This past weekend, I went to Bend, OR, a place known for its up and coming beer scene with its Ale Trail. Thing is, this year there have been two new cider companies that have opened there: Atlas Cider Co and Red Tank Cider Company.

We went to Atlas Cider Co first.  They have a large industrial facility that will allow them to grow and better hours to allow you to come visit. Right now, they have two ciders: standard apple and then the same cider flavored with cherry. They are also getting ready to release an apricot version.

Maybe a quarter mile away in a different industrial complex is Red Tank Cider Company. They have tricky hours to visit, but we managed it. Their space is much smaller, but it looks like they are still trying to upgrade before they can go. They probably had a smaller start up than Atlas. I did not see a red tank. They have two ciders made from the same juice that they just have different degrees of dryness on. They also have a cider in which they flavored it with ginger and pineapple, which was unique.

Both cideries had kind of the same business model. Since Bend is a desert and you don’t even really see homestead apple trees, both companies worked with Hood River to obtain juice and then ferment it. One was picky about the apples that went into their juice, while the other seemed to care more about the acidity and sugar. One also used some berries to create some tannin. Both of them work on a beer schedule, producing nice semi-sweet/sweet refreshing ciders that probably the core cider drinking market likes. I drink them, too, but I’ve kind of gotten used to higher acid crispness of a dry cider that has been allowed to age a year.

The experience was very pleasant and a good break from all the beer, and actually better in the high temperatures than beer. Of course, I’m biased, but even Burtle is coming around to the idea that cider is more refreshing on hot days than beer is.

Last night, as part of Oregon’s Cider Week, Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider opened his new facility for a small cheese and cider pairing.

We got there a little bit early, and Burtle realized Rev. Nat had a cider called Sacrilege that was made with some sour cherries and lactobacillius. Basically, Burtle is a sucker for sour beers and loves the Spanish ciders, so he was curious how Rev. Nat did. This was actually a fairly mellow tasting. It hardly had any cherries in it, so it wasn’t like an over powering kriek.  The lacto wasn’t super in your face, either. I could see it going well with dinner or with desert. The wheels in Burtle’s head are turning.

Then we began with the tastings. They were all Reverend Nat’s cider paired with a cheese suggested by The Cheese Bar, the same man who does the Cheese and Beer Fest. In fact, that is how I knew about this event, as I said they needed to do a pairing with cider. They also said cider is easier than beer. The pairings were:

  1. 2011 Skyline Blend paired with Samish Bay’s Cheese’s Fresh Ladysmith. This actually ended up being my favorite cider and favorite cheese. The cheese was a semi-fresh cheese, though a bit on the salty side.
  2. 2011 Revival Dry paired with Fern’s Edge Dairy’s Mt. Zion. This is probably the first goat’s cheese I’ve tolerated in a long time, but I think it was because it was super aged for legal reasons.
  3. 2009 Revelation Kingston Black with Neal’s Yard Dairy’s Montgomery Cheddar. This was Burtle’s favorite cider, though I found it to be a little thin. As for the cheese, Burtle doesn’t really care for cheddar, but this one wasn’t so strong. Maybe we Americans do cheddar differently?
  4. 2011 Providence Traditional New England with Ferme Kukulu’s Pur Brebis au Piment d’Espelette. This was kind of a strange pairing. It was a spiced cider with added raisins and brown sugar to make it more of a Christmas drink paired up with a cheese containing pimentos. I never could get a solid feeling on what I felt about the pairing.

You know, for being told that cider and cheese is easier to pair up, I never really got that moment of wow. Maybe my expectations are wrong. In my head, I’m thinking this should be like how chocolate enhances the flavor of wine, but wine doesn’t really enhance chocolate. I kept waiting for that one cheese to make that one cider that much better, but I didn’t find it.

I’m just going to have to do more experimenting!

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This year’s Portland Cider Summit was bigger than ever, which actually posed quite a conundrum. I shouldn’t be complaining – it is the one event a year I get to go to where I can have cider. The next best thing is to actually go to a cider bar like Bushwhacker’s. But here’s the thing: there were over 100 ciders there, and trying to taste became overwhelming.

There were more local cider producers there, and think less imports. I’m guessing a third of those producers just came online in the last year. Each cider maker also brought at least three ciders, so there was quite a bit to choose from.

I went on both days. The first day, I was with some co-workers, which was a great way to do it. For $25, we each had our 10 tickets and a good tasting glass, so between the seven of us, we probably covered 30 different ciders. The next day, my husband Burtle and I went back to cover the ciders we wanted larger tastings of or felt we didn’t cover the company well enough.

Thing is, on the second day, when people found out we had been there the previous day, they would ask us what our favorites were. Really, I only got a sip or two of about 30 different ciders, and even though I took notes, taking only a sip or two of 30 ciders is hard to pick a favorite from. Just too many. What does stand out are the ciders with adjuncts, which is kind of sad. For starters, the British cringe at the idea of adding adjuncts, and there is something to be said about having that pure cider. Secondly, sometime adding adjuncts is a sign that something wasn’t completely right with the cider, so they are masking it. Don’t get me wrong, I do like adjuncts, but when those are what you remember, it gets a little sad.

It is ironic that I’m even complaining about this – too many cider offerings. It is a whiny way of me saying I had a very wonderful time, and I can’t wait for next year!

Cider News: May 2013

May 31, 2013

Before I begin with the monthly cider news, are you going to the Portland Cider Summit on June 21-22?

Trends for May including more big beer companies getting into cider, new cider companies have started up, some cider companies are switching to cans, and there was a bit of a weather scare on apple crops.

