The clinking of diamond-patterned glasses filled with Apfelwein (Frankfurt’s sour, flat cider) and the banging of earthenware on wood as traditional blue and grey jugs land on tables. Shifting chairs, lively chatter and peals of laughter. The smell of cured pork chops and Sauerkraut in the air. The atmosphere in Frankfurt’s traditional Apfelwein taverns is unique, and with their painted walls, rustic furniture and a jovial and fiercely loyal customer base, each Apfelwein tavern – many of them owned and run by several generations of the same family – tells its own individual story and connects locals and visitors to a traditional culture that is hundreds of years old.
Like bars and restaurants all over the world, these establishments are now empty and silent. Corona subsidies are in arrears, owners have no information about when they’ll be allowed to reopen – or in what capacity – and for many, takeaway services simply aren’t a profitable option. With considerably reduced sales, the press houses who produce Frankfurt’s favourite drink are struggling, too. All they can do is hold on and wait to see what happens, but there’s a danger of Apfelwein prices being driven up and a number of Frankfurt’s beloved Apfelwein taverns disappearing altogether. Hesse’s Apfelwein association, Apfelwein-Centrum Hessen e.V. may be currently awaiting a decision on their application to have the local drink recognised on UNESCO Germany’s Nationwide Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage, but right now, Frankfurt’s entire Apfelwein culture is under threat.
#SupportYourLocalEbbelwoiKneipe (Ebbelwoi is local dialect for Apfelwein) is a non-profit initiative to support Frankfurt’s much-loved Apfelwein pubs during the coronavirus pandemic.
Frankfurt locals Felix Leichum and Paul Groetzki have come up with a campaign to support Frankfurt’s taverns involving the traditional earthenware jugs used for serving Apfelwein. Traditionally made in the Westerwald region and used throughout southern Hesse for serving the alcoholic apple drink, the jugs, known as Bembeln, are glazed in pale grey before being decorated with blue paint with designs involving apple boughs or wreaths. They are often inscribed with the name of a cider press house or Apfelwein tavern.
For each of the Apfelwein taverns participating in the #SupportYourLocalEbbelwoiKneipe campaign, 50 limited-edition jugs have been handmade by a local ceramics business, the iconic hand-painted jugs each individually numbered and engraved with the name of each tavern, and taking up to five days to make. The price of each Bembel will be donated in full to the tavern of your choice, thus providing them with much-needed financial support. And as a small thank you from the landlords and landladies of the establishments, everyone who buys a campaign Bembel will be given the opportunity to fill it up for free once the taverns have reopened.
The campaign is aimed at regular customers, Apfelwein lovers and anyone who wants to help protect a highly-valued culinary culture that is now very much under threat. “We don’t want to earn anything with this campaign,” say Felix and Paul. “It’s a total passion project. As Frankfurt lads and Apfelwein lovers, we want to use the time we currently have available, as well as ours contacts and means, for a good cause.”
Buy your limited edition Apfelwein jug online for 49,99€ plus postage (jugs also available for collection) at the Hessen Shop or by phone (069/7077649) and follow the campaign on Instagram and Facebook. But hurry, because they’re selling out fast!