At Schilling Cider House in Seattle, Washington, a man carefully brings a glass of 2 Towns Prickle Me Pink to his lips. Poured out of a nitro tap (the nitrogen gives the cider a fuller, more creamy texture), his dark-red prickly-pear apple cider is topped with a white, foamy head, almost spilling over the glass rim.
Schilling opened about a year ago, in September 2014, and it’s one of many: Craft-cider tasting rooms are popping up all over the West Coast. In 2015 alone, more than 25 tasting and taprooms opened throughout Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Whether urban or rural, tasting rooms are a sweet way to sample cider’s range of possibilities.
"As the industry is growing so rapidly, there is a real sense of cooperation,” says Sherrye Wyatt, executive director of Northwest Cider Association. Many cideries offer their own amber-hued brews alongside those from fellow cider-makers.
That’s certainly true at Schilling Cider House, where cider-slingers behind the bar pour from 32 options—their own, and those from other craft cider makers. “We love getting new cider drinkers,” says owner Colin Schilling. Flight recommendations are based on your past preferences; taps contain ciders ranging from dry to sweet, oak to habanero, apple to pineapple, California to New Zealand. Bring dinner in from any one of the popular local restaurants or grocery stores; a to-go order of pad Thai pairs well with the Sriracha-lime cider on tap.
Infusing or blending ciders is a trend embraced in California and by many of the newer cider makers, says Dale R. Brown, who runs The Cyder Market, a cider-industry website. He says these trending blends are popular with new cider drinkers. “These ciders infuse and blend everything from jalapeño peppers to beer hops to ginger to create a new taste,” he says.
In 2015, Los Angeles welcomed its first tasting room. The 101 Cider House in the Westlake Village neighborhood welcomes up to 200 people in a massive 2500 square-foot space (this is L.A., after all). Kitted out with leather couches and overstuffed chairs beneath chandeliers, the tasting room’s flights include Cactus Red, which incorporates indigenous cactus pears and agave. “Roadside vegetation that creates a delicious cider,” says owner Mark McTavish.
At Tieton Cider Works’s 900 square-foot “cider bar” in Yakima, Washington, play bocce outside, try a flight for $10, and sample Tieton’s 13 ciders, which rotate seasonally. Fall favorites include smoked pumpkin cider and cranberry cider. A wall made of repurposed orchard tree props and exposed lightbulbs give Tieton’s a rustic appeal, as do the onsite-only specialties like Honey Scrumpy—a sweet unfiltered farmhouse cider with hints of floral and clover honey.
In California’s Sonoma County, Tilted Shed Ciderworks’s tasting room has been barely open a year but their eager fan base led to the Luminaries Cider Club, with access to rare and experimental small-batch projects like straw-pressed cider.
For that farm-to-ferment experience, go rural. On British Columbia’s Salt Spring Island, Salt Spring Wild Cider’s renovated horse barn acts as a petite tasting room for their small-batch ciders. The intimate, sun-drenched picnic area is surrounded by stone sculptures and overlooks an orchard stocked with heritage and bittersweet apple trees, newly planted by owners Gerda Lattey, a sculptor, and Mike Lachelt, a philosopher.
Salt Spring’s welcome, posted on the entrance: If you see the gate open, please come on up! A better invitation to keep the doctor away might not be found.
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