Elegast Interview – Monday 7th June 2021


forgivably Encapsulated by the mystical forests of De Hoorneboeg, Elegast Cidery boasts the most fantastical location. Established by Arjen Meeuwsen in 2016, Elegast is the first certified organic cider maker in the Netherlands.

http://cherishsalon.com/people/kayleigh/ By supporting the old, independent orchards with his team of volunteers, they can harvest apples that would frequently go to waste. Pressed, fermented through the winter, and bottled on-site, their ciders achieve a delicious complexity in taste. All the while remaining vegan, gluten-free, and without the addition of sulphites.

Stung Treng We were lucky enough to join Arjen for a day at the cidery to see where the magic happens. As they bottled up the latest batch, we sampled their famous “Hard Cider” and Arjen shared the story of Elegast with us.

Mont-Saint-Hilaire Hey Arjen, thanks for having us here today. You are based in such an incredible location! Can you give us a bit of background on De Hoorneboeg and tell us what brought you here?

De Hoorneboeg used to be an old private estate. Firstly, it was a hunting lodge for people from Amsterdam who liked to spend their time out in the countryside. Last century it was gifted to the church who later sub-let it as a conference center. After a few decades, it grew outdated and could not generate enough revenue to support the estate. Left with a choice between selling or re-developing, they decided to re-develop, create a plan and begin searching for entrepreneurs. We proposed our idea in collaboration with Bij de Tuinman, the neighbouring restaurant, and then later other business arrived, creating the new Hoorneboeg.

Where did the name Elegast come from?

It comes from an old Dutch tale, Karel ende Elegast. Elegast was a knight who possessed values and characteristics that I felt were a good match for the company.

How did you get into making cider?

I was working as a landscape architect in Portland, Oregon where cider is extremely popular and made from eating apples such as Grannie Smiths. I had no idea this was possible. The only cider I had known was made from specific cider apples like in England and France that are very bitter and not generally eaten. I realised that it would be possible to make cider from the apples we have in the Netherlands. Working as a landscape architect, I also knew about the old orchards with trees so tall you need ladders to harvest, hence why harvesting doesn’t often happen, leaving the fruit to fall and rot on the floor. A lot of these trees are cut down because they are no longer economically viable. The apples you see in shops grow on low-hanging trees, 3 meters high, that can be easily treated, sprayed, and harvested. These old orchards, however, use zero chemicals making them much more environmentally friendly.

My idea was to create a cider, the same way they make it in Oregon, from these old orchards to try and make it viable to harvest from them again.

The first hurdle was working out how to harvest them. It can be very costly which is why it has not been happening. But I thought, why not involve people for a day out, a break from the city and into nature. If we could create an experience in these gorgeous orchards, then it lightens the work. As long as the volunteers are having a great day out in the country with friends!
We can then pick the apples, press them, ferment them, and bottle them to make into cider and create enough return to support these orchards financially.

Now, one-third we harvest ourselves with volunteers, and two-thirds are brought to us by the orchards themselves also using volunteers. Last year we had 100 volunteers join us for our third of the harvest.

How do you develop your new recipes?

We take inspiration from a combination of traditional ciders as well as experimenting with new ideas.

There’s a festival in Amsterdam called Carnivale Brettanomyces, a festival specialising in yeast where brewers and cider makers join together from all corners of the world. I tasted ciders from Norwegian and Canadian makers who used whole plums in their recipes. We have lots of plums in our orchards too and we challenged ourselves to make a plum cider. Now we use all the fruits growing in the orchards, not just apples. We’re learning more about the varieties of plums as well as new combinations like our latest mulberry and cherry plum cider which is fermenting at the moment.

What are the main differences in ciders from various countries?

The individual apple varieties, yeast varieties, soil diversity, and microclimates can dramatically influence the taste of the cider. In fact, when we bottle ciders from different orchards in The Netherlands they can taste completely different depending on the soil. Typically, ciders from England and France have more bitterness and from Spain, there is more acidity along with the bitterness. Our apples are consumer apples, very light and aromatic with some acidity. They’re more towards the Spanish and German styles than the French or British.

Which is your favourite cider from Elegast?

It changes per season because we make such a variety and often, we’re surprised. It’s not only us that makes the cider but nature that creates, you can’t always predict these flavours.

The whiskey stout barrel-aged is an all-time favourite and actually, so is the mulberry and plum cider mentioned before.

However, we have noticed that some ciders are more unique than others. This year, we will select some of our favourites for our new cider makers reserve.

Elegast Cider is now stocked at Hutspot, drop by the store to try it out. Trust us, it’s delicious!