Cider fans meet cider makers

Olympic Peninsula cider festival serves local boutique fall flavors

Posted 10/16/19

Sometimes a local tourism event does exactly what it’s supposed to and last weekend’s Olympic Peninsula Apple & Cider Festival seemed to be one such case.

Mulling over their choices in a …

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Cider fans meet cider makers

Olympic Peninsula cider festival serves local boutique fall flavors

Posted

Sometimes a local tourism event does exactly what it’s supposed to and last weekend’s Olympic Peninsula Apple & Cider Festival seemed to be one such case.

Mulling over their choices in a pop-up “Cider Saloon” on Oct. 12 at the Palindrome at Eaglemount Wine and Cider, out-of-town visitors said stumbling on the event was a highlight of their visit to Jefferson County and they were impressed with the range of ciders.

Bingo. That was the plan of those with a crush on apples. The third annual Olympic Peninsula Apple & Cider Festival loaded up the hopper with apple and cider lovers and funnelled them to local producers. Now it’s up to the cideries and orchards to turn the curious into customers.

“We just like cider,” Janell and John Engels of Monroe said as they circulated through the main room, testing some of the 40 varieties of ciders and other beverages on offer by cideries and distillers from around the region. At the entrance, ticket buyers got an appropriately rustic burlap tote full of tourist swag, plus a sampling shotglass and a handful of chits with which to “buy” samples of whatever they wanted.

It’s the kind of hand-to-hand marketing craft brewers used 30 years ago when hatching (or re-hatching, to be historically accurate) the industry that has demolished Big Beer’s business model and now commands 25% of all beer sales in the U.S.

Now cider is growing.

Though Angry Orchard got in early and dominates, selling more than 50% of all the cider consumed in the U.S, marketers are noticing that local and regional cideries account for 25% of all sales, according to studies aggregated by Statista.

Forbes’ beer and cider Taran Nurin reports that while cider’s total share of the booze market is a tiny .4%, it has leapt six-fold in the last decade and a half and continues to grow.

The Engels were well familiar with the way a regional brewing industry can bubble up. They lived in Utah when Salt Lake City rewrote laws to help local brewers like Wasatch Brewing and Squatters take root.

If you can do that in the headquarters city of the Mormon Church, maybe local lovers of all things apple can dream of a cider renaissance on the Quimper Peninsula.

Even if it’s not big business, it is a strong draw for tourists like Mandy and Austin Baird, who travelled to Port Townsend from Puyallup to celebrate their fourth anniversary and were happy to discover there was a cider fest underway. They made enthusiastic sounds as they tested ciders from Alpenfire and other local cideries.

Bundled against the damp chill of the day, Chris Monsos and Doug Bradshaw of West Seattle had been invited to town by local friend Deb Murdock and the three listened to live music by violinist Kristin Smith and her accordionist husband Otto, who strolled through the event playing lively tunes.

Bradshaw confessed he’s not much of a cider fan, but there he was, gamely learning about the outrageously complex spicy cocktails Schilling salesman Rich Bosket was excited about on Saturday.

Bosket flashed photos from his smart phone showing a class of cider, spices and syrup with caramel on the rim of the glass, dipped in cinnamon sugar.

Out on the patio, life coach Chauncey Locklear quietly went about drawing a crowd by setting up a small cider press, cleaning bushels of fresh apples and pears and running them through the scratter (or grinder) into the pail where the pulp is then crushed into a sweet stream of amber cider, much to the delight of Kazune, 10 and Kohta, 3, a brother and sister from Seattle who operated the large crank-handled screw gear by which their lateral pressure turned into inexorable down-force on the processed fruit.

For Chris Weir of Herb’s Cider in Bellingham, Saturday’s pop-up was a bit of a homecoming. He grew up in Quilcene and said coming back to the Peninsula was a good way to give Herb’s some regional exposure and to meet folks from other cideries.

Looking around the room Saturday, Jake Soule of Admiralty Distillers said Port Townsend’s disadvantages - it is a small town where it’s hard to sell enough spirits to keep a distillery busy - are offset by the ability to work closely with your suppliers.

Soule buys the rye for his hard liquors from Finnriver’s grain fields and some of his apple cider brandy components from Finnriver’s orchards and press.

He got his distilling permit in 2013 and has been slowly building his business to the point that he finally let his contractor’s license lapse to focus more and more on his Calvados-like “Aurchard” spirits, his gin and his rum-like “Rebellion” which can’t be called rum because it doesn’t use traditional sugars.

“The art of distilling is cool,” Soule said. ”It satisfies the nerd in me,” he said. And, laughing, “It also satisfies the tool whore,” he said of the constant need for new siphoning and testing and bottling gear.

Operating from a small industrial space behind Goodwill in Port Townsend, an event like Saturday’s “pop-up bottle shop” is a great way to raise his visibility, he said.

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