Cider News:

Other industry news of interest:

Cider News: November 2012

November 30, 2012

Admittedly, the market news makes me sad that I have not been able to hardly start working on my own cider business.

Cider News:

Interesting Beer and Wine News:

Local News: The Reflector: Vancouver winemaker fines new home in Ridgefield. October 30, 2012

Check out the Events Page for holiday fun!

Botany of Desire

November 16, 2012

Watching Botany of Desire has been on my docket for a while. The two hour show was made by PBS in conjunction with Michael Pollan’s book of the same name. It originally aired in 2009, but you can find it at PBS’s website, Netflix, or probably even your library. It talks about four plants and how humans have propagated them. Or rather, how these plants have caused people to propagate them. The four plants include themes. They were:

  1. Apples – sweetness
  2. Tulips – beauty
  3. Marijuana – intoxication
  4. Potatoes – control

While I did find the other plants fascinating, I’m only going to focus on the apple, which was the first 30 minutes.

So apples, as I have mentioned, started in Kazakhstan, where they have wild apple tree forests today. They talked about how the apple spread, that a sweeter tasting apple were more likely to be eaten by a mammal, including humans, and therefore the seeds were more likely to be spread. Humans, however, discover grafting as a way to clone trees. If you recall, apple seeds are like mammals in that two of them can have the same parents, but be completely different, so in that wild forest in Kazakhstan, no two apple trees are the same variety.

Skip forward a few millennium to around 1800 and John Chapman, AKA Johnny Appleseed. Chapman had some religious beliefs that kind of had him believing in letting nature be as it is, so he went around planting apple orchards on the frontier out of apple seeds. When he did this, two things occurred. First, he was actually kind of “rebooting” the apple for North America as far as evolution was concerned. Only those seeds strong enough survived in America to pass on their genetics. Secondly, very few of the apples were actually sweet, so up until about 1900, 95% of apples went into hard cider. It was safer to drink than water, and was a way of making something inedible edible.

The program then says apples became a victim of their own propagation success. With the beginning of the Prohibition movement in the 1830s, the apple was seen as a contributor. This then brought about a race to find the sweet tasting eating apples out of the cider orchards before they were cut down, as if someone had a good one, they could be rich. This is also why the word cider morphed from being an alcoholic beverage to being a sweet unpasteurized juice in American linguistics. This is also the origin of our modern concept of apples – the rest were eradicated.

Pollan says that finding these sweet apples made us start grafting again, which halts evolution. He called this monoculture, where we plant the same tree variety over and over again. In fact, for a while, there was really only a hand full of apple varieties in America in the grocery stores as a result. However, the bugs, mold, fungi, viruses, etc still keep evolving, and eventually they figure out how to pick the resistance lock the tree had against them, as the tree is not evolving. It is like never updating your anti-virus software on your computer despite hackers getting smarter and smarter. In the agriculture world, this means we humans have to spray the trees to compensate, which is expensive.

Attempts are being made at trying to make the apple biodiverse again, but it is happening in laboratories rather than in the wild. And sure, people could plant seeds, but it is such a gamble. If one in 300 trees has sweet tasting apples, what do you do with the other 299 tree’s apples? Nobody wants to eat them. (Watching three years after it was made, I wonder with the resurgence of the cider industry if this practice will resume again.) There is also a bit of a complaint that apples are sweet yet flavorless, so the extreme control we humans have had on apples is being questioned.

I highly recommend watching this show. The tulips talk about how people also spread them and caused Tulip Mania. The marijuana section talks about how we even managed to take a 12 foot tall plant and grow it in doors. The potato one talked about how it helped the industrial revolution, though it suffers from monoculture as well, which is why the Irish Potato famine happened. It is a fascinating watch.

Further reading:

In early October, my cider news alert kept being triggered by stories of Ann Romney, wife of Presidential Candidate/Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. On the campaign trail for him, she went to a Michigan sweet cider mill, and the news was covering it.

Of course, the Romneys are Mormon, so I believe they don’t drink at all, so they would have only been dealing with sweet cider. In a post-Prohibition US, elected officials have to be careful regarding how much alcohol they consume. However, Resident Obama has been seen as slightly more pro-homebrewer, even possibly becoming the first president to (have his staff) make beer in the White House.

So before Prohibition, hard cider appeared in the 1840 presidential elections. William Harry Harrison ran as a Whig. He was old, and opponents tried make it seem that he was senile and wouldn’t do any work in the White House. Wikipedia says that one Democratic newspaper wrote, “Give him a barrel of hard cider, and …a pension of two thousand [dollars] a year … and … he will sit the remainder of his days in his log cabin.” This inspired Harrison to run his log cabin campaign, where he started using log cabins and hard cider in his campaign as symbols. The NNDB writes that hard cider began to be served at campaign meetings. There were bottles made to look like log cabins as well.  Harrison is actually credited with the modern system of campaigning for president, where he went out to people and talked to them to get them to vote (previously, candidates had campaigners and did not personally meet the general population). The result: Turnout was a record 80.2%, up from 58%, and Harrison became the 9th president, though he only served for 32 days before dying of pneumonia.

Harrison showed himself to be an everyday cider man vs his rich wine drinking opponent. The reality was his opponent was born poor and a self made man, and Harrison was born rich who managed to make it seem like he wasn’t.

Of course, I have to mention, even if it is briefly, John Adams. In the fall of 2009, when the cider industry as beginning to formulate, an article was published by The Slate titled “What Would John Adams Drink?” Apparently, the man had a tankard of hard cider every morning with breakfast.

Happy Election Day! Tomorrow is freedom from political ads!

Further Reading: