Cider lovers rejoice, suddenly the marketplace is full of options beyond the ubiquitous Strongbow and Spire. Local producers are cropping up from Tieton to Port Townsend (where there’s now three independent grower/producers); and importers are taking note of the increased demand and bringing in a wider variety in the bottle.
Local cider producers just announced the formation of the Northwest Cider Association. At nearly the same time a new festival was announced, the Cider Summit NW, organized by Alan Shapiro of SBS Imports along with the Seattle Beer Collective who bring you Seattle Beer Week. According to Alan, it was a pure and happy coincidence that the cider organization launched at the same time as the summit — a fortuitous synergy that’s creating a good amount of buzz about the event and the local cider scene.
Cider Summit NW will take place this Saturday, September 11th from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the South Lake Union Discovery Center Park. Over 40 ciders will be available for 3-oz. and 6-oz. tastes. Tickets are $20 in advance online or at select local bottle shops (check their Website for details), or $25 at the door, which buys you a tasting glass and ten drink tickets.
From 11 a.m. to 12 noon (for the first hour), guests will receive two additional “happy hour” tickets. SLU cardholders and WABL members will receive two additional drink tickets at any time. (Offers may not be combined.) Additional drink tickets will be available for sale onsite at $2 per ticket. This is a 21+ event; dogs are allowed.
Recently, we attended a media preview of Cider Summit NW held at Quinn’s Pub, where we had an opportunity to talk with Alan and meet a few local producers, as well as sample a variety of local and imported ciders that will be presented at the festival. The ciders offered a variety of styles from dry to sweet, some infused with other fruits like blueberry or produced from fruits other than apples like a cherry cider.
A few of us beer geeks at the tasting were noting that we had a lot to learn about cider, like how to describe the flavors (earthy, barnyard, grassy, tart, honey?), and about the growing and production process. Still, we patted ourselves on the back, proud that we probably know more than most people. Then we met David White of the Old Time Cider Blog, and we felt woefully inadequate. He’s been writing his cider blog for about three years now, and also helped design the logo for the new Northwest Cider Association. Yep, he is for real: the first cider geek I’ve ever met.
Even without being able to adequetely describe what we were tasting, it was still a revelation to sample the ciders with an array of cheeses and mini quiches, which amplified the flavor nuances of the ciders and really showed how well cider can pair with food.
Sharon Campbell from Tieton Cider Works, who is also the new president of the Northwest Cider Association, handed me a copy of their new brochure which suggests cider and food pairings which she personally selected by hosting dinners with friends, cooking a variety of foods and tasting each of the four ciders from Tieton Cider Works with each dish.
When asked if there was anything that just doesn’t pair with cider, Sharon really couldn’t name a thing. Her suggested pairings include a few things that you may not think would go well with cider, like tomato crostini with their semi-dry Blossom Nectar style; or salmon tacos with spicy chipotle sauce with their cherry cider, which she said was the best pairing they tried.
At the preview event, in addition to the fine ciders from Tieton Cider Works we sampled ciders from Finnriver in Port Townsend, Westcott Bay from San Juan Island, Wildfire from Port Townsend, Wandering Aengus from Salem, OR and imports like Asphall Dry and Asphall Organic.
Despite all the ciders available at the festival and by the bottle, one thing is still the same – at your local pub you’re still more likely to find the same larger producers on draft that you have in the past. I’ve asked a few folks if we might expect to see a bigger variety of cider on draft anytime soon, and it doesn’t sound likely. The smaller producers have a hard time getting the tap commits or don’t produce cider in keg-sized volumes and the cost per keg would be significantly more expensive than most draft beers and therefore would cost more per pint and be harder to sell.
Some of our bottle shops are carrying a variety of local and import ciders, for instance 99 Bottles has a nice selection and recently began carrying Finnriver ciders. The last time we visited Full Throttle Bottles we noticed they had a good selection, so next time you stop in to pick up a craft beer check them out. Enjoy the festival and let us know what you think about the new hard ciders in town.