Obviously Washington’s vast apple orchards helped cement our cider status. But here’s the great irony—we live in a state known for apples, and yet the acidic, tannic varieties that give cider its depth (the cider equivalent of wine grapes) are in short supply here. They’re small and nasty tasting, and until recently nobody had much incentive to grow them.

Cider apples are classified as sweets, sharps, bittersweets, and bittersharps. Most of them originally hail from France and England, and have fun Harry Potter–esque names like Dabinett, Brown Snout, and Chisel Jersey. A handful of cideries already grow their own cider orchards; others are planting trees. Washington State University’s Mount Vernon extension has so much faith in cider as an industry that it runs an entire research project to help growers get acquainted with the odd-tasting little fellows.

But plenty of cidermakers work wonders with noncider heirloom apples or conceive just the right blend of culinary or dessert apples to give the resulting cider a bit of complexity.

 

Published: October 2013

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