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Monday, June 25, 2012

Ciders on the Horizon?

For the second year in a row, I was unable to attend Saturday's Portland Cider Summit.  Regrettably.  (I was unable, but I bet others skipped it because of a deluge that produced .9 inches of rain.  Ah, June!)  I know, I know--we are all probably suffering from a little "artisanal fatigue."  Artisanal beers, liquors, and wines have all enjoyed long and fruitful runs.  Ciders remain a decided dark horse in the crowded field of handmade alcohol.  In a way, though, the region may be more suited to them than it is to wine and maybe even beer--apples are among the favorite fruits in Oregon and Washington. 

Photo credit: Culinate.
I admit to near complete ignorance of ciders (though I have tried my hand at making one).  I know that they played a large role in the nutrition and entertainment of North American settlers, that they were so fundamental to rural life that they were explicitly exempted from Prohibition, and that there are different traditions of cider-making from the rough, still Basque ciders to the refined, effervescent French ones.  (Britain, as usual, plays an important role.)  I know that some are sweetened and therefore terrible, while some are unsweetened and as tart and complex as--and not entirely dissimilar to--straight lambic.  I also know that the Pacific Northwest is on the vanguard of the American craft cider revival. 

I probably won't spend a lot of time in study between now and the third annual Cider Summit--I've got that other project to consider.  I may spend a little.  Over the weekend, I decided to drown my cider-summit-missing-sorrows in a bottle of Pear Anthem--a line of Wandering Aengus.  Despite the name, it's not a perry (cider made of pears), but an apple cider with a minority of pear.  A lovely tipple, quite dry and tart--leaning in the direction of Brussels, if you want the truth--with floral blossom notes and something spicy underneath.  Ciders may have flavor elements that remind one of wine or lambic, and this one had both.

Man cannot live by beer alone.  I recommend a trip to the store for a cider to shake things up, palate-wise.  A change of pace is a good thing.


  1. Ah... but the reverse may be true. Anthem was not the only cider at the festival to serve a hop version. So, if your need for beer is primarily to satisfy your hops addiction, the cascades in Anthem may allow one to live by cider alone. But alas Jeff wouldn't know... he wasn't there.

  2. Bushwhackers say over 1300 attended, up from 500 last year. When I was there in mid-afternoon, it was comfortable and weather pleasant.

  3. I'm the Cidermaker for Carlton Cyderworks,a cidery in McMinnville, OR. I'm a beer drinker and love this blog for introducing new things to me.

    I wanted to address a couple of comments on this post! The sweet=bad, dry=good comment is something that is stated a lot.. before someone tries some different ciders!

    The Anthem Pear that you had is a pretty good cider. We work with Nick and James from Wandering Aengus from time to time, and started up our own business by buying their old equipment. The Anthem line ciders are all meant to be cheaper and more approachable ciders. They are actually quite sweet for craft ciders in the Northwest. Wandering Aengus also makes many drier ciders. (Such as the new Golden Russet, which is super delicious! Jealous.. maybe!)

    We follow the same general philosophy, but a bit differently. We have our sweet, light apple cider called Carry Nation, and it is very popular. But almost equally popular is out drier english variety, Citizen, with it's complex dry and tannic mouthfeel and lovely flavors. We recently won a silver medal against many english ciders that we have always looked up to.

    That is the modern Northwest cider trend; approachable but high quality sweet ciders (the answer to Hornsby's), and more traditional ciders for those who want to something a bit more serious.

    I would LOVE to see you learn more about cider. I understand this is a beer blog, but jump over the Atlantic pond to England.. beer and cider are side by side, and are part of the same ecosystem. Beer may be more popular, but you would -never- see a store or pub without a cider choice or three.

    We aim to do the same thing here!

  4. Wandering Aengus' Anthem ciders have a dedicated tap at Venti's Cafe in central Salem, Ore. Three Anthems ciders rotate, have done for more than three years.

    The Colorado Cider Co., Denver,
    - products were recommended to my wife by Wandering Aengus' Nick Gunn
    - produce a hopped and lemon grass infused apple cider

    Michael Pollan's 'The Botany of Desire' [2011] provide useful, well written historic information about cider.

  5. Jeff, I was pretty much in your boat til I threw myself into ciders for some stories incl AAB & WW. Now I can't stop exploring. let's hit up Bushwhacker. Maybe I don't owe you a beer; maybe I owe you a cider.

  6. Brian, I am obviously in need of remedial training--which, it should be noted, Allen tried to give me last year.

    Jack, the history of cider, apples, and the US is amazing. Another good one is Okrent's Last Call, the fantastic book about Prohibition from a year or two ago.

  7. Being a mostly IPA drinker, I started experimenting with Ciders this last fall season- I am excited to go to the North American Organic Brewers Festival this weekend and try the Finnriver Farm Dry Hopped Cider as well as the Wandering Aengus Oak Dry Cider; having missed the Cider Summit myself. Glad to see ciders and fruit beers being represented there. It is incredible all the beer. wine and now cider options we have in the Pacific Northwest!