Hammered Dwarf owner and cider-maker John Flemming poses in front of a trailer full of barrels he recently purchased. Flemming is filling the barrels with cider to create a lineup of enticing barrel-aged ciders. (Hammered Dwarf Cider)

Drink This: Hammered Dwarf opens new cidery in Snohomish

Head brewer and co-owner John Flemming hopes to make barrel-aged ciders a cornerstone of his business.

John Flemming has been making fermented beverages since he was a teenager. He made his first cider when he was 17, fermenting cider juice in a bottle under his bed, a perfect hiding place from his parents.

Then it exploded.

“My room smelled like cider for two months,” Flemming said, with a laugh. “I was grounded for six.”

After more than two decades of experience in the wine and cider business, Flemming is finally turning all of that cider-making knowledge into his own venture.

Owners Flemming and Donica Monday are opening a new cidery, Hammered Dwarf Cider, in Snohomish this Saturday. Located in the former Scrappy Punk Brewery building off 92nd Street, Hammered Dwarf will be the first cidery in downtown Snohomish.

“For us, Snohomish was on the list all along,” Flemming said of opening his cidery in the tourist-friendly town. “We love the area and like that it has such a strong brewery climate. A cidery will fold nicely into that.”

Most recently, Flemming has been an associate cider-maker at Soundbite Cider in Everett. Before that, he worked at Sultan’s Cellar Ciders, cutting his teeth on large batches of cider.

When he heard that Scrappy Punk owner Greg Krsak was selling his business last year, he and Monday decided it was the right time to jump. Longtime customers of Scrappy Punk and friends with Krsak, it made sense to take over Scrappy Punk’s lease and the cozy building. The two began renovations this past winter and recently got clearance to begin making cider and pouring drinks in the space.

To attract investment and help pay for start-up costs, Flemming and Monday decided to raise some money through MainVest, a regulation crowdfunding tool made possible by the JOBS Act. When the investments stalled out after reaching less than half the goal, and Flemming and Monday turned to a direct investor.

Cullen Walsh, who has appreciated local cider for years, heard about Hammered Dwarf through MainVest and reached out to the couple to tell them he’d like to invest directly in their business.

“He’s not a silent partner,” Flemming said. “He’ll be here every weekend helping around the cidery and pouring cider.”

Flemming plans to focus on something that is a rarity in the cider world: barrel-aged ciders. The craft beer world has been experimenting with aging beer in whiskey to wine barrels for years, but only a few cideries have really been able to dive into aging cider in barrels.

Flemming, who has been barrel-aging ciders for eight years, hopes to make barrel-aged ciders a cornerstone of Hammered Dwarf. There will be four barrel-aged ciders — two rum barrel-aged and two whiskey barrel-aged ciders — at the grand opening.

“I love the oak and how it interacts with the cider,” Flemming said.

Overall, Hammered Dwarf will be pouring mostly dry or semi-dry ciders. Instead of dessert or culinary apples, Flemming tends to gather bittersweet and bitter sharps apples for his cider. Both are more traditional cider apples and have more tannins, making Hammered Dwarf’s ciders drier.

Fleming said he plans to also experiment with hopped, fruited and spicy ciders. One of the ciders that will be pouring at the grand opening is a cider dry-hopped with Pacific Gem hops, a New Zealand hop varietal that gives the cider a subtle bitterness. Flemming said he’s also looking forward to making a blueberry-habanero cider that marries the sweet fruit with the heat of the pepper.

While he’s been designing and installing his cider-making equipment in the new space, Flemming has been making cider at his old haunts at Cellar Ciders. Because of that, Hammered Dwarf will have a wealth of ciders on tap for this Saturday’s grand opening, including nine of their own.

“Our goal is to collaborate and build the community,” Flemming said. “We’re all in this together and are really working to develop a lot of relationships.”

In addition to Hop-bit’s Holes, Saturday’s tap list will include the bittersweet ciders Wizard’s Elixir and Acid Spray; Purple Hill, a tart cherry cider; Maui’s Brew, a bittersharp tropic; Scumble, a first run of a rum barrel-aged cider; the second run Scumble’s Journey; Thorrikk’s Blood, a whiskey barrel-aged for three months; and Thorrikk’s Darker Blood, whiskey barrel-aged for nine months.

Also try mead from Aesir Meadery, Scrappy Punk’s Coconut Blonde (Hammered Dwarf in collaboration with Three Bulls Brewing Co.); Three Bulls’ Blackberry IPA and Diamond Knot Root Beer.

If you go

Hammered Dwarf, 9029A 112th Dr. SE, Snohomish, is celebrating its grand opening at noon May 29. There will be wooden steins for sale, plus 14 ciders, beers, mead and root beer on tap. Hours are 4 to 10 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday, 1 to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Call 425-750-5098 or go to www.hammereddwarf.net.

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