As long as apples are growing, there will be cider. Hard cider consumption most likely predates humans, as we can observe some animals that forage fermenting fruit in order to catch a little buzz. These days the process is a bit more precise. The Johnny Appleseed story, as detailed in Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire, is a tale of success, especially in our neck of the woods where the Temperance movement’s shenanigans were shrugged off long ago. Make a trip up the Valley to Hood River, and up into Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, and you’ll be hard pressed (pun intended) to miss the apple orchards along the way.
Craft cider (known as “cider” before large, commercial hard cider makers came along) is booming — booming so much that Oregon has dedicated an entire [long] week to it. And much like the nationally popular “Beer Week,” Oregon Cider Week will be rife with events showcasing different cideries and their multifarious wares. The Bier Stein will be hosting tasting events with Finn River, Wandering Aengus, 2 Towns, and Tieton (see the Facebook page soon for more details). Cideries have been popping up everywhere lately (except Eugene…), and with some peculiar offerings that should pique the interest of those beer lovers who seek out the weird and wild. Reverend Nat’s in Portland makes the Hallelujah Hopricot, and describes it as such on their website:
The making of Hallelujah Hopricot starts with heirloom American apples as a Belgian wit-style cider steeped with coriander, bitter orange peel and paradise grains, fermented with French saison and Belgian ale yeasts. On top of that rich base, I add apricot juice and finish with whole-leaf Cascade and Amarillo hops. A fresh and fruity concoction not dulled by any sweetening, this off-dry cider is my best-seller, and for good reason. ABV 6.9%.
Sounds weird, eh? Can’t wait to try ’em.
My most recent encounters with local cider have been rather wonderful; I brought home a bottle of Wandering Aengus’ Wickson, a single-varietal crabapple cider, and fairly devoured it– the balance of tartness, tannins, and 100-Watt fruit flavor was, to my mind, perfect. I’m also a fan of dry white wines, so this was a good match for me. Tieton, out of Yakima, WA (where 95% of the nation’s hops are grown) makes a dry-hopped cider (appropriate, no?) that lends a crisp citrusy bite to the finish– while not a “cider for hopheads” per se, it lends a familiar air to some of the unfamiliar traits of cider. This is a key element in cider: there are so many varieties of apple (apple seeds are not genetically stable, so you will get a different apple whenever you plant a seed; this is why orchardists graft Oregon Cider Week is kicked off by the Portland Cider Summit on the 21st & 22nd, which features nearly 100 ciders from 29 cideries, mostly from Oregon and Washington. Of course it’ll take a little while for an event like that to happen in Eugene, but I’m sure we’ll see a small cider festival before long, and maybe even a Eugene cidery!