serves!) Citra, Kazbek (a Czech hop) and Cascade. The hopped cider has a fine taste of honey and flowers, balanced by the oak barrel and a wonderful hop and apple aroma; it’s reminiscent of a nice barrel-aged pale ale. I haven’t had a bad cider from this producer, and they also make a beautiful wild sloe wine and fruit jams.
Divoké Jablko is a small family producer making some excellent cidres in the French tradition. At festivals you may be lucky enough to find the “nouveau” cidre, or fresh, young cidre that is bursting with fruit flavour balanced by it’s acidity – dangerously drinkable. They have a dry barrique cidre that is rich and subtle, combining ripe fruits with acidity and oak flavour. Their regular offerings are delicious as well, such as their demi-sec with notes of honey and fresh apples, but the nouveau and barrique are my favourites from the producer.
Provoco creates some of the best cider around, flavourful and quaffable. They produce a semi-dry, semi-sweet and sweet version; the semi-dry is my favourite, with notes of honey, sweet golden raspberries, white grapes and gooseberry flavour and acidity with just the right amount of tannic dryness to balance it out, making it very drinkable. The semi-sweet had more acidity and sweetness, tasting of fresh green apple candy, as did the sweet cider, but sweeter, of course. You can look forward to finding them at the Naplavka farmers’ market, alongside the river in Prague, in the (hopefully!) near future. Keep your eyes open for them there, you’ll be happy you did.
Cider 99 has been around since 2015 and has been improving each year since. Unfortunately it is at the bottom of this list, still, but I do look forward to trying them again. The first bottle I had was almost unbearably sulfuric, showing significant yeast problems. The second time I had it, it was already improved by less sulfur, however it still lacks body and flavour, most of which have fermented into alcohol. They have a barrique version which was better than the normal, having some taste of oak and dried apples. This is one I will be following, as the producer seems very passionate and eager, but 2017’s production fell a little flat, comparatively speaking.
The amateur production also shows promise, a further indication of this country’s sharply improving cider scene. Soon maybe we’ll be able to move past those sweetened, fizzy, flavoured abominations that adorn the grocery’s shelves and begin to more easily support small/family operations and artisanal producers who have demonstrated flavourful ciders and people who are still learning and improving with each batch. There are other producers as well that are small scale, but not what I would call artisanal. Small producers (Johannes Cyder, Magnetic, Bohemia Cider, F. H. Prager, just to name a few) make some very tasty ciders and are easily found in many of the multi-tap beer bars, cafés and restaurants throughout Prague. I hope to not discourage anyone from giving these a taste, however there is a difference between them and the more artisanal producers, and I’d like to see them enter more restaurants and bars.
Places to try good ciders/cidres are slowly becoming easier to come by. The drunk apple has a well curated selection, but has no brick and mortar store, so it must be delivered to you; the website is all in Czech but the owners speak English and are happy to help. Dobrý Cider has a brick and mortar store, near Charles Square in Prague’s New Town, with a large selection. On my visits they have been super helpful and happy, but navigation may be difficult for the non-Czech speakers. Fortunately, a lot of the information on the bottles is internationally intelligible, and now you have a bit of a guide to some of the local ciders. I’ve heard that the Strahov Monastery Brewery may soon be serving Cidre from Kliment, Once Upon a Beer in Prague’s Vinohrady district stocks Kliment and some places, such as Café Lounge in the Lesser Quarter have it all: natural wine, micro-roasted coffee, cidre from Kliment and beer from Matuška – be on the lookout for more places like this and we’ll update this as we find more of them.