Norwegian craft cider is thriving and award-winning Alde Sider is one of the leading producers. A pioneer and a driving force in the craft cider wave, founder Olav Bleie is on a mission to show us what real cider is, and it starts with planting the tree.

The Hardanger region on the west coast of Norway is a stronghold for cider. One of the leaders in the cider revolution is Alde Sider, located on Bleie Farm in Sørfjorden, surrounded by mountains, the Hardangerfjord and the Folgefonna glacier. Olav Bleie runs the farm, which has an annual production of around 100,000 litres of cider, as well as 50,000 litres of apple juice and 10,000-15,000 litres of other fermented products such as ice cider.

Bleie inherited the farm from his father 20 years ago, learned how to grow apples and make cider, and eventually took the step to produce cider commercially in 2014. “For years, I was running the farm and at the same time experimenting with apples and cider, whilst also doing my master’s degree in chemistry and later working on a PhD,” says the farmer. “It was scary to finally start the cider business, but the product was so great and very different from every cider I had ever tasted. Taking a product that our forefathers were so familiar with, we can finally show how fantastic it is to people in Norway and further afield.”

Alde Sider: With a love for apples and cider-making

From monks to craft cider revolution

Cider from Hardanger is well-known both in Norway and internationally, with popularity reaching new heights and local producers winning heaps of prestigious awards. In fact, this is now a geographically protected brand name, like Champagne.

It all started when Catholic monks visited the area back in the 1200s and left seeds for local farmers, and it is believed that cider production dates as far back as the 1700s. Apples have been pressed and processed here for generations – including Gravenstein, Discovery, Summerred and Aroma apples – giving the cider a light, tart and aromatic flavour.

Alde Sider: With a love for apples and cider-making

The recipe for success is a combination of the terroir, the microclimate and the apples, and the dedicated farmers. “The Gulf Stream brings warm ocean water all the way to the coast of Norway. This provides a stable climate, similar to southern Europe, which is beneficial for growing apples,” says the cider maker. “Also, the long daylight hours in the growing season, which lasts from May to September or even longer, give the apples the red cheeks but also an acid buildup and a lot of esters and polyphenols – this is the perfect starting point to make some of the world’s best ciders.”

Back in 2014, when Bleie started his cider business, the total amount of cider produced in Norway was only around 25,000 litres per year. Now, this number is quickly climbing to somewhere between half a million to a million litres. Impressively, 80 per cent of the cider produced in the country comes from Hardanger, which has no doubt given the region a boost.

Alde Sider: With a love for apples and cider-making

Alde Sider’s founder Olav Bleie.

Cider tourism and award-winning cider

Alde Sider is a leading producer but also an award-winning one. Most recently, Alde Rosé Sider won gold in the category rosé cider at the prestigious International Brewing Awards, whilst Alde Sider won silver in the category modern cider (dry). One might wonder, what makes Bleie’s cider so special? “Our apples are rather low in tannins but high in acidity. This makes the ciders acid-driven, which puts them in the modern style category, compared to tannin-driven French ciders,” he explains. “In short, our ciders are more fruity, like a Riesling with almost tropical notes from the apple. The flavour is a bit of a surprise, and hopefully a nice one!”

Bleie is a pioneer not only in producing cider but also a driving force in the Hardanger cider wave. “The goal is to enlighten people, to open up their eyes to what real cider is, to tell the story of the product, and to bring them along on the journey – it’s much more fun that way,” he smiles. “Our cider is a product of nature and it starts by planting the tree. What’s hanging from the trees here on the farm is what you get in the bottle. If you drink the 2022 cider, you will taste what the weather was like in Hardanger and how the fruit developed that year. This is why it’s so rewarding to work with cider, it changes every year.”

In addition to running the farm and making award-winning ciders, Bleie is involved in the Hardanger International Ciderfest, and also welcomes cider tourists to the area. “We are currently building a Norwegian community for real cider,” he says. “Cider tourism is booming in the area. You can come to see the beautiful Norwegian fjords, but you also have a second reason to visit – the apples and the cider, it makes Hardanger a world-class destination.”

Alde Sider: With a love for apples and cider-making

Facebook: Alde Sider
Instagram: @aldesider

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