In the midst of D.C.’s brewery and distillery boom, the city’s first cidery is on its way. A Basque-inspired bar and restaurant called ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar—which will not only serve a wide range of ciders, but produce its own cider on-premise—is set to open at 300 Florida Ave. NW later this year.
ANXO comes from former Pizzeria Paradiso and Meridian Pint Bar Manager Sam Fitz and his sister Rachel Fitz (a former assistant general manager at Meridian Pint). Co-founding partners include Boundary Road Beverage Director Tim Prendergast, the Big Stick Beverage Director Cooper Sheehan, and Boundary Road chef and co-owner Brad Walker. The name (pronounced AN-CHo) refers to the Basque “wild man” also known as Basajaun, who’s akin to Bigfoot, yetis, ogres, and other “men of the forest” in the region’s mythology.
The concept was inspired by a trip that Sam Fitz and Sheehan took to the French and Spanish Basque country last year. They visited during txotx season, a time of year when the sagardotegi (cider houses) open their doors and shoot streams of freshly fermented cider out of massive barrels for guests to catch with their glasses.
“I remember being at Isastegi, one of our favorite cider producers, running from barrel to barrel with the locals and thinking that I hadn’t had this much fun since I first got into craft beer,” Fitz says. “That’s when I realized that being an enthusiast, as opposed to an expert, is a lot more fun.”
Fitz and his partners knew they wanted to focus on cider, but it wasn’t until they learned of D.C.’s newish wine-pub permit that they began thinking about producing it themselves. “The American cider industry is still very young and opening a cidery allows us to contribute towards its shaping,” Fitz says.
Cider-maker Kyle Sherrer, one of the founders of farmhouse cidery Millstone Cellars in Monkton, Md., will help the ANXO team produce its own cider, which will be naturally fermented in oak barrels. ANXO has purchased a 25 hectoliter (660 gallon) Barolo cask, which will sit on the main floor of the bar and restaurant, to ferment most of its juice. Fitz hopes to produce a tart, dry signature cider that will be reminiscent of that from the Basque country. Smaller barrels will ferment juice from single apple varieties and other fruits, and a limited number of blends in 750 mL bottles will be released throughout the year.
All the apples for ANXO’s cider will be sourced within a 150 mile radius, just like Millstone. Sherrer and Fitz plan to team up with Blue Bee Cider in Richmond, Va., for a multi-day foraging event in Maryland and Virginia each fall where friends and regulars help pick apples from abandoned orchards then press them.
“This region still has forgotten orchards from America’s cider heyday, and we hope to ferment using only high-quality cider apples, a luxury most cider makers in the region can’t afford due to the volume needed,” Fitz says.
It could take up to a year for ANXO to release its first product, but in the meantime, the cidery will collaborate with Millsone on a cider that will be fermented in its own cask at Millstone’s facility. They hope to release it around the time of the opening. Every spring, ANXO also plans to have its own txotx festival. “Yes, we will be shooting really expensive cider out of a barrel,” Fitz says.
ANXO’s ciders will be available exclusively in-house to start. But the team hopes to some day expand to a larger facility.
In addition, the bar will feature 17 ciders on draft and as many Basque ciders by the bottle as they can get their hands on. An additional 25 draft lines will be devoted to beer, wine, and cocktails—all curated by Prendergast, who will serve as beverage director.
Boundary Road’s Walker will oversee a Basque menu to pair with the ciders. He will join ANXO’s partners on a tour of Basque country in June, which will inform exactly what food is served. The menu will feature a mix of pintxos (small bites), including a traditional skewer with a Cantabrian anchovy, a pickled guindilla pepper, and a pitted manzanilla olive. There will also be heartier dishes traditionally found in cider houses, like a steak for two.
ANXO Cidery will have a 25-seat bar on the main floor with “community space” for another 20 as well as a 40-seat dining room upstairs with a nine-seat bar. The rustic-yet-chic place will be designed by Bestudio Architecture‘s Michael Blake, who Fitz met as a teenager while bussing at Chili’s in Baltimore, and Sarah Walker, wife of chef Walker. Depending on permitting, ANXO may eventually add an outdoor cider garden. The cidery plans to break ground this summer.