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On my way to Franklin County Cider Days 2011

Boy where do I begin? It's been quite a while and for that I apologize. I've been buried in freelance and volunteer work since early last May. Most of my efforts and time have been cider related however. I took on the design and promotion for the Northwest Cider Association's Summer Cider Day last July, and as soon as I had recovered from that we were planning Washington Cider Week where I played the same role. It's been a busy but great year for the Northwest Cider Association and we are steadily moving forward and have been learning a lot about what it takes to be a part of a volunteer organization. I've also been working hard on a project or two worth a mention down to road. stay tuned. At the moment I am flying high above the clouds (experiencing mild but prolonged turbulence) on my way to my second year of Franklin County Cider Days in Western Massachusetts. For those of you who are not in the know Cider Days is a community event celebrating all things apple that has gained a not so local attendee list. It has sort of become the defacto gathering of commercial cidermakers. Those cidermakers in attendance get together the day before on Friday for a collective forum and dinner. I'll be taking in a little light cider travel before the weekend with Mike Beck of Uncle John's Fruit House Winery, Philippe Bishop from Alpenfire Cider, cider writer Ben Watson, and apple guru Tom Burford of Vintage Virginia Apples. Amongst our few stops will be a visit to Farnum Hill Cider and Poverty Lane Orchards. The cider travel will be great I'm sure but i can't wait to get to Cider Days... Especially Saturday. Highlights will no doubt be the workshops, cidermaker forum, cider salon, and the cider dinner that wraps Saturday up. Should i have time I hope to make it to the heirloom apple tasting and ice cider tasting on Sunday but I do have a plane home to catch. For those who are interested I will be doing my very best to keep you all up to date with a few blow by blow live postings and some imagery via Facebookand Twitter. I hope you stay tuned and if you are attending Cider Days look for the red cap with the 2 white W's on it. Underneath that cap, and possibly behind a camera lens or poking away at my iPhone, you'll find me. If you do see me say hi. I met some really great folks last year, some of which I've been able to keep in touch with now and again, I'm looking at you Scott. My trip was made possible once again through the generosity of Tieton Cider Works and Harmony Orchards. Tieton is headed into its third year of cider production, they have a great time, delicious cider and they are and taking no prisoners. Give them a try! Can't find any Tieton Cider? They have heir ciders available online at

Cider Summit NW Seattle 2011 Pictures & Slideshow


Cider Summit NW comes back to Seattle on September 10th 2011. 2nd Year and going strong. 

Has it been already been a year since the original Cider Summit NW held in Seattle? That is has. The time has flown by and my year has been cram packed with more behind the scenes cider work for the Northwest Cider Association than here on my blog. Coincidentally the NWCA and SBS Imports/Cider Summit NW are about to make a big announcement any Washingtonian is sure to love. So stay tuned here and especially to the NWCA website at

On to Cider Summit NW.

Once upon a time not so long ago there wasn't an outlet where Northwest suburbanites could enjoy only ciders in a festival scenario. Luckily for us along came Cider Summit NW. Held in Discovery Center Park near right on the edge of Downtown Seattle, Cider Summit was at the core (pun intended) of one of the largest population centers in the West.

Alan Shapiro of SBS Imports tried his best to line up only the best ciders pressed from whole apples and not concentrate and he did a great job. Alongside nearly each and every NW cidermaker poured counterparts from as close as British Columbia and as far as France and England. It was quite the showing of ciders

Cider Summit NW is back again and it is THE place to try out some of our greatest regional and imported ciders, and even meet and chat with the local cidermakers. There is no other place in the Northwest where you find the quantity and quality of cider this festival has to offer. Someone new to cider and looking to try your hand at some new ones will be in heaven. Are you an old hand at cider? Maybe you once had some great cider abroad and were never able to quite match that experience. Well this is the place to restore your faith in one of the World's oldest fermented drinks.


***Midwesterners... On the exact same day at almost the exact same time you could be at The Great Lakes Cider & Perry Festival in St. John's Michigan. While it isn't a sister festival to Cider Summit NW, it should be. If I wasn't going to be in Seattle there wouldn't be much that could stop me from taking a trip to Michigan. See the blog post, or visit the website, and if you have the means CHECK IT OUT!



