Cider, or hard cider as it is known in the US, has become the fastest growing alcoholic beverage in the country with stunning double-digit growth. And Washington State, the major producer of apples in the United States, is at the forefront of this movement.
This is a renaissance for cider. Way before wine grapes were planted at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, apples were bearing fruit for America’s drink of choice, produced by everyday citizens as well as on the estates of our Founding Fathers. Apples were a huge staple then and cider was served throughout the day. Cider was doing just fine up until Prohibition. It never recovered. Until now.
Last month the legislature passed a law that allows the fast-growing cider industry to collect its own assessment from cideries in Washington.
So, just like the Washington wine and beer industries, the Northwest Cider Association will have funds to market and educate people about the booming cider industry. Previously, the cider industry was part of the Washington Wine Commission. The commission collected an 8 cent-per-gallon assessment to be used for marketing wine and cider.
Launched in 2010, the Northwest Cider Association has over 60 members from Washington, Oregon, Montana and British Columbia, with more than half in Washington. In the past, cider has been confusing, is it wine or beer? This piece of legislation defines it as its own.
Even so, some wineries and some breweries make a cider in addition to their regular products. Eaglemount Winery and Cidery in Port Townsend is a perfect example. They make award winning wines and ciders. Recently, they garnered a Gold Medal from the Seattle Wine Awards for their cider.
The larger beer companies, with profits suffering from loss of market share to craft brewers, have bought cideries. For instance, Boston Beer Company, a pioneer of the craft beer movement, bought Angry Orchard in 2013. And the first major new brand in eight years for Anheuser-Busch is Johnny Appleseed Ciders launched last summer.
There is a lot of diverse styles of hard cider available. Small local producers and the big beer conglomerates approach production differently and there’s variation from region to region.
Just to give you an idea of the different styles, categories for the 2014 Pacific Northwest Cider Awards include modern dry, modern sweet, new world dry, new world sweet, old world, wild ferment, wood aged, fruit/spice/herb infused, hopped and specialty.
Cider, also called hard cider in the US, is a fermented from the juice of apples and many other fruits. In the US, there is a 50% minimum of apples in the cider compared to France where it must be made only from apples. Alcohol content also varies widely from 1.2% ABV to 8.5%. If a cider has an alcohol content greater than 10%, it is automatically classified as a wine.
Heirloom apples, of which there are many, are prized for the amount of juice and the higher acidity they have. The juice of any variety of apple can be used in cider making, but particular cultivars grown for cider making are known as cider apples.
The best way to learn more about cider is to taste it at a cider tasting. The Pacific Northwest Cider Awards is the perfect opportunity to do this at their annual cider competition and tasting event on Saturday, June 6th.
With more than 40 cideries participating and 30+ ciders on tap, this event will highlight some of the amazing ciders produced throughout the great Pacific Northwest and offers the opportunity to explore the exciting new ciders and cider makers.
Tickets are available online through Brown Paper Tickets for $20, or $25 at the door. Each ticket receives tokens for eight 5-ounce pours, with additional tokens available for purchase. For more information, visit www.pnwca.com.
And if you’re already booked that weekend, Cider Summit NW Festival celebrates its 5th Anniversary Friday, June 19th and Saturday, June 20th at The Fields Neighborhood Park in Portland. This year’s event will feature over 150 ciders from producers around the world including regional favorites and international classics.
Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 (cash only) at the door and are available online from Stranger Tickets. More info at NorthwestCiderAssociation.com