It certainly doesn't need to be said that "all cider" events are pretty rare here in the US. However consider an event where the overwhelming percentage of bottles poured and kegs tapped are from craft cider makers. Well it finally happened in Seattle. Last Saturday marked what I hope is the first of many Cider Summit N.W. events.
In what was near perfect Seattle weather at Denny Park next to the new Discovery Center cider was given a grand showcase the likes of which we haven't seen yet here in the Northwest. An almost complete line up of the Northwest's craft ciders were pouring their wares and sharing their love of the drink. In England where small craft and local cider makers are more abundant this isn't a new concept. Even back on the Eastcoast, and the Midwest they tend to honor cider with it's exclusive own events. In fact the Great Lakes 3rd Annual Great Lakes Cider & Perry Festival, a 2 day event, was also held this very same weekend at Uncle John’s Cider Mill in St. Johns just North of Lansing Michigan.
The Cider Summit N.W. boasted some 40+ craft ciders and they delivered. In attendance from the NW craft cider ranks were Blue Mountain Cider Company, Carlton Cyderworks, Eaglemount Cider, Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Red Barn Cider, Snowdrift Cider Co., Tieton Cider Works Vashon Winery/Irvines Vintage cider, Wandering Aengus Ciderworks, Westcott Bay Cider, and Wildfire Cider. We even had an extra special visit from my favorite BC cider maker Sea Cider. Visitors from abroad included Dupont & Drouin from France, and from England Aspall and Samuel Smith. I'd really love to see true English cider representation increased on the market and at the event.
The highlights? Oh man... Where to begin and too many to list. I've had the pleasure of drinking most of the ciders there and if I were to only name the highlights it might misrepresent the amount and quality of the craft ciders present. My favorite cluster of booths just happen to house my favorite regularly available cider selections. Snowdrift Cider Co., Tieton Cider Works, Wandering Aengus, Westcott Bay Cider, and Wildfire Cider. Luck of the draw? Nope alphabetical order. I used my ticket allotment sparingly and tasted some from each of course.
My favorite at Tieton, Harmony Reserve, is a small batch release and unfortunately wasn't present but I happily quaffed some Semi-Dry Wild Washington Apple Cider.
At the Wandering Aengus booth I found myself in the unique position to try their hard to find (in Washington) Wickson Crab single varietal cider, and the new version of their Dry Cider.
Westcott Bay Cider's Rich Anderson was missing but his lovely new partners Hawk and Suzy Pingree were present and pouring Westcott's Dry and Medium-Sweet ciders. I had both of course but the Dry Cider is among my all time favorites and a must try for any dedicated cider drinker.
At Wildfire... Well I drank all they poured. German style Apfelwein, Pirate's Plank Bone Dry, and Semi-Sweet Ember.
Beyond those there were some other real cider stand outs.
First up Carlton Cyderworks. Oh man these guys are new on the scene and tearing it up in Northern Oregon. Their offerings run on the sweeter side, but the Citizen Cider is absolutely lovely. Great color, great complexity nice light tannins. They also featured their sweet cider "Carrie Nation", and Duke a blend that included blueberry. I hope Carlton's ciders find their way up North to Washington soon.
Sea Cider! With all cross border trips to Canada now requiring a passport, and me not having one yet, I thought my chances of sipping some of their finely crafted ciders to be pretty thin. I heard rumor of them coming down. I even read it on the Cider Summit website. Low and behold when I arrived they were there and set up. Dream come true. Sea Cider brought along with them their Pippins and Rumrunner blends. I sampled them both. A number of time. Both delicious but the standout was Rumrunner. This year's Rumrunner was quite a bit different than the 2007 version I recently reviewed. AT 12% the new Rumrunner was pleasantly a little lighter in alcohol than it's 2007 predecessor was at 14.5%. Also because of the availability of rum barrels, the cider is now aged in bourbon barrels cured with a bit of rum. This cider is unique, an absolute winner and one of my favorites.
Cider Summit N.W. was also the inaugural event for the Northwest Cider Association of which many of the names above are members or on their way to becoming members. I spent a great deal of time preparing materials for the booth and manned the booth from 12:30 to 2:00 with my girlfriend and cider tasting partner Heather. We had a blast doing it and our shift sadly over before we knew it. I absolutely love to talk cider and it was really great to answer all questions about what exactly makes a craft cider, exchanging favorites and suggestions, and passing out literature on future events Northwest Cider Association and it's members are a part of. We also handed our new Northwest Cider Association buttons, and were taking $1 donations for our newly printed NWCA letterpress coasters printed by Jamie at The Sherwood Press in Olympia.
Big thanks to Alan Shapiro and SBS Imports, Whole Foods, Seattle Weekly and the other sponsors for believing in craft cider and planning a first class event. There were many surprised folks won over to craft cider and we have them to thank for that. Thanks guys!
More great NW Cider events on the way. Check out Vashon Island's Cider Fest October 9th, Portland Nursery's Artisan Cider Festival October 9th-10th and 16-17th, and Ivar's Salmon House 3rd Annual Fall Cider Celebration coming in November.