This may come as a shock to some, but before 2016, the Washington D.C. area never had its own cidery. Yeah, you heard that right, not a single one had graced our nation’s capital until just last year! Thankfully, that finally changed when a team comprised of Sam Fitz, Rachel Fitz, Tim Prendergast, Cooper Sheehan, and chef Alex Vallcorba opened the ANXO Cidery & Pinxtos Bar on the Capitol Riverfront in July 2016. And this group definitely knows their stuff, as they previously worked brewing craft beer for a decade prior to this venture.
Located in Truxton Circle, ANXO (pronounced AN-CHO) is best described as a cidery (and technically a licensed winery due to cider being fermented from fruit) that focuses primarily on Basque cuisine and cider. The main goal is to provide and curate the largest selection of ciders and perry (a drink fermented from pears) from around the world. According to ANXO’s website, “Cider offered new and exciting unexplored opportunities that were confirmed after touring cider country in England, Spain, Basque Country, France, and the Pacific Northwest and Eastern Seaboard of the United States.” With such a unique concept, it’s more than suiting that the cidery also has a very unique name. ANXO is taken from both a popular first name used in Northern Spain and the nickname of a mythological creature called Basajaun, which is essentially another tale on Bigfoot if the creature acted kindly.
When it came to whether or not to open a cidery in D.C., a return trip to the Spanish and French sides of Basque Country was what ultimately inspired the venue’s owners to pull the trigger. The group claims that, “Nowhere is cider more intricately tied to culture and food than in the Basque Country.” Combined with a decade’s worth of crafting ingredients from the District, a dream was finally realized.
Whether it’s a unique cider from Vermont, Normandy, or an English one concocted from a hand pump, the 90 to 100 bottles from all over the world guarantees the often overlooked drink is well-represented. And this notion is definitely not overlooked. Producers in the UK, France, Basque Country, Spain have been expressed their desire to have their ciders showcased at ANXO. According to the cidery’s website, a self-importation law in the DC area allows “small producers to take a chance on sending product directly to ANXO and the result is a cider program unlike any in the countries from which it draws.” In essence, it’s practically an honor to have one’s cider feature on ANXO’s menu.
If you’re new to fine-crafted ciders, then don’t worry. In an interview with The Washington Post, Pendergast says, “It’s important to me that we’re not too snooty about it,” when it comes to introducing customers to different ciders without nudging them away from trying them. Many of the ciders can be described as “funky, tart, and fragrant.” ANXO’s cider menu does change daily as well, but don’t fret if you somehow forget about a kind that you like. There are descriptive categories that will aid you in finding a cider that you might also enjoy. In addition to general curation, one of the cidery’s special quirks of having a wine pub permit means that customers can take bottled cider home at an affordable price if they so please.
Now, while the drink menu may be extremely eclectic, that doesn’t mean one should ignore the food. Chef Alex Vallcorba, a Barcelona native, presents a surprisingly fun menu that draws inspiration from his Catalan roots and his time roaming through Basque Country. Most of the food is meant for snacking, such as the pinxtos, which are small sandwiches known in various bars in northern Spain. Larger snacks such as cheese plates are available as well. But, if snackable fair isn’t up your alley, then there is the larger menu items that include fried pig ears, grilled hanger steak, and roasted quail. Whatever the item, there’s plenty of choices big or small to enjoy while you sip on your glass of cider.
The best way to fully describe the experience and level of detail within ANXO Cidery would be an ambitious one. The staff members are humble and knowledgeable according to many customers. The idea of having both pinxtos and ciders as a meal is an intriguing prospect that’s sure to make this up-and-coming D.C. restaurant a go-to destination. For something that is deemed the first cidery in the DC area, ANXO is a sure bet for foodies and those who want to experience something fresh, even if it’s for the first time trying a regular cider.