For many purveyors of craft beer or cider, the goal is to build market share, acquire shelf space, dominate tap handles. In other words, the model for success is to beat the competition and grow, grow, grow.
Corey Haugen is done with that side of the business.
The owner of the recently established Camano Cider is happy to just be making hard cider again after his first foray into the industry made a lot of noise in a short amount of time — only to fall apart a few years later.
“Here on Camano I can see a path forward and a way to be involved making cider again,” said Haugen, who had quit cider-making for good, he thought, back in 2017 when his first cidery, Grizzly Ciderworks, closed. “The time away allowed me to figure out what is my way of making cider.”
Haugen’s way is small and local. Unlike Grizzly, which quickly became a large batch operation that battled with the biggest names in cider for shelf space, Camano Cider is small batch, artisanal and locally focused.
Located in an outbuilding on a wooded acre of land on south Camano Island owned by Haugen’s parents, Camano Cider is a simple operation. The small production room is tucked toward the back of the building and is filled with tubes, fermenters and small kegs.
Haugen regularly drives up to Mount Vernon to pick up vats of cider from Cedardale Orchards, and he plans to get more than just his cider from the area. For a recent lavender cider, he procured lavender from a farm just up the hill from his cidery. Berries from Schuh Farms in Burlington and Bow Hill Farms in Bow were used in a boysenberry/blueberry cider and hops for a fresh-hop cider came from a friend’s farm in Snohomish.
“This is a great community, and I want to source as many ingredients locally as possible,” Haugen said. “I want to put a stake in the ground here on the island.”
Haugen, 32, said his philosophy for good hard cider is balance. “I don’t want any one part of the cider overwhelm the other,” Haugen said.
That care is best expressed in Camano Cider’s Apple Crisp cider, a take on an apple-pie cider. Made with gluten-free oats and nutmeg, the hard cider is subtle and light, and not overly sweet like some ciders would try to be.
With no taproom for hosting, Haugen has been distributing his cider to local taprooms and restaurants since August. Camano Cider is on tap at Camano Island locations like Tapped Camano, Arrowhead Ranch and Ale Spike Brewing. Further afield, it can usually be found at Stanwood’s SAAL Brewing and Mammoth Burgers, and Bothell’s Decibel Brewing, whose owners are buddies with Haugen.
Haugen has been making craft cider since 2013. Soon after starting to make cider as a hobby while living in Seattle, Haugen went commercial, opening Grizzly Ciderworks with a friend in a winery in Woodinville. The operation grew exponentially, eventually moving to Walla Walla to scale up production and begin bottling.
From there it was big business, with accounts in six states, marketing campaigns and hundreds of gallons of cider pouring through the cidery’s tanks.
But Haugen found himself with no attachment to the business and, by 2017, he was finished with Grizzly.
“I wasn’t really making cider anymore,” Haugen said. “I was done with the whole thing. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. Looking back, it was a challenging and emotional time.”
Haugen went to work for Amazon and eventually Puget Sound Energy, where he currently works as a social media program manager. For him, making cider professionally was in his past.
Then his parents bought property on Camano Island. Then an offer.
“My parents were like, ‘You could make cider here,’ ” Haugen said, referring to the outbuilding. “It allowed me to get back into it my way.”
Haugen’s parents aren’t the only family involved in the operation. His brothers, Kelly and Keenan, both help out with the marketing and financial aspects of the business, respectively. Haugen’s wife, Marianne, and their three girls have been supportive as well.
Just because Haugen has put the big business side of cider-making behind him, doesn’t mean he has no plans to eventually expand and even open a small taproom space somewhere on Camano Island. But for now, he’s content making the kind of cider he wants to drink.
“At this point, I’m happy to let the cider do the talking.”