Feb 11, 2024Ciderhuset savors tradition in Norway’s fjords
Norwegian orchardists Åge Eitungjerde and Eli-Grete Høyvik have cultivated a rich legacy in cider and juice production that unfolds against the breathtaking backdrop of the Sognefjord on Norway’s western coast.
Nestled in the heart of Balestrand, their Ciderhuset operation stands as a testament to their passion for preserving tradition and fostering sustainable craft tourism.
A symphony of flavors and heritage
The family orchard was planted in 1922. Eitungjerde would spend all the time he could in the orchard with his grandfather. He left the farm when he grew up, but the pull of the orchard brought him back.
Eitungjerde started the cider business in 1996 and was the first to press apples and bottle the cloudy fruit juice and ship them out to stores — long before the concept of local food became popular in Norway.
“I was 16 when I made my first cider by accident,” Eitungjerde said. “When I realized I had something I started collecting old bottles to put it in.”
He is passionate about the variety of fruit drinks and has managed to make many tasty types of juice, cider and fruit wine. In 2021, he was awarded the national “Ingrid Espelid Hovig’s Food Culture Award” for 25 years of efforts to promote Norwegian drinks.
The on-farm agritourism shop and restaurant was built in 2017 and stands as an epitome of artisanal craftsmanship. This sustainable craft tourism initiative recognizes and celebrates the commitment to quality and authenticity. Eitungjerde and Høyvik invite visitors to not only taste but also learn about their centuries-old methods.
In the cider cellar, the couple uses traditional techniques to create “champagne-cider” and distill apple brandy. Visitors can join family members for a 30-minute program that unravels the intricate process of transforming fruits and berries into cider, juice and brandy, complete with tastings.
A culinary oasis overlooking the fjord
The Ciderhuset is not merely a cider haven, it’s a culinary delight, housed in a glass restaurant with a panoramic view of the Sognefjord. The menu showcases local produce inspired by Mediterranean cuisine. From warm and cold dishes to vegetarian and vegan options, the offerings complement the diverse beverage selection.
Visitors can also partake in heritage walks, cider tastings, cooking classes, guided hikes to local viewpoints and other engaging activities. The Balholm Cider House doubles as an event venue, making it a versatile destination for both connoisseurs and adventurers.
From roots to bottles: A journey through time
The Balholm orchard spans 13 hectares (about 32 acres), boasting 17 varieties, including 13 ciders-pecific ones. With roots dating back to the early 20th century, the orchard is home to trees that are more than a century old. The diverse soil, remnants of a glacier, provides a unique foundation for growing apples and plums. The long days, cool weather and varietal choices allow the apples to have higher tannic levels than other growing regions.
A medal-winning tradition
Norway, with its coastal climate and the warming influence of the Gulf Stream, boasts the northernmost fruit growing region in the world.
The Ciderhuset has played a significant role in this success story, earning accolades in international cider competitions.
The cider house produces a staggering 900,000 liters of juice annually, featuring 10 varieties of cider, brandy and juice. Not only surviving on the sale of fresh fruit, Balholm imports organic apples from Poland to meet increasing demand.
A toast to the future
Balholm Cider House is not just a destination; it’s a celebration of Norway’s cider heritage. From accidental beginnings to industry recognition, Eitungjerde’s journey is a testament to the passion and dedication embedded in every bottle.
As you savor the variety and richness of Balholm’s offerings, you’re not just tasting cider, you’re indulging in a sip of Norwegian history.