Washington may be the hop capital of the world, but the Pacific Northwest also has an unquenchable desire for cider. The Washington Cider Association reported in 2018 that the regional industry continues to increase roughly 30 percent each year, and more than 31 million pounds of fruit was used to produce the fermented libation.
The ninth annual Washington Cider Week is from Sept. 5 to 15 with more than 70 events, including the crowning jewel, the Cider Summit Seattle, on Sept. 6 and 7.
To learn more about what makes local cider special, we chatted with Emily Ritchie, executive director of the Northwest Cider Association, who shared that most Northwest ciders fall into two categories.
The Old-School Way
“The Heritage ciders are made with apples that were bred over generations to make cider. These apples come from places like England, France, and Spain, where they’ve been making cider for thousands of years. These apples typically have higher levels of acid and tannins in them, which, when blended, make ciders with depth and complexity. These apples are rare here, and so they cost more money. Typical Heritage apples include the Kingston Black, the Yarlington Mill, and the Dabinett.”
The New-School Way
“Modern ciders are made with apples that grow really well here in the Northwest, particularly in Washington (did you know the state grows some 60 percent of the nation’s apples?). These are what we call dessert apples and are the typical apples we find at the grocery store — the Gala, Fuji, and Granny Smith. Modern ciders can still be complex, if the cidermaker chooses to do things like barrel age for the tannins in wood or add fruit that adds acid (such as pineapple) or tannins (such as a black currant).”
Similarly, with Perry — or pear cider — Ritchie said some are made from well-known varieties found at the grocery store, like d’Anjou or Comice. Some of the Heritage pears — Butt, Blakeney, Red, and Huffcap — aren’t a desirable snack, but are perfect for perry.
So, get your glasses ready, because it’s time to kick back and celebrate our Evergreen State cidermakers. Here are just a handful to try:
Independent Cider, Dryden
Semi Dry Bartlett — a medium-bodied Perry with notes of pear blossoms and vanilla.
Steelhead Cider, Chelan
Furious George Ginger — a wicked blend of ginger with citrus and melon notes that result in a smooth finish.
Bad Granny Hard Cider, Wenatchee
Rainer Cherry — a mouthwatering marriage of Washington cherries with an apple and peach aroma.
Winsome Ciderworks, Woodinville
Oaked Chipotle — subtle smoky notes are balanced with roasted peppers and caramel for a poetic sweetness.
Idun Cider, Seattle
Dry Blend — the flagship cider, blends several apple varieties to create a new-world cider laced with tangerine, melon, and honey.
Incline Cider, Tacoma
Compass Rosé Hibiscus — a seasonal cider that blends rose hips, elderflower, ginger, and hibiscus to offer a luxurious flavor profile.