Craft cider is having its moment.
On the heels of a craft beer movement that has given rise to dozens of breweries across the Inland Northwest, a half-dozen cideries are serving up dry, sweet, flavored and simple ciders made with Washington apples.
When Liberty Ciderworks started in 2014, owner Rick Hastings was baffled by the lack of local cideries.
“Here we are in the apple state and there’s hardly any cider to be had,” he remembered thinking.
Flavors and styles vary across cideries. Some produce mostly dry ciders that harken to fruit-forward wines, while others prefer sweeter products. Some choose subtle flavorings while leaving apples the dominant taste. Others like to let things like cherry or basil shine through.
Hard cider mixes elements of wine and beer in a way that makes it accessible to fans of both.
The process is similar to winemaking, in which a fruit is crushed and fermented to produce a sometimes sweet and sometimes dry product.
Aside from carbonating the finished product, “essentially we are a winery,” said Keith Allen, one of three owners of North Idaho Cider.
But cider easily can also take the place of beer: It’s served in pint glasses and has a similar color to light ales. Local bars and taprooms increasingly have several local or regional ciders on tap.
“Every year, they seem to add more,” said Davon Sjostrom, founder of Summit Cider.
Many owners said their products are finding a niche market among former beer drinkers following low-gluten or gluten-free diets.
Grant Barnes, the founder and co-owner of One Tree Cider, said the company’s new taproom in downtown Spokane often draws people who are new to the drink. Many are driven by a desire to eat and drink local food.
When Barnes founded the company in 2013, he said there were few cider options available at bars and grocery stores.
“There really wasn’t anyone else except Woodchuck and Angry Orchard,” he said. “We kind of rode the coattails on the craft beer movement.”
Twilight Cider Works
Located in Green Bluff, Twilight got its start when owner Will Jordan and his wife, Jackie, moved to the area to help with Jackie’s parents’ apple farm.
“We thought, well, might as well make use of the fruit around us,” Jordan said.
Twilight crushes its own apples and is painstaking in picking different varieties to achieve the flavors it’s looking for.
Many of its ciders are drier and akin to white wines, and it brews a hopped cider that may appeal to beer drinkers. Johnson said they’re planning a sweeter line, as well.
Where to taste it: Solace Mead and Cider in Kendall Yards pours Twilight ciders alongside mead from Hierophant Meadery, another Green Bluff enterprise. Open 4-10 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 1198 W Summit Parkway.
Try: Blend No. 8, a semisweet botanical cider that combines Green Bluff lavender, hibiscus and rose hips.
Owner Rick Hastings draws on European cider traditions for many of his creations, which often highlight single apple varieties.
If you visit the Liberty tasting room while he’s working and ask about the ciders, you’ll be treated to a comparison of fermentation techniques across Europe and the New World and a discussion of the flavor notes of different types of apples.
He and his partner, Austin Dickey, buy their apples from two small farms south of Spokane and crush them on-site.
“We want the apples to shine,” Hastings said.
They typically have five of their own ciders on tap and more available for bottle pours. The taproom also has guest taps and bottles of cider from around the world for sale.
Where to taste it: Liberty Ciderworks, 164 S. Washington St., Suite 300. Open 4-9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, and 1-6 p.m. Sunday.
Try: New World Craft Cider, for a classic, off-dry cider, or the Stonewall Barrel-Aged Cider, for an English blend with a hint of whisky.
One Tree Cider
Barnes was a beer-drinker who began brewing cider after his wife mistakenly bought him a homebrew kit for cider for Father’s Day.
Soon, his hobby had spilled into spare closets and the garage, which led to a choice: scale down or scale up. He chose to go into business with his friend, Neil Hennessy, in 2013.
The pair specialize in sweet ciders often flavored with other fruits, including huckleberry and cherry. Barnes views their product as an accessible, straightforward cider that can appeal to newbies and beer enthusiasts looking to try something new.
“We don’t want to be searching for flavors when we drink,” he said.
Their new cider house in downtown Spokane is a homage to craft cider, with 20 taps featuring microbrewed ciders from the Pacific Northwest, including a handful of their own offerings.
Where to taste it: One Tree Cider House, 111 S. Madison St., open 2-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 2-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 12-7 p.m. Sunday. Ciders sold in bottles at many local grocery stores.
Try: Lemon Basil Cider, a sweet but not cloying cider that’s reminiscent of lemonade with a kick.
Davon Sjostrom, Summit’s founder and CEO, was a beer homebrewer until he was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. Looking for a way to keep his hobby, he started brewing cider, and opened Idaho’s first craft cidery in 2014.
Summit tends toward medium-dry ciders, a balance of dryness and sugar that makes them accessible without overwhelming the apple’s tartness.
“I try to make my cider very apple-forward,” he said. About half their product goes out in kegs to local establishments, and three styles of cider are sold in bottles.
Sjostrom uses a mix of Washington and North Idaho apples and outsources the crushing. He said many of his customers tend to be active people looking for a product they perceive as healthier than beer.
Where to taste it: Summit has permanent taps at Post Falls Brewing, 112 N. Spokane St., Post Falls. Open daily 12-10 p.m.
Try: Uncrushable, an apricot medium-dry cider that’s crisp and refreshing.
North Idaho Cider
This cidery was the brainchild of three homebrewing friends who made the switch from beer to cider about five years ago.
Keith Allen, one of the owners, said he noticed cider becoming popular through people at his CrossFit gym, who were often trying to follow paleo or other low-gluten diets.
“For a couple years, we just made it for ourselves and shared it with friends and family,” he said. They opened in late 2014 and started selling draft ciders before releasing their first bottle last year: a chai-spiced cider for the holidays.
Their ciders tend toward the drier side, with no added sugars and real fruit in their fruity ciders. The dry-fruit combination tends to appeal to wine drinkers, Allen said.
Where to taste it: Tasting room is at 11100 N. Airport Road, Bays 5 and 6, Hayden, Idaho, open 5-8 p.m. Thursday, 4-9 p.m. Friday and 2-9 p.m. Saturday. Ciders sold by the bottle at many local grocery stores.
Try: Logger Dry Hard Cider, an oak barrel-aged cider finished with pine for an earthy, dry drink with a crisp finish.
Coeur d’Alene Cider
This nanocidery is the latest addition to the local market. Owner Jill Morrison opened her doors in August 2017 and is sticking to self-distributing kegs to local restaurants and breweries. She hopes to open a taproom eventually.
Morrison began homebrewing a few years ago after wanting to branch out from the beers she usually drank. Her products tend to be semi-sweet or dry, which she said works well paired with dinner.
“It doesn’t overwhelm the food, it just compliments it,” she said. “Sometimes a cider will be so flavored it’ll just interrupt the meal.”
Her latest release is Winterberry, a cider blended with cranberries and pomegranates that’s on tap at Downriver Grill in Spokane.
Where to taste it: Available on tap at a rotating selection of local restaurants. As of late November 2017, locations included Paragon Brewing and Midtown Bluebird in Coeur d’Alene, and Blackbird and Downriver Grill in Spokane.
Try: Semi-dry unfiltered cider, a classic with subtle sweetness balancing acidic apple flavors.
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