The biggest misconception people have about cider, according to Northwest Cider Association board president Sharon Campbell, is that it’s sweet. Memories of the big-label ciders many of us used as training wheels for beer doesn’t help cider’s cause in that department.
But craft cider, which all but vanished during Prohibition, is making a pretty epic comeback of late, especially in parts of the country like ours with major apple harvests. Currently Washington has just eight cideries, but sales of hard cider in the U.S. have been making double-digit jumps every year since 2007, according to the Wall Street Journal. Capitol Hill is even getting a bar dedicated to the fermented apple beverage.
In addition to our preponderance of apples and general affection for craft beverages, gluten-free imbibers and bars with plenty of taps are spreading cider love around the state. Washington Cider Week returns this Saturday, September 8 and runs through September 16. It’s only the second year for the event, but Campbell reports organizers have already lined up three times as many dinners, tap takeovers, and other cidercentric special events as last year.
The week begins with Cider Summit Seattle in South Lake Union, a gathering of cidermakers from around the region, as well as farflung apple corridors like New Hampshire, Michigan, and even France and the UK. A host of bars and restaurants are doing special cider cocktails, turning their taps entirely over to cider, pairing it up with food, and even making cider gelato. Local restaurants including Lecosho and Lark are doing full-on cider pairing meals, which has Campbell especially excited because “a lot of people don’t know yet how to drink cider with food.” Some places, like Cafe Flora, are creating gluten-free food specials for pairings.
Cidermakers’ process is similar to making white wine, up until the point where cider (at least most of it) is force carbonated. East Coast cideries stay pretty true to the traditional English-style ciders, says Campbell, but the Northwest cideries are newer and more open to experimentation, especially when it involves adding in marionberries, cherries, apricots or other fruits that grow abundantly here. Some cideries even make dry-hopped cider, infusing a bit of hop flavor that should be appealing to the region’s many IPA fans.