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

©2012 - Oregon native Abram Goldman-Armstrong writes about beer and cider for various regional and national publications.

Oregon Cider

- published in Oregon Beer Growler October 2012

It's fair to say I grew up on cider. In high school I helped plant apples such as Yarlington Mill, Kingston Black, and Dabinett at White Oak Cider in rural Yamhill County. At the age of 17, I stuffed apples from the college dining hall into my flight jacket and with a cheese-grater for a mill and two plates for a press made my first batch. I've made cider every fall since. Over that time I've watched the industry, grow, struggle, and finally, in the last few years, blossom into the vibrant scene we know today.

Alan Foster, owner of White Oak, along with Roger Mansfield of the Traditional Company (which became Wandering Aengus) were the pioneers of craft cider in Oregon. They planted true cider apple varieties full of the tannins and acids that produce complexity and mouthfeel in cider. In the West Country in England, the world's foremost cider producing region, cider apples are called “turnips” for their wizened appearances, and with one bite of “sharp” or “bittersharp” apples (the most tannic of all), it's easy to know why they are referred to as “spitters.” The tannins rob all the saliva from your mouth and spitting out the bits of apple is an almost automatic reaction. Though won't win any awards for their looks or their taste when eaten, bittersweet, bittersharp, and sharp apples are the key to fine cider.

Legendary American frontiersman Johnny Appleseed wasn't planting apples for granny's pies, but so settlers could make cider when they arrived. In Colonial times every man woman and child in the Colonies consumed 30 gallons of cider a year, and it remained America's drink of choice until the arrival of German immigrants and refrigeration in the late 19th century made brewing ubiquitous. Teetotal and temperance movement twisted the name to mean unfiltered apple juice, and after Prohibition, cider (defined as the fermented juice of apples) never recovered.

By the late 1990's when I finished college and moved back to Oregon cider was booming. National brands such as Woodchuck, Cider Jack, and Hardcore (made by Sam Adams), made from dessert fruit, and sometimes using added flavorings were flying from grocery store shelves. Widmer even produced Wildwood Cider, and the few small artisan cidermakers saw hope just a few years over the horizon. Sadly the movement lost momentum as the cheap, sweet, mass-market ciders from concentrate confused the public. In the middle of the first decade of the new millennium White Oak stopped making cider commercially and Mansfield sold the Traditional Company. True cider was proving a difficult sell despite recognition from Slow Food, and renown local chef Greg Higgins.

Most of those national brands and Widmer's Wildwood are long gone, but slowly cider started to take root in the beer scene. Always supported by beer shops such as Belmont Station, cider didn't fully come into its own in Oregon until 2 years ago when Bushwhacker Cider opened its doors. Jeff Smith got his start fermenting store-bought dessert apples in carboys scattered throughout his apartment. He translated his passion for the fermented juice of the apple into a shrine to the beverage unlike anything in North America. Bushwhacker is a cider bar, the concept is so simple and wonderful I can't understand why no one has done it before. House made ciders are available along with over a hundred varieties of ciders from around the world, eight on draft, the rest in bottles.

Bushwhacker has become to the cider movement what the Horse Brass Pub was to the craft brewing revolution. Alongside classic imports from England, France, the Basque Country and Spain, local ciders can be sampled. Visiting cidermakers stop in for tastings, and new cideries have a guaranteed first account.

Many of Oregon's new cidermakers have embraced dessert fruit, as without an orchard, and patience for it to mature there simply isn't any cider fruit available in suitable quantities for commercial production. Fermenting dessert fruit into quality cider is a tall order, as without the needed tannins and acids, and high sugars, they tend to yield plenty of alcohol but little flavor. Many of the new wave of cidermakers blend in other fruit juices, or even hops, to make quenching and enjoyable beverages. Bushwhacker even produces a cider with smoked apples.