The Cider Summit NW (SEA) Press Release:

Cider Summit NW Returns to South Lake Union Discovery Center Park  "Count Up" Begins to 2nd Annual Event on 9/10/11

(Seattle, WA)  August 21, 2011 SBS Imports and the Seattle Beer Collective are pleased to announce the second annual edition of Cider Summit Seattle. The event will be on Saturday, September 10, 2011 from 11am-7pm at Discovery Center Park in South Lake Union near Westlake & Denny Way.   

Last year's inaugural Cider Summit was the area's largest-ever tasting of artisanal ciders with over 50 elegantly crafted products from Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, California, England, and France.  "We received an enthusiastic response from both the producers and attendees," noted SBC's Ian Roberts.  "We are very excited to be back for year two and reach an even wider audience of cider enthusiasts."

The owners and cidermakers will be on hand to inform and guide guests through the samplings which will be available in 3-ounce and 6-ounce portions.  Each featured cider is made from 100% pressed apples (or pears) and is made without concentrates or other additives.  In addition to the superb range of ciders, the event will feature food from Brave Horse Tavern, ongoing demonstrations of apple pressing courtesy of Ryan's Juice, live music, and even bottle sales to go.

 "We believe we've created a unique event," added event co-founder Alan Shapiro of SBS Imports.  "The cider selection will be even more diverse this year and the vast majority will be available to taste at $2.00. It should be a great opportunity for attendees to sample many of the best ciders available in the United States if not the world."

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 (cash only) at the door and are available online via Brown Paper tickets and at many of the area's leading bottle shops. Admission includes a tasting glass and 10 drink tickets.  From 11a-12n arriving guests will receive 2 additional "happy hour" tickets. Additional drink tickets will be available for sale onsite at $2 per ticket. The event is 21 and over only.  Dogs will be allowed on event grounds. For more information including a list of participating ciders please visit

Cider Summit Seattle benefits Northwest Cider Association ( and The Institute for Myeloma & Bone Cancer Research (  The Northwest Cider Association promotes awareness of artisan produced ciders among the general public and fosters cooperation within the industry for all producers. IMBCR is one of the world's leading independent research organizations developing effective therapies to increase the quality of life and longevity of myeloma patients.  Cider Summit sponsors include Brave Horse Tavern, Click Distributing, Seattle Weekly, and KMTT.


Here are some of my photos from Cider Summit NW 2010.


2011 Great Lakes Cider & Perry Festival

The Great Lakes Cider & Perry Association annual Summer festival is back an scheduled for September 10th at Uncle John's Cider Mill, St. Johns, MI.

I've have the pleasure of touring Uncle John's Cider Mill and some of the gorgeous property that surrounds it. Mike Beck and his family maintain a wonderful multi-generational business and keep it thriving by making their property a family destination and continually diversifying their products. Each season they press loads of fresh apple juice from the apples in their orchards and they also ferment a terrific cider and distill a mean spirit too.

The Great Lakes Cider & Perry Festival have been sponsoring this event for a few years now and continue to out do themselves. As always there will be an astounding array of cider to taste from around the country and this year they are bringing in esteemed cider dignitaries Pete Brown and Bill Bradhsaw from the U.K.

You can read a bit about Bill and Pete here in an interview they generously provided me here.

Festival hours are 12 – 5 with a VIP hour from 11 – Noon

VIP tickets include a special pour of cider from participating cideries and Cheese Station of Local and International Cheeses. Plus, special presentations from Pete Brown & Bill Bradshaw from England & presentation from Dick Dunn, editor of the Cider Digest.

Free regular admission for MLBA members and TAM trained staff. (MLBA = MI Licensed Beverage Assoc. TAM = Techniques of Alcohol Management)

        Regular Admission includes commemorative glass and 10 free pours
        Regular Admission: $15 dollars
        VIP Admission: $25 (includes regular admission)
        Group Sales: $25 for 2 tickets - $40 for 4 tickets - $75 for 10 tickets
        Group sale tickets add $10 each for VIP admission

For more information and ticket purchasing visit the Great Lakes Cider & Perry Association's website.


