Czech cider courts world's greatest beer lovers

Starting a cider-making business in a country that guzzles the most beer per head in the world may seem risky, but the Czech Republic's first cider house has taken up the challenge.

In only three years since it started, the Mad Apple firm in Novy Saldorf, a village in a wine-making region about 200 kilometres (125 miles) southeast of Prague, is set to increase output a hundredfold, has won an industry medal and launched into the export market.

Its young owner, 29-year-old Vaclav Beran, started the business with his sister and a friend after a trip to England where apple cider has a devoted following.

"We got the idea in a friend's bar, where we used to drink cider most often," he said.

A wine aficionado who studied viticulture and oenology at university and also runs a wine shop, Beran readily admits he turned his nose up when he first tried cider in England.

"But I got over it overnight, and the next day I headed to the fridge with certainty," he told AFP. "I'm a beer drinker and a wine drinker, and the cider fitted neatly in between those two."

With the project in mind, "England helped us because we visited cider houses and listened to people who either produced or studied cider as scientists," he said.

"We started more or less in a garden, with a batch of a 1,000 litres (220 gallons), in 2008," he said.

They tried different methods and materials - including a variety of yeasts, finally settling on one from France - in small quantities. Encouraged by rising sales, they bottled their first big batch of 25,000 litres in February 2010, produced in a hall rented from a local winery which also supplies workers skilled in beverage-making.

Half a year later, the tipple - made the old-fashioned way of nothing but apple juice and yeast - won a bronze medal at the International Cider Challenge in London.

"The medal boosted interest as people saw Czechs could make good cider too," said Beran, who expects output to hit 100,000 litres this year.

The beverage is still a novelty in a country boasting the world's most devoted beer drinkers, who chugged down 144 litres of beer per head in 2010 even though it was a drop of eight percent against 2009.

Jan Vesely, head of the Czech Beer and Malt Association, conceded that Mad Apple has tapped into a growing demand for drinks that Czechs have enjoyed abroad.

"It's a logical development, we're not surprised. But we definitely don't think they are likely to rock the market anytime soon," he told AFP.

In 2010, Mad Apple had a turnover of about 3.5 million koruna (143,700 euros, 206,500 dollars) and sank earnings back into advertising and production.

Beran said his firm is now "more or less aiming at our own factory," and wants to try brewing a second product, perry or pear cider.

Mad Apple has exported to neighbouring Poland and Slovakia but sells most of its product - which has a six percent alcohol content - in big Czech cities where a typical consumer is "a younger person, 25-35 years old, and a traveller," Beran said.

One of these, Prague student Antonin Tesar, said cider has a solid future on the Czech market as he sipped a large one in the Zubaty pes (Fanged Dog), the first pub to sell Mad Apple cider on draught.

"Compared with the foreign stuff I've tried, this is definitely above-average" and "a great alternative to beer, especially in the summer," he said.

A mug of the sparkly golden drink sells for around 42 Czech koruna (1.72 euros, 2.47 dollars), slightly more than the country's world-renowned Pilsner Urquell beer but on par or less than specialty beers from Czech micro breweries.

Mike Cole, the English owner of Zubaty pes, discovered Mad Apple on the Internet while searching for a cheaper alternative to the British version.

"We imported some cider in bottles from the UK but it was too expensive," he said, "and I always wanted to have some cider on draught here." So he supplied Mad Apple with kegs and the filling technology to offer the cider on tap.

Cole also sees a market here for the beverage but he doesn't expect Czechs to abandon their beer. "I think here it will find a niche among female drinkers ... and cider is a nice alternative between beer and wine."

"But it won't be a mass market beverage. Not for the Czech culture anyway," he said.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: MI Developer

    £35 - 45k: Guru Careers: An MI Developer is needed to join the leading provide...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitness Manager

    £20000 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leisure organisation manag...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Manager

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Delivering an inspiring, engagi...

    Recruitment Genius: Learning Team Administrator

    £17500 - £20500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for a great te...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions