Friends shouldn’t let friends drink mass-market ciders, says Colin Schilling, master cider-maker and founder of Schilling Cider.
COLIN SCHILLING wants people to stop drinking Angry Orchard hard cider. He’d also love it if everyone refrained from imbibing Woodchuck, Smith & Forge and Johnny Appleseed. Mass-market ciders, he explains, come from the same behemoth conglomerates that make the likes of Budweiser and Coors.
“They are on my personal ‘Do Not Drink’ list,” he says, “and we do not sell them here.”
His Fremont pub, Schilling Cider House, is already busy at 3:30 on a Wednesday. Everyone present is helping Schilling realize his dream, just by showing up and drinking — there are 32 ciders on tap, more in one place than anywhere else in the country. A happy din indicates that these cider fans, some of whom might have left their Fremont tech jobs early, have their priorities straight.
Learn how to make it yourself — the next classes are at Schilling Cider House in Fremont on Oct. 10 and 11, from noon to 2 p.m. Cost: $25 per person (snacks included). Email email@example.com to reserve a spot. Inquire about educational tastings (for groups of six or more) at the same email address.
Colin worked at Microsoft for five and a half months. He’d planned to be there longer before his cider startup, but, he says, “I couldn’t do it.” Thus, in 2012, Schilling Cider was born.
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He’d been making cider since he was 14 years old, on the Idaho farm that was his childhood home. “It’s been a family tradition since the ’70s,” he says, “and something I’d done for longer than I legally should’ve been doing it.” (How old was he when he first got drunk on cider? “I can’t comment on that,” he says, smiling.)
His parents were “kind of hippies” — they’d gather apples, take them to a community press, then cellar the resulting cider for six months. But even then, Colin was a “very scientific person.” He visited a Coeur d’Alene home-brewing store, bought books and studied cider-making, eventually acquiring “some actual yeast strains” and equipment. Then, he says, he just “made it a little more proper. And ended up being able to make a product that was quite a bit better than what they’d been making for years.”
Colin’s great-great-grandfather, August, worked for Folgers Coffee, but had an argument with Mr. Folger about a new technology: vacuum packing. August was in favor of its flavor-preserving property; Mr. Folger was “essentially too cheap,” Colin says. His ancestor quit in protest and started A. Schilling & Company, first selling vacuum-packed coffee, then transitioning into spices. The Schilling family sold the company in the 1940s, but it’s clear that entrepreneurial nerdiness remains in the Schilling genes.
Schilling Cider uses all local apples to make both traditional-style ciders and ciders infused with flavors like grapefruit or Sriracha-lime. Colin even tried to make wasabi cider — he loves wasabi — three different ways, but, he says, “It was undrinkable every time.”
“I’ve dumped lots of cider over the years, trying various things,” he says amiably. If you suggest cider could be infused with mouth-tingling Sichuan peppercorns, he’s instantly intrigued: “Where would you get some of that? … We should try that!” It all lends credence to the Schilling Cider motto: “Your apple a day just got interesting.”
Colin also supports the craft cider community as a whole, serving on the board of the Northwest Cider Association. And while the new tasting room at the Auburn cidery serves only house-made ciders, the Fremont pub’s 32 taps usually pour eight Schilling ciders and 24 kinds from other companies.
“It’s just really about supporting everyone who’s doing good work,” he says. “And then educating people what craft cider is — and what not-craft cider is — so that you get the drinkers to really appreciate what they have.”
To that end, Schilling Cider offers cider-making classes, as well as educational tastings. For the latter, they’ll usually include an Angry Orchard. “If you try that next to a craft cider,” Colin says, “it speaks for itself.”