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Image via Northwest Cider

Yet another Washington food or drink “week” that stretches closer to two—beer week is also 10 days, restaurant week spans 12—Washington Cider Week was gubernatorially certified earlier this summer. It kicks off September 8 and runs through the 18th; here’s a guide for the coming and increasingly multitudinous festivities, with answers to that pressing question—why's cider growing so much now? 

Hyper Local

What makes cider week unique in a city where every legal intoxicant has its own festival? Apples are one of Washington’s famed crops, with 60-80 percent of the country’s produced here. And unlike most beers, which mix local (equally famed) hops with other regions’ grains, you get a straight dose of Washington State with nearly all ciders at this event.

Emily Ritchie, executive director of the Northwest Cider Association, notes the intoxicating mood in the country’s apple epicenter: “At Cider Week events, you’re often meeting the owner of the company or the cidermaker. You can really get to the heart of where what you’re drinking was made. And in Seattle people love their cider. It’s actually the biggest cider market in the country.”

Best Bet: Meet the makers at Cider Summit Seattle, a two-day event with 150-odd ciders on tap.

Gluten Freedom

Since wine and most liquors (and now a few beers) are also free from ominous gluten, why has cider become the poster beverage for paleo and gluten-free drinkers? Many cider converts come from the craft beer crowd, where canny millennial drinkers are open to experimenting, and even though it’s made like wine, much cider assumes many beerly pleasures: canned, fizzy, hydrating.

While there are wine-like ciders, Seattle’s brewery culture causes many cider houses, like Schilling and Seattle Cider, to focus on ciders that have hoppy doppelgangers.

Best Bets: Kicked the gluten but not the sauce? Try Alpenfire’s gluten-free pairing dinner at the Watershed Pub and Kitchen, or any of the multitude tap takeovers across the city.

Pairing

Outside of gastropubs, serious beer pairing dinners are still a relative rarity, likely because especially with the Northwest’s hopheavy beers, bitter flavors are notoriously hard to match with food. “Cider pairs with food in the same way that wine does,” says Seattle Cider Co. CEO Caitlin Braam. “It’s a little more delicate than beer.”

Best Bet: Pink Tractor Farm and Nashi Orchard’s pairing dinner, where you’ll sip and dine in the actual cider orchard on Vashon.

Cider Play

This is Seattle, so if something is even vaguely liquid in form, somebody’s barrel aging it, turning it into a cocktail, or somehow cleverly manipulating it. Cider is no exception. Ciders are oaked, submitted to botanicals, bolstered by other ingredients like peaches and pepper, and there are two cider-cocktail-centric events. Sarah Silverman, house manager at Schilling Cider, says a Hoppin’ Mimosa (hopped cider with OJ) is likely at their Cockrell Ciders and Cocktails event, though she won’t find out the exact cocktails until the day-of.

 Best Bets: Cider Cocktail Night at Schilling Cider or Seattle Cider Cocktails and Tap Takeover at Skillet