LANGLEY — Add cider to the list of Whidbey Island Grown.
And not the kind for kids, but the adult beverage that’s trending off the charts.
A 100-year-old heirloom South Whidbey orchard better known for its contributions to award-winning Spoiled Dog wine is also providing fruit and flavor for Driftwood Hard Cider.
“Our heirloom orchard includes a variety of apples and pears,” Lindsay Krug said. “Having this hand-tended source of fruit at our fingertips gives us the opportunity to produce craft cider to quench a range of tastes.”
Three years ago, Lindsay and her husband, Jake, decided to leave Denver and get into the family business — making wine. They didn’t think cider right away, but it was hard to ignore the prime ingredient falling from the family trees.
They recently released their first batch. Called Whidbey Heirloom, it’s not too sweet, not too sour and smacks “local, local, local.”
The Krug family produced a moderate amount their first harvest. It’s now available at a few bars that serve it on tap — Penn Cove Taproom in Coupeville, Cozy’s Roadhouse in Clinton and Spyhop Public House in Langley.
Believed to be the first commercial cidery on Whidbey, the Krugs said it seemed a natural transition from crushing grapes to mashing apples.
“It’s similar to winemaking,” Jake Krug said. “But ultimately what the final taste will be like, you don’t know. We did a lot of tasting as we went.”
Turns out certain apple trees also favor Whidbey Island’s unique maritime climate that makes it an ideal location for growing pinot noir.
The harvest, pressing, fermentation, filtering and kegging all takes place at a facility on the property of Spoiled Dog, the winery founded more than a decade ago by Jake’s parents, Jack and Karen. Visitors to the 25-acre farm and wine-tasting barn off Maxwelton Road are sure to be greeted by two Australian shepherds, Sami and Brix, aka spoiled dogs.
Tart apples, the kind you want to immediately spit out, are best for making cider. The juice has to balance a blend of acidity, sweetness and tannins. King and Gravenstein, red and golden russet apples are in Driftwood’s mix, along with crabapples.
Bartlett pears are also popped in.
Jack and Karen Krug’s award-winning Pomo di Moro (apple of love) is an apple-pear wine made from the heritage fruit trees.
Peppering in pear with the first batch of cider seemed natural.
“We may do more back-flavoring — plum, raspberry or cherry — introduce some of the other fruit that grows here,” Jake Krug said.
Cider is basically fermented apple juice. By law it has to have an alcohol content no greater than 7 percent, which is lower than most wine. Whidbey Heirloom is 6.5 percent alcohol by volume.
“It is a perfect bridge between beer and wine,” Lindsay Krug said. “It’s a lower alcohol content than wine and sweeter than a hoppy beer.”
Quaffing hard cider is a tradition going back to colonial days. Founding Father John Adams is rumored to have consumed cider by the tankard every morning. For lunch, dinner, even working in the fields, cider flowed like water, often because its alcohol made it safer to drink than water.
According to recent Nielsen Data reports, local and regional cider consumption rose nearly 50 percent in 2017 over 2016.
Driftwood Cider is referred to as a sister company to the family’s Spoiled Dog Winery, with Jake and Lindsay Krug the proud parents of the new enterprise. (They’re also the proud parents of two children.)
“Our goal is to grow,” Jake Krug said, “and increase volume and variety as consumption grows. Feedback has been that people love it and demand is high.”
The Apple State, naturally, leads the way in cider’s booming business. A decade ago, four or five companies produced cider in Washington. Five years later, that number had tripled. Today, 63 craft cideries dot the state from Port Townsend to Pullman, according to cider blogger Eric West.
Make that 64.
If you go
Driftwood Hard Cider, sister company to Spoiled Dog Winery, at 5881 Maxwelton Road, Langley. The family-owned companies share a 25-acre farm with a wine- or cider tasting barn. Call 360-661-6226 or go to www.spoileddogwinery.com for more information.
The cidery’s first batch of cider — called Whidbey Heirloom — is available on tap at Penn Cove Taproom, 103 S. Main St., Coupeville; Cozy’s Roadhouse, 8872 Highway 525, Clinton; and Spyhop Public House, 317 Second St., Langley.