Mattie Beason is a Durham, North Carolina native and the owner of the new Black Twig Cider House and Mattie B’s Public House, both located in Durham. He is a certified cider expert, one of only eight cider instructors for the US Association of Cider Makers. Black Twig Cider House opened in April 2016, and offers more than ninety ciders on draft and bottled, making it the first cider house of its kind in the Southeast and only one of ten restaurants like it in the country. He is also involved in cider festivals. Mattie began Txakoli Fest in 2008, and on September 10, 2016, he will host Txotxfest, the first cider festival in the Southeast.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a Durham native and have always loved this city. While I received a degree from Kenyon college in philosophy and business ethics, I’ve always had the restaurant bug in me, starting with wine and now transitioning to cider. I’m a certified cider expert and was one of only eight cider instructors for the US Association of Cider Makers at the first Cider Certification in Portland, OR, in February 2016.
How did you get started in cider?
After traveling through the Basque region of Spain, I fell in love with the Spanish tradition of the txotx. Not only did I get to experience the incredible varietals of ciders, but I was also able to take part in the communal aspect of the txotx. I knew I wanted to make that a part of the Durham community.
Txotx (pronounced “choach”) is a Spanish cider barrel, a call to action, and a toast. Spanish cider isn’t carbonated, so when it shoots out of the barrel, the angle and force are enough that the act of catching the cider in your glass physically adds the desired effervescence to the drink. When someone yells, “Txotx!” in the room, everyone gathers with their glass around the barrel, taking turns to catch the 2-4 ounce pour of cider, and then coming together to cheers before drinking the cider in unison. Txotx!
Is txotx rare?
Yes, it is in the states. Black Twig Cider House is the only place in the states that has a txotx in the restaurant. To my knowledge there are only three or four total txotx total in the country. There are plenty in Spain and the Basque country. Production of the Spanish barrel is fairly new and only started about fifty years ago, but production of the cider that goes in the txotx has been around since the fourteenth or fifteenth century.
How is txotx different from traditional ciders?
It’s a little more tart, slightly more acidic and very dry.
Any fun stories?
It almost always devolves into someone trying to shoot it right into their mouth instead of the glass.
If cider isn’t available, what’s your choice of beverage?
Usually a cocktail, because I it gives me a lot of different options. I can go from bourbon, to gin, or whatever I feel. It really depends on my mood and what’s available.
How has the cider industry changed in the past few years? Where is it headed?
The industry has grown exponentially and will continue to grow, as we have smaller producers making high-end ciders. I’ve even noticed a recent growth in Durham. I sold out two of three cider classes these past two months. There are lots of people interested in drinking cider and trying new things.
What are some of your favorite ciders right now?
Stem Ciders from Denver. They are one hundred percent dry with really interesting flavors and they have some pretty unique ideas about ciders. Eric Bordelet out of France is very traditional and refined. Noble Cider from Asheville is doing good job of keeping it local and getting different people involved who engage many different flavor palates.
Tell us about Black Twig.
It’s the first of its kind. A cider-focused restaurant featuring the largest variety of cider in the Southeast, with more than ninety ciders available on draft or in bottles. I named the restaurant after an old southern cider apple. We feature a Txotx where patrons can sample two to four ounce pours. The menu features locally sourced Firsthand Food sausages, with Guglhupf buns, house made toppings, and elevated bar fare.
Does txotx pair well with anything?
Cider pairs well with anything, but Spanish cider is best with a traditional Spanish dinner. For starters enjoy it with croquetas de pollo, tortilla de patatas, or chorizo cooked in cider. Many people think of pairing wine with cheese, but cider actually pairs much better with cheeses. I recommend Idiazabal, an aged sheep’s milk cheese from Northern Spain. It’s also good with walnuts or blue cheese.
How can people get txotx?
People can experience the Txotx by coming to Black Twig Cider House or joining our Txotxfest on September 10. We’ll also be at a few events around the South, including Euphoria in Greenville and TerraVita. Anxo in Washington, DC, just opened and they have a txotx at many of their pop-up events.