Cider Riot!

Cider Riot! is dedicated to producing high quality ciders from Cascadian grown apples. With tradition as our guide and our roots firmly planted in the rich soils of our bioregion, our urban cidery produces refreshing, flavorful ciders.

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Abram's Writings on Cider

©2004 - Oregon native Abram Goldman-Armstrong writes about beer and cider for various regional and national publications.

Oregon Cider

- published in Oregon Wine Magazine 2004

As the fall frosts turn the leaves winemakers are not the only ones pressing fruit in Oregon.

Cider, or “hard cider” as it is often called was once the most popular beverage in America. In colonial times, per capita consumption of cider was 30 gallons a year. Sadly the beverage was all but killed by Prohibition. Recently there has been a craft cider renaissance here in Oregon.

These are not the saccharine sweet concentrate-based ciders mass-produced by California jug-wine behemoths. Oregon ciders are generally made in the tradition of English and French ciders, from apples grown specifically for making cider. These are not the apples granny uses in her pies, in fact many are not very pleasant to eat in the raw form. Cider apples can be divided into four main categories, bittersweet, bittersharp, sharp, and sweet. A blend of these various types gives the cidermaker the correct balance of acids tannins and sugars needed to make a complex cider.

“Making cider from dessert apples would be like trying to make Pinot Noir from Concord grapes,” says Alan Foster of White Oak Ciders.

Traditional cider apples are not commonly grown so cidermakers have had to rely on other cider makers, the University of Washington research orchard at Mt. Vernon, as well as direct imports from Europe for orchard stock.

Foster who started Oregon's first cidery, White Oak, between Newberg and Yamhill, near Archery Summit winery, grows more than sixty varieties of cider apples. He began planting his orchard in 1989, after falling in love with traditional ciders in England in the 1970s. He produces a traditional Somerset style dry English cider, a Kingston Black varietal cider, and has added a pommeau to his lineup as well. (Pommeau is apple brandy with fresh juice added).

Foster ages his cider for a year in French oak after an initial fermentation in stainless. It pulls some tannins from the oak to complement those in this dry cider. White Oak cider has been adopted into the Slow Foods Ark of Taste, and Foster recently attended the Terra Madre sustainable agriculture conference in Turin, Italy.

Roger Mansfield started the Traditional Company in Culver Oregon in 2000 after retiring from city management in California, and sells most of his cider to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Mansfield uses organic apples from his own orchard and organic growers in Hood River and Ashland.

The Traditional Company produces a range of ciders fermented and aged in untoasted Oregon white oak barrels, built in Lafayette. Macbeth's Three Witches has a semi-sweet cider has an almost juice like flavor, while Rogers Semi-Dry has a flavor closer to that of an English style cider. Mansfield introduced a still cider earlier this year, and has just released Juliet's Love a champagne-style sparkling cider.

Ford Farms Cyderworks of Sauvie's Island also produces a sparkling French style cider from its orchard. Kristin Ford has grafted cider varieties onto existing trees, and now has 5000 trees, primarily cider varieties. Ford Farms has begun blending its juice prior to fermentation, previously fermenting each of forty varieties separately, and blending them at bottling. Now they concentrate on 8-10 varieties including Dabinett, Brown Snout, Foxwhelp, and Yarlington Mill. This year they will be using a stainless steel press and have installed a walk-in on the farm.

Blue Mountain Cider Company in Milton-Freewater, which pressed its first batch last fall, uses primarily dessert varieties grown locally, along with pollinator varieties which have more acids and tannins. Despites Hood Ruiver's reputation, the Walla-Walla valley is Oregon's largest apple growing region. Ron Brown, one of the company's partners is orchardist and CEO for the state's largest producer.

He and his wife Gretchen and Mike and Robbi Swinerton started the Blue Mountain Cider Company as an extension of hobby cidermaking. Sold locally in half gallon growlers at the tasting room in Milton-Freewater, the cider is fermented in stainless conicals and blended with fresh juice then pasteurized for a semi-sweet flavor. This year Blue Mountain will increase production from 1000 to 1500 gallons, and hope to begin bottling in 750 ml packages when they receive label approval.

Just as small wine and beer producers flourished in the 1980's and 1990's, craft cider seems to be next step in the development of taste.

©2004 - Oregon native Abram Goldman-Armstrong writes about beer and cider for various regional and national publications.

Other Articles: Cider 2010 - Oregon Cider 2012

The Process

Cider Riot! is an urban cidery dedicated to the production of dry ciders. We use a variety of apples grown in Cascadia, including rare English and French cider variety apples, wild apples from Yamhill County, Oregon, and dessert apples from the Yakima and Hood River Valleys. Thanks for visiting Cider Riot!

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