By Rachel Rosen / Whidbey News-Times
COUPEVILLE — A new place to drink and gather has opened in downtown Coupeville.
Greenbank Cidery now has a tasting room. There are eight varieties of cider on tap, all made from Whidbey Island-grown apples, along with incredible views of Penn Cove.
Jeff Stoner, co-owner and operator of Greenbank Cidery, founded the business in May of 2020. Stoner moved to the island from Seattle in 2017 and took up cider-making as a hobby.
His neighbors had an orchard with about six varieties of apples. With the help of the late Terry Boese, who was the owner of Wicked Teuton, Stoner began brewing his own beer and IPAs. One day while driving down Highway 20, he saw an orchard with a for-sale sign.
“When I saw the for-sale sign, it was kind of like an a-ha moment, you know, like a shining light,” he recalled. “You know, like this, this could be a life-changing thing.”
He made an offer on the property in February of 2020 but lost out to a brewery from Minnesota. A couple months later, Stoner got a call from his broker who asked him if he wanted to be a farmer. With the onset of the pandemic, the owner of the brewery changed his mind and Stoner was able to resubmit his offer and buy the land.
“Since then, I’ve slowly learned how to grow apple trees and the varieties of apples and how to, you know, take care of an orchard,” he said.
The first cider Stoner made with apples he grew was called the 2020 Orchard Blend. He just sold the last case of it to Bayleaf in Coupeville. He is currently bottling the 2021 Orchard Blend, which he described as his signature dry cider that he ages for over a year. The 2021 blend will be available by Thanksgiving.
The cidery’s other blends are fermented at a faster rate. All are made of natural ingredients with no added sugar or sulfites. The result is ciders that are not overly sweet or carbonated but still refreshing and delicious.
Stoner co-owns the farm with Kim Taylor who came onboard in April of 2021. After trying Stoner’s cider when they first started dating, she said she was blown away. Their first date was actually at the orchard.
“He has the orchard on a hilltop where you can see the Olympics so we watched the sunset,” she said. “It was kind of like a Hallmark movie, really.”
Taylor took over some marketing responsibilities before officially becoming a co-owner.
“It was just an instant passion,” she said.
Taylor’s grandmother was an excellent cook and a couple of the ciders, Cherry Pick and Ruby Tuesday, are modeled after her recipes for cherry and strawberry rhubarb pies. The rhubarb in Ruby Tuesday is grown in the orchard’s garden.
Stoner, who worked in corporate America for 25 years, said that the cidery is in a way fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a chef.
One of their ciders is called Island Elixir, which will likely be available at Whole Foods soon. Taylor described it as her “baby” and the blend includes fireweed, an invasive herb that is used medicinally, organic lavender and turkey tail mushrooms that were hand-foraged from Whidbey forests.
“So all ingredients that can be found on the island,” she said.
Cider is a great gluten-free alternative to beer. Greenbank Cidery has a couple of varieties that have beer-style yeast, like the Saison blend which has a savory flavor.
Before opening a tasting room, Stoner was distributing to tap rooms and wine shops like Front Street Grill, Penn Cove Brewing and Three Sisters Market.
“We always wanted to open a tasting room but we just couldn’t find the perfect spot,” he said.
After months of looking with no luck, they had decided to build a tasting room on the orchard. That was until Von and Barbara Summers reached out to them about a space they had renovated on Front Street.
Now Stoner and Taylor can interact with their customers face-to-face, something that is extremely important to them.
The tasting room offers flights so people can try three cider varieties at a time. Outside food is welcome and there are packaged meats, cheeses and chocolate available.
Both Stoner and Taylor described the cider community as uplifting and non-competitive.
“I just love the cider community, they’re very welcoming,” Taylor said. “And a lot of them are farmers, as well.”
The cidery offers two different club memberships for special discounts, events and quarterly cider shipments. More information can be found at greenbankcidery.com/our-club/.
“Our whole goal of this place is to bring connection to the community over good cider,” Taylor said.
The Greenbank Cidery tasting room is located at 12 Front Street in Coupeville and is open noon to 5 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You must be 21 years old to enter.
This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sibling publication to The Herald.