If you’re reading this, you might be asking yourself a few questions
- “WTF?! If I wanted to read about Cider I’d be on craftciderscribe.com. Where’s the Beer?”
- “It’s Oregon Cider Week?! Didn’t Portland Craft Beer Week just end?”
- “There’s an Oregon Cider Week?”
Yes, you might be a bit perplexed by all of this and to be honest, I’m a bit overwhelmed myself. Yet what’s been developing within the Cider industry over the past 5 years has been nothing short of amazing and worth taking the time to explore further.
So the intention here is to provide a complete guide for those seeking to learn more about the world of Cider and to impart a few tips on how to navigate the 64 Cider focused events happening over the next 11 days.
A Few Basics
The 8th Annual Oregon Cider Week kicks-off today, the 20th of June, and continues until Sunday the 30th. A majority of these events have been organized by the Northwest Cider Association, a “trade organization formed by cider producers throughout the Pacific Northwest to promote awareness of regional ciders.”
While a quick look at the Oregon Cider Week Events Calendar reveals that a sizable chunk will take place in the Portland Metro area, there will indeed be events happening all over the state. But I’m getting ahead of myself, as we’ll do a rundown of recommended events shortly…
Cider Styles and Terminology
I honestly didn’t know much about Cider until I attended some of last years Cider Week events, and while I know for certain that I’m still a novice in the arena of fermented apples, spending a few hours talking to the wonderful people who’s passions reside within the world of Cider can do wonders.
Here’s a breakdown of Cider styles and some of verbiage that might be thrown at you when tasting. The excerpts below are from the United States Association of Cider Makers Style Guidelines.
Modern Ciders are made primarily from culinary/table apples, generally lower in tannins, higher in acidity, bright & refreshing.
Heritage Ciders are made primarily from the fresh juice of multi-use or cider-specific bittersweet/bittersharp apples and heirloom varieties; wild or crab apples are sometimes used for acidity/tannin balance. These ciders will generally be higher in tannins and more complex than Modern Ciders.
Modern Perries (singular, perry) are made from culinary/table pears, lower in tannins.
Heritage Perries are made from pear varieties grown specifically for perry production. Compared to Modern Perry, Heritage Perry is generally more complex and higher in tannins.
Fruit Ciders are ciders with non-pome fruits or fruits/fruit juices added either before or after fermentation.
Hopped Ciders are simply ciders with added hops.
Botanical Ciders are ciders made with any combination of herbs, nectars and leaves (including tea) added either before or after fermentation.
Rosé Ciders: There are two sub-styles of rosé cider, both of which have a pinkish hue. Heritage Rosé Cider is made with heritage cider apples, including red-fleshed varieties. Modern Rosé Cider is made with culinary apples and most often added adjuncts. A cider may be pinkish in color and the cider maker may choose not to use the Rosé Cider nomenclature, but all Rosé Ciders are pinkish in color.
Spiced Ciders are ciders made with any combination of spices or spicy vegetables added either before or after fermentation.
Wood-Aged Ciders are ciders in which the wood and/or barrel character is a notable part of the overall flavor profile.
Sour Ciders are made intentionally sour using non-standard yeasts and bacterial fermentation.
Ice Ciders are made by concentrating apple juice before fermentation, either by freezing the fruit before pressing, or by freezing juice and then drawing off the sugar and acid-rich concentrate as it thaws.
New England Style Ciders are made by chaptalization with additional sugars and are typically fermented to an alcohol range of 7 to 13% by volume. Under some circumstances they are labeled as Apple Wine per TTB regulations. Raisins are commonly added. These ciders are still or carbonated and often barrel-aged. It is thought that this style of cider was produced in Colonial America.
Specialty Cider and Perry is an open-ended category for Cider or Perry with added ingredients or special processes that do not fit an existing category. Aroma/Flavor, appearance and varieties may vary widely.
Then, within all these styles, you’ll commonly hear from the cidery themselves a description of what to expect when it comes to dry-ness, or lack-there-of…
- Dry Cider – This type has less than 0.5% residual sugar, and is often more acidic than the other types. Most dry ciders are aged in oak barrels to complement their mineral qualities.
- Off-Dry Cider – An off-dry cider has slightly more body than its dry counterpart and typically contains 1-2% residual sugar. These ciders tend to be smoother and have a richer flavor.
