When I was at university in Devon in the 1970s, my fellow students and I were continually in search of the Cheapest Alcohol Available. This entailed roaming the English countryside, knocking on farmers’ doors and asking if they had any homemade cider they could sell us.
Sometimes what we got was fine. Sometimes it was dreadful. Its alcohol content was entirely unpredictable. Even the ciders on tap in local pubs were dodgy, erratic affairs.
Cider has come a long way since then, with an increasingly sophisticated variety of beverages on offer. In apple-centric Washington state, it should come as no surprise that cider has become a big deal. In Seattle, the cider scene keeps growing. Capitol Cider, the city’s first cider bar, opened last year. Schilling Cider House in Fremont has its grand-opening party 5-10 p.m. Sept. 6, 708 N. 34th St., Seattle.
Both venues are taking part in Washington Cider Week, a statewide promotional affair organized by the Northwest Cider Association “to promote awareness of regional artisanal ciders.”
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As Sherrye Wyatt, NCA’s executive director, says, “We are in the Second Age of the Apple, with more varieties of extraordinary apples within reach than ever before. Some make great fresh eating, some make killer pies, some make the finest cider, and some are downright weird.”
The NCA was formed in 2010 by a handful of cider-makers wanting to spread the word on their products. It now numbers 50-odd members, half of them in Washington state.
“It’s just catching on,” Wyatt says. “There are so many good ciders to taste. That’s part of what’s driving it — and this desire to connect with what’s local. … It’s fun to have a wide variety to try.”
Wyatt likens what’s happening in cider to the craft-beer movement of the 1980s. Exact sales figures, however, are difficult to come by.
“At times it’s tracked as ‘wine,’ and at times as ‘beer,’ ” she explains. “Cider is still in the process of defining its own category.”
Anecdotal reports suggest cider consumption is going up astronomically. “Over the past four years, several local Northwest cideries have been doubling and even tripling production every year,” Wyatt says. “Cider continues to be the fastest growing segment of the beverage industry.”
Local highlights of Washington Cider Week include:
•Cider Summit Seattle: A two-day cider-tasting shindig featuring 100-plus crafted artisanal ciders from around the country and Europe, with live music by Modern Relics, Saint Claire, Nick Vigarino, Jesse James and James King & The Southsiders. 3-8 p.m. Sept. 5 and noon-6 p.m. Sept. 6, South Lake Union Discovery Center, 101 Westlake Ave. N., Seattle; $25-$30, 21 and over only (www.cidersummitnw.com).
•Official Cider Summit After Party: Ciders, cider cocktails and festivities, 8 p.m.-2 a.m. Sept. 6, Capitol Cider, 818 E. Pike St., Seattle. (Capitol Cider will host events every night of Washington Cider Week, including a “Cider Week Blowout Party,” 5-9 p.m., Sept. 13, and an apple-related movie double-feature of “Cider House Rules” and “The Orchard,” 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14. See www.capitolcider.com for more details.)
•Cider tastings will be going on in a bars, restaurants and grocery stores all over town. For full details, go to www.nwcider.com.
Michael Upchurch: email@example.com