Friday, June 17, 2011

Cider Summit NW: Portland

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I am not at all ashamed to admit that I knew very little about cider before visiting Cider Summit NW. I've had a few ciders in the past month or so and knew that I enjoyed some over others, but that's about it. I suppose I also knew that cider was fermented fruit other than grapes, so I had that going for me.

Created as a way to bring awareness to the growing cider making industry, Cider Summit NW held their inaugural Portland event at Elizabeth Caruther's Park on Portland's south waterfront. With 24 cider producers promoted to be in attendance, I knew I'd learn a thing or two. Joining Alyssa and I were two other good friends from Corvallis, which also meant I'd have plenty of opinions on each varietal.

Alyssa and I don't live anywhere near a reliable line of public transportation, so we had to drive. Sure we could have just driven up to the event and parked within a couple of blocks, but that's kind of boring. Instead, we made use of Portland's most unique form of public transportation; the Portland Aerial Tram. Constructed as a convenient way for people to commute from Portland's south waterfront area to OHSU's Marquam Hill campus, the tram is a fun way to get a great view of the entire city in a Swiss Alps-inspired gondola. It's also a lot of fun to watch people freak out on really windy days as the giant pill swings back and forth, but skies were clear on Saturday and the ride was smooth as butter hanging from cables that exceed the current standards for Swiss aerial tramways.

The first brewery (is that what they're called? I'm sticking with brewery) we hit up was 2 Towns Ciderhouse out of Corvallis, OR. Unbeknownst to me, Theresa already knew Dave from 2 Towns and was familiar with their cider. Although they're a newcomer to cider scene (they started about 6 months ago), you could have fooled me. 2 Towns brought with them their Incider, Bad Apple, and Serious Scrump offerings. I had the opportunity to try the later of the two and Bad Apple ended up being my favorite of the day. Coming into the event I had the general idea that ciders were around 6% ABV and made in a similar style to beer. Bad Apple shattered that assumption since it is fermented with chardonnay yeast in white oak barrels and sits around 10.5% ABV. It tasted very similar to what you could imagine a sparkling chardonnay would taste like with heavier apple hues. After getting to chat with Dave and Aaron a bit, I was more than convinced that I had to make it to their open house in Corvallis on 6/28. More on that to come.

The next brewery I should mention is Blue Mountain Cider Company. Instead of trying all-apple offerings, Alyssa and I decided to try their Apple-Peach and Apple-Cherry varietals. No guessing is needed to imagine what these two taste like. Their Apple-Cherry cider hovers around 6.3% ABV and goes down ridiculously smooth. The gentleman pouring referred to it as their cherry pie cider. While perfect as a dessert drink, it was also suggested that it makes a terrific marinade of sorts for grilling salmon. I liked the peach version a tad more and would be perfect with a big bowl of vanilla bean ice cream.

The final brewery worth mentioning is Wandering Aengus Ciderworks, which has been our go-to cider as of late. Their Bloom varietal is what I have conceptualized as the prototype of what a typical cider should be; crisp, a bit sweet, and smooth enough to be drank as one would a beer. On the opposite end of the spectrum, their dry cider was exactly as advertised. While delicious, it seriously takes dry to an extreme. I would recommend pairing this one with something strong and pungent, like cheese or meats. Wandering Aengus has pretty wide distribution around the Portland area, so do yourself a favor and pick up any of their offerings.

By the time we left the event, my mind was thoroughly blown. I had no idea that the breadth of cider making philosophies could span such a large spectrum and I am very excited to learn more. Everybody at the event was incredibly kind and I couldn't imagine a more perfect way to spend the day. A huge thanks goes out to Alan from SBS Imports for organizing the event and to all of the cider makers who answered my completely ignorant questions with a smile on their face.

Upset that you couldn't make Cider Summit NW or don't live in the Portland area? You're in luck! Cider Summit NW: Seattle will be on September 10th at the South Lake Union Discovery Center Park. More information to come, but check out for more details.

1 comment:

  1. I'm excited to check out the Seattle event, and I'm going to call a cider brewery a "cidery".