- Semi-Dry and Semi-Sweet Cider – Semi-dry ciders contain above 2% residual sugar, while semi-sweet ciders can carry as much as 4%. These two cider types are very similar in taste and have heartier bodies and more pronounced apple flavors.
This might just be a little more complex than anticipated! For a full rundown of terminology and tasting details, check out this BJCP page.
With at least 60 cideries in the state of Oregon and over 90 in the PNW, finding which Cider you prefer can be a tricky, if not inebriating, process. I recommend starting with small tastes of each, say at Portland’s Cider Summit happening this Friday and Saturday, as a way to figure out what floats your boat. And most importantly, talk with the people from the cidery. They’re a wealth of information and unlike (most) beer festivals, they’re actually serving the Cider and able to talk at length. Here’s a handful of cideries I recommend checking out, though this only scratches the surface…
12 Bridge Ciderworks – Oregon City – predominantly modern styles, trending more toward Semi-Dry and Semi-Sweet. Enjoyed their new St. John’s Imperial Hipster Cider, and their Broadway Cran-Pom, which is a nicely balanced Modern Fruit Cider.
1859 Cider – Salem – for variety and natural complexity, it’s hard to go wrong with 1859. Their Summer Strawberry last year knocked my socks off. This year I’d keep an eye out for their Desert King Botanical (Semi-Dry, subtle juniper, tannins, orange blossom and more) and the South Coast Cranberry, a Modern Fruit Cider.
Alter Ego Cider – Portland – while this cidery isn’t brand new, they did just open a new taproom in Portland and offer a great variety of Off-Dry and Semi-Dry ciders. I’ve tried both of their award-winning can offerings – The Brut and Guardian Angel, though to truly grasp the variety they make, be sure to stop in for their Taproom Grand Opening and 5th Anniversary Party on Sunday. Try both the Camellia Noir (Modern Fruit) and The Dark Royale (Black Currant) – they’re both wonderful.
Bauman’s Cider – Gervais – Another cidery offering great variety, primarily sourced from their family farm that’s been around since 1895. The All the Berries is a great Modern Fruit Cider with tons of fruit flavor, plus they also have a clever Spiced Cider called The Old Mule – a Cider take on a Moscow Mule.
Reveille Ciderworks – Astoria – during a tasting the other day, these complex offerings were the surprise of the night. Both the Ghostwood (Dry) and Razzberet (Modern Fruit) were outstanding “farmhouse-style” Ciders that I’ll be sure to seek out again this weekend.
Square Mile Cider – Portland – I honestly didn’t expect anything much when I tried these ciders, though was quite impressed by the newest version of their award-winning Hopped Apple Cider. It features a single Galaxy dry-hopping, imparting that Southern Hemisphere tropical flavor, without the bitterness.
Tieton Cider Works – Yakima, WA – Yes, they’re a cidery outside of Oregon, though I was thoroughly impressed by both their Apricot Cider (Modern Fruit) and Bourbon Barrel Peach Cider (Wood-Aged). For further variety, they offer a Harrison Apple (Heritage) and Organic Ciders (Modern).
Wildcraft Cider – Eugene – what sets this cidery apart from the rest is that all their Cider is unpasteurized as well as spontaneously fermented, making them one of the only “Gluten-Free Ciders” in Oregon (according to another Cider producer). I was delighted by the Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged Aronia (Wood-Aged), as well as their Rome Beauty (Modern), a refreshing American Cider. Also be sure to sample their vast variety which includes Ciders made with Quince, Sage, and Heritage apples.
For further information, find the full listing of the current NWCA Cideries here.
Cider Week Events
With a full 11 days of 64 different happenings, it’d be impossible to check them all out. So here are a few I’d recommend, clearly focused on the Portland region.
Oregon Cider Week at McMenamins – All Oregon McMenamins, all week – Discounted pints and growler fills of Edgefield Ciders.
Alter Ego Taproom Grand Opening and 5th Anniversary – Alter Ego Cider – Sunday 23rd, 12-7pm – Free!
Nocino Class at Alter Ego Cider – Alter Ego Cider – Tuesday 25th, 6:30pm – $20
Cider 201: Cultured & Fermented – Function PDX – Wednesday 26th, 6:30pm – $20
Apples & Botanicals Cider Gathering with Finnriver & Wildcraft – People’s Food Co-Op – Friday 28th, 5-6:30pm – Free!
Didn’t see an event you were looking for? Check out the entire calendar of Oregon Cider Week events.