Wandering Aengus
Wandering Aengus has come a long way from its days as the Traditional Company, of which I wrote in Oregon Wine Magazine in 2004 “sells most of its product to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.” Wandering Aengus moved into a spacious new facility in Salem early this year in order to keep up with demand from not only Oregon, Washington, and California, but East Coast markets as well. The building features passive heating and cooling with louvered vents and fans to draw in cool or warm air, a solar hot water system to run its pasteurizer, and photovoltaic panels. In addition to the Wandering Aengus line, made in 1000-gallon batches, with both cider and dessert fruit, the company also makes Anthem Cider in 5000-gallon batches from a dessert fruit base, with each bottling labeled with the varieties it contains. The Anthem line also includes Cherry, Pear, and Hops. For Anthem Wandering Aengus buys crushed to spec. juice from Hood River and Yakima. Wandering Aengus makes a dry oaked cider primarily from bittersweet apples grown by Alan Foster.

Blue Mountain
Milton-Freewater's Blue Mountain Cider Company got its start in 2003, using Walla Walla Valley apples including dessert fruit, and “pollinator varieties” which commercial dessert fruit growers plant interspersed with standard varieties. Blue Mountain's Dry Creek and Cherry are personal favorites. In addition to its own line of ciders, the company produces a number of ciders under contract for out-of-state brands.

Carlton Cyderworks
Located in McMinnville, Carlton Cyderworks was started by MAX-light rail driver Mark Bailey and his son in 2009, it's first cider Citizen is made from bittersweet and bittersharp cider apples. A blueberry cider, Asian pear cider, Newtown Pippen single varietal, and a semi-sweet cider Carry Nation, named for the famous tavern-smashing teetotaler have all joined the lineup since.

E.Z. Orchards
Unlike most Oregon cidermakers who doff their flat caps to the English cidermaking tradition, Kevin Zielinski of E.Z. Orchards raises his beret to the French tradition. He was looking for a value added product for the family orchard and fruit stand in Salem, and came up with a fantastic cider that is reminiscent of the ciders from Normandy, expressing the “harder” tannins associated with French cider apples. Packed in vintage-dated 750 ml bottles E.Z. Orchards even looks the part.

2 Towns
Located in a business park outside of Corvallis, 2 Towns started in 2010, growing astronomically since then and recently moved into a 10,000 square foot purpose built facility with a tasting room. It makes a line of ciders from primarily dessert fruit. In addition to its core line has launched the Traditions series, which feature ciders from traditional cider apples named for the orchard their fruit comes from, including Amity Rose, and Afton Field.

Josh Johnson launched Finnegan Cider from his Lake Oswego home in 2010, releasing his first batch in June of 2011. Finnegan is made with English bittersweet cider apples grown by Skurdahl Farms outside of Newberg.

Forest's Edge
The Forest's Edge Winery in Oregon City is also getting into the cider game with a vintage dated 2011 cider.

Reverend Nat's
“Reverend” Nat West got his basement cidermaking operation licensed in early 2012. He takes a rather unconventional approach to cidermaking with products such as “Halleujah Hopricot” brewed with apricots, spices, and Belgian ale yeast in addition to apples. He hopes to expand into a warehouse space, as his basement cidery only has space for 3000 gallons of cider.

Bull Run
Forest Grove's Bull Run Cider has what many other cideries lack; plenty of land, and owners Pete Mulligan and Galen Williams hope to turn that to his advantage by growing cider apples of other cidermakers. There are 4 acres planted on the 80-acre parcel, and Bull Run is happy to plant more. Bull Run's cider will be available this fall.

Cider Fests
With the recent upswing in interest in cider several events showcase ciders. The Spring Beer and Wine Fest has always supported cider, and a range of locals ciders are poured at the Portland event held each Easter weekend. The Northwest Cider Association, an alliance of artisan cidermakers in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, puts on the Cider Summit in Portland's South Waterfront in June. Two years in, the festival showcases local ciders alongside imports. A new event in the Eugene area, the McKenzie Cider and Craft Beer Festival will be held November 2-3 at the Willamalane Events Center in Springfield.

©2012 - Oregon native Abram Goldman-Armstrong writes about beer and cider for various regional and national publications.

Other Articles: Oregon Cider 2004 - Cider 2010

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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