Robinette's Cider Haus & Winery Tour

After lunch at The Green Well, the first cider stop was Robinette's Cider Haus & Winery. I've wanted to visit Robinete's for a long long time. When I started the North American Cider Map Project they were one of the first handful of cidermakers I was able to find and add. That was just over 3 years ago and since then they've been on my radar as a place I had to visit. I was delighted to hear we were headed to Robinette's. I couldn't wait to check out their facility.

In Grand Rapids when it comes to apples, orchard fresh fruit, and apple juice... Robinette's is it and has been playing the game for quite a while. Locals consider them an institution, even our guide Paul Vander Heide used to come here with his family as a kid.

Robinette's is a family destination with something for just about everyone. 2011 actually marks the Robinette family's 100th year in business the apple business at this location. They have 40 acres of orchards on 120 acres of land and sell their orchard fresh fruit seasonally and their apple juice year round. Besides apples they grow peaches, nectarines, cherries and apricots. In the 1970's the Robinettes added a cider mill and bakery setting the stage for a complete destination sweet cider mill. This is the sort of cider mill that many folks reminisce about but few can find these days. Fortunately for residents of the Mitten State, Michigan seems to still have their share. 

Robinette's is just plain charming inside and out. While the main building was not 100 years old it was farmtastically rustic and had a bounty of memorabilia and decor from the good ole days. We were warmly welcomed by the equally friendly and charming Alicia Robinette. In fact fellow cider compadre Al Yelvington preceeded our visit and thanks to him of all the folks that were with us they seemed most excited to meet Heather. A quick look around the bakery and we were joined by Ed Robinette and taken into the building's central area that connected the pressing room, apple sorting station and apple cold storage. From there we caught our first glimps of the cider press.

The apple press was probably my favorite part of our visit. The press room was just big enough to comfortably house an incedibly large looking red framed 24 inch rack and cloth hydraulic press, apple grinder, pumps, filters, collection tanks and accompaniments. While a 24" press is considered moderate sized, the frame for this sucker was pretty big. Compared to my decidedly small 12 inch hydraulic rack and cloth I was completely envious.

Old school horizontal rack and cloth presses aren't as fast or efficient as other presses, but I find a lot of appeal in the traditional artisan process of crafting each and every layer and pressing. For me this form makes me think about just how many cidermakers before you have done nearly the exact same thing, the exact same way. I know there are a few folks that would say this their preferred way to press cider.

You can a video of Robinette's cider press in action right here.

Robinette's only ferments a small portion of the juice they press. The majority of it is made and sold fresh for most of the year thanks to the miracle of fruit storage. The stuff they do ferment becomes Barzilla's Brew Hard Cider, Cherry Hard Cider, Apple Wine, or Cyser; all of them award winning.

I was able to visit three different cidermakers when in Michigan. I found it inspirational that all three had their own ways of accomplishing each cider task and showed a wide variety in equipment size and theory. Robinette's ferments in the smallest batches that we saw on our trip. Since they press apples close to year round they are able to start their primary fermentations anytime. Conveniently they are able to roll the tanks from the fermentation room, outside and into the cider mill, fill them up and then take them back to the fermentation and storage building. The fermentation and bottling room was no-nonsense and effiicient with some left over space for a little temp controlled cider bottle storage.

From there we were walked over to their tasting room which is housed on the ground floor of a very cool 1881 barn. The old rough log timbers and stone walls offered plenty of oldtime atmosphere. Robinette's offer a fair number of wines, fruit wines, ciders and fruit ciders, about 17-18 by my count. I stayed close to the cider realm with the Barzilla's Brew Hard Cider, Apple Cherry Cider, Apple Wine, Cyser, and strayed once with their Harbour Demi-Sec a semi-sweet German style white wine.

Robinette's Cider Haus and Winery is an absolutely terrific family run family destination. I was so glad that we were able to visit them. They are the nicest folks. I can only imagine how great it must be there during the height of the Fall season chock full of visitors out for a day in the orchards to watch cider pressing, experience a hayride, walk the corn maze or even just taste some good ole Michigan ciders and wines. I'm sure they will be there sharing their place for a hundered years more.

Thanks again to Ed and Alicia and the rest of the Robinette's crew for hosting us, and to Mike and Paul for touring us, and to The Great Lakes Cider & Perry Association for setting it all up.

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