Did you know that Frankfurt, the capital city of Hesse in Germany, is considered to be the cider capital of the world?
Cider – Apfelwein in German or Ebblewoi as it is referred to locally – has played an important role in Frankfurt’s social life for centuries.
I have to confess, even though Frankfurt is my home town (sort off, I live in the nearby countryside), I have never been a huge fan of cider.
That has likely something to do with the type of cider typically consumed in Germany.
How is German cider made and what are the differences from other styles
Traditionally, apple wine made in Germany is distinctively different in flavour compared to cider made in other parts of the world.
The typical German apple wine is much more sour and almost tastes tart. It is also mostly still – based on the fermentation process where the natural carbonic acid is allowed to escape. This is quite different to other countries, especially France and the UK where the carbon dioxide remains in the wine which as a result, becomes a bubbly drink.
I think it’s fair to say, German apple wine has never made it far outside of Germany. Even in the country itself not all regions are equally enthusiastic about it. If you look at the amount of apple wine consumed in Germany, it is typically less than a litre across Germany but around 12 litres in the Frankfurt area.
A new style of German cider
I think it’s fair to say, something is changing in the production of German cider however. Though the traditional stuff is still very much around, more and more apple wine producers and even wineries and other small independent producers are jumping on the bandwagon of French or UK-style cider.
Indeed, earlier this year I had the opportunity to attend a culinary event where a home-made cider was served as aperitif. To say I was not very trilled at first when spotting it on the menu would be an understatement. But you know what: I loved it.
That’s not to say I am a convert just yet. But who am I to turn down the opportunity to expand my knowledge and train my taste buds when an opportunity to do so arises?
So when I learned about the annual Frankfurt cider festival, hold during ten days in August, it was clear I had to check it out.
Why you should visit the annual Frankfurt Cider Festival
Germany is well known for hosting hundreds (likely thousands) of street festivals throughout the year, every year. Whilst these festivals feature different topics as their main most have something in common: They centre around food and drink.
That means, you will find a lot of stalls selling you local food along with wine, beer and other drinks.
The annual Frankfurt Cider Festival, at the time of writing running in its eights year, is one of these very typical German street festivals.
The event is located in one of the main city centre squares, Roßmarkt. Which guarantees lots of people working in the nearby offices dropping by during their lunch break or after work, thus the location is getting quite crowded from around mid-day onwards.
The main focus obviously is on cider or better apple wine, with most of the stalls operated by the historic apple wine producers originating from the wider Frankfurt area.
You will be able to sip on different apple wines and most stalls offer a range of apple wine cocktails such as .
There is also a daily demonstration on the production of apple wine.
On the food side, in addition to stalls selling the typical range of festival food (like grilled sausages, pretzels and french fries) you will find some very typical food for the Frankfurt area.
Handkäs is a local sour milk cheese with a pungent aroma (that some people actually find unpleasant). It is typically served topped with chopped onions and caraway. I’d recommend to try only if you are a hard-sell foodie not stopping short of anything.
The Frankfurt Green Sauce on the other hand is a sauce made of seven green herbs typically served cold over new potatoes and hard boiled eggs.
Many of the food stalls will also serve desserts based on apples.
Would I recommend visiting the Frankfurt Cider Festival?
That’s a tricky question.
I don’t think the event is very different from most other street festivals where you will find the typical mix of food and drinks. The most evident difference, at the cider festival you will get mostly apple wine.
If you manage to visit during a quieter time, for example mid-morning, however you will get a good chance to have a chat with the staff who typically come from the large apple wine producers. Thus if you are keen to learn more about German apple wine, you can actually get into some interesting conversations.
Plus, most stands offer a different range of apple wine cocktails and you will also find some unusual styles of cider. Thus the event is a great opportunity to sample German cider in a different way.
Other events around apple wine in Frankfurt
Should you visit Frankfurt at a time not overlapping with the cider festival but are interested in learning more about the local cider culture, there are a couple of opportunities that will give you a great idea about the drink and how it is celebrated locally.
Frankfurt is indeed well known for its apple wine bars or taverns. Many of them are located in what is locally known as the apple wine district of Frankfurt, Sachsenhausen.
These taverns are typically furnished quite simply featuring wooden tables and chairs and they will often offer their own house-made apple wine along with a small selection of very typical traditional food.
To best explore Sachsenhausen and its apple wine taverns, join the guided city walk ‘Frankfurt and its Apple Wine‘. The tour starts in the heart of the historic old town at Römerberg and will lead you over Eiserne Steg, the famous iron footbridge crossing the river Main right into Sachsenhausen. During the tour you will learn more about apple wine production and be told a lot of apple wine tales that originate from this part of town.
Apple Wine at the Römer is the annual international apple wine fair where you will find over 250 different ciders from all over the world. The event held in mid-April is largely for trade visitors but there is also a public tasting.
Ebbelwei Express (Apple Wine Express) is a historic tram that runs along some of Frankfurt’s major sights in an approximately one-hour round trip on weekends and public holidays. You can board the tram at any of the marked stops for this specific tram. The first tram will run at 1.30 pm and the last one at 7 pm and tickets can be purchased directly on the tram. Along the ride, you can sip on a bottle of apple wine which is included in the ticket (€8 for adults at the time of writing).
Finally, just outside of Frankfurt is the start of the Apple Wine and Apple Orchard Route Hesse. It consists of more than one thousand (!) kilometres leading along orchards, so-called learning gardens where you can learn more about the cultivation of apples and the production of apple wine and other fruit wines. Along the way, you will also find many of the local apple wine producers as well as restaurants and taverns forming part of the route. They are market with a logo highlighting a red apple and green arrow.
Do you think you would love to explore Frankfurt’s apple wine scene?