I was fortunate enough to attend Cider Summit Seattle for the second consecutive year last weekend. Like last year, the mood was festive and engaging. Many of the cidermakers were on hand to chat about their ciders and discuss what set them apart from the competition.
As I wrote last year, cider is a growing business. There were 52 cideries on hand, pouring close to 200 different ciders. There were coffee-infused ciders, hopped ciders, root beer-infused ciders and other crazy apple-centric drinks.
Last year, my wife and I really took a shine to Alpenfire, Finnriver and Dragon’s Head. We like the first two so much we centered our anniversary around going on the Port Townsend Cider Route, which includes Alpenfire, Finnriver and Eaglemount cideries.
We paid a visit to Alpenfire and Finnriver again and weren’t disappointed. At Alpenfire I had a taster of one of my favorites, Ember, a bittersweet cider. At Finnriver we tried their Forest Ginger botanical cider, a beautiful cider with notes of ginger and fir tips, and Country Peach, a sour cider. We also swung by Dragon’s Head and had their traditional cider, which was great. (Our favorite last year was the Wild Fermented).
After trying the old standbys, we decided to branch out (sorry, bad pun). We listened to recommendations and stopped by Wenatchee’s Snowdrift Cider, Olympia’s Whitewood Cider and Vashon’s Nashi Orchards. Here are our five favorite (in no particular order):
Roman Beauty, E.Z. Orchards. This cider from the Salem, Oregon cidery is made from heirloom varietals and is fermented cold and slow to retain a crisp, dry apple taste while also keeping a natural, earthy flavor.
Turncoat Dry-hopped, Liberty Ciderworks. This cider from the Spokane cidery is made from a mix of American apples like McIntosh, Cortland and Empire and rare, UK Bramling Cross hops. It’s a smooth cider with a slight hop finish.
Flora Perry, Nashi Orchards. This perry from the Vashon Island cidery is very dry and light, with flavors of candy and a bright effervescent quality.
Cornice, Snowdrift Cider. Everything from this Wenatchee cidery was great, but we loved this barrel-aged cider the most. Cornice, which was aged in Dry Fly Distillery’s whiskey barrels, has a very soft, rounded flavor of caramel and vanilla. Beautiful cider. The Cliffbreaks blend was also a standout.
Kingston Black, Whitewood Cider. This cider was aged in barrels as well and comes from Kingston Black varietal apples. It was tough to choose which cider from this Olympia cidery was the best, but this edged out the Summer Switchel, an almost sour cider made from 100 percent Gravenstein apples. The Kingston Black had a distinctive bourbon flavor without overpowering the apples. Really smooth.
I’d add honorable mentions to the Hopvine from Monkton, Maryland’s Millstone Cellars; Worley’s Special Reserve from United Kingdom’s Worley’s; and Orleans Bitter (a Campari-style liquor) from Vermont’s Eden Ice Cider Co.
Another interesting cider I tried was from Woodinville’s Elemental Hard Cider’s NW Atomic Root-beer infused cider. The nose was distintively root beer, but the taste was more of a cider with licorice and anise. The woman serving the cider thought it needed a little more licorice and I agreed. It wasn’t something I’d drink on a regular basis — same as the hard root beers — but I can see people really enjoying it.