11 Great Craft Cider Tasting Experiences
In peak apple season, decamp for these star cider mills, where farmers and producers are setting the pace of America’s craft cider movement
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Craft Cider Is Having a Moment
Wine has never really fallen out of favor, craft beer has boomed in recent decades, and now craft cider is on the rise again as U.S. imbibers rediscover the founding fathers’ drink of choice. When done right—and so many in the West do—this alcoholic (and, yay, gluten-free!) drink expresses the complex flavors of the apples, which are usually sourced locally and often foraged. There’s a lot of room for experimentation, too: the brew plays well with other fruit and botanicals, resulting in enough range to satisfy the geekiest of drinker. We’re raising a pint glass to these fantastic cideries around the West.
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1859 Cider Co., Salem, OR
A wine barrel stave sign leads the way to this back alley cidery that’s churning out some of the best drink in the state. With seven generations of farming under their belts and a background in winemaking, Patricia and Dan Fox produce stellar ciders that are fermented for months and sometimes blended, drawing out characteristics more commonly found on wine lists. While the craftsmanship is meticulous here, you don’t have to worry about encountering any snobbery. 1859 is a true social spot with a regular lineup of events, from storytelling to salsa dancing.
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Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Chimacum, WA
Finnriver—located two hours north of Seattle—has nearly a dozen sub-labels spanning from the traditional styles (like a Spanish sidra) to small-batch, contemporary varieties spiked with flavors like habanero, ginger, and lavender. It’s a Certified B Corporation, which means the owners are also committed to help better the world through sustainability efforts and community projects. Patrons are never in a rush to leave thanks to the welcoming set-up that includes a 60-foot community table outside the quaint barn tasting room; the 10-acre, organic orchard open for self-guided (and guided) tours; and an expansive, family-friendly lawn.
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Art + Science, Cider + Wine, Yamhill County, OR
While Kim Hamblin’s and Dan Rinke’s apple and pear trees mature, they’re relying on neighbors and foraging excursions for the bulk of Art + Science’s cider and perry fruit. The couple used to host tastings in their kitchen, and although they’ve opened a tasting room (one of the few in the state that’s actually on the farm), the experience remains personal. For now, tastings are by appointment, and that’s why we love it. On a visit, you can meet the cider makers, walk around the organic farm, taste limited-run styles, and learn all the nitty-gritty behind this operation that’s a true labor of love.
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Cider Corps, Mesa, AZ
It’s no coincidence that Cider Corps opened on Veteran’s Day in 2017. At the heart of the business is a commitment to honor and support men and women who serve. After coming home from Afghanistan with a brain injury, Sgt. Jason Duren and his brother, Josh, started making cider as a way to pass the time. The two took to the craft enthusiastically and set out to establish Arizona’s first cidery, now housed in an 1800s former police station in downtown Mesa. Apples come from Washington, and the duo tinker with the fermentation process to finesse the results without extracts or sugars. “Everything comes directly from the apples and other fruits we use in the process,” says Jason. On the menu, you’ll find bonkers brews, like the Moscow Mule-inspired version with ginger, lime, and orange; a Tamarind and Meyer Lemon flavor; and an eye-opening one infused with cold-brew coffee.
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WildCraft Cider Works, Eugene, OR
From the start, this Eugene operation has proven that it’s not just about a bottom line. Instead, WildCraft was built to help restore local agricultural lands and make use of food resources that were going to waste. The crew works with nearly 200 properties within a 35-mile radius (many of which are unmanaged and wild) to help harvest all the apples, plums, pears, and botanicals that go into making the ciders. “We aim to utilize homestead fruit and other agriculture that’s been ignored,” says founder Sean Kelly. Eugene locals get in on the action, too. Through an ongoing drive, neighbors donate unwanted fruit from their backyards in exchange for fresh-pressed juice or cider. A community spirit is palpable in the tasting room, where you can also fuel up on authentic Southeast Asian fare, made by a Thai family who leases the kitchen space.
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Tilted Shed, Sonoma County, CA
At Tilted Shed, Ellen Cavalli and Scott Heath use words like “terroir” and “pomology” when talking about their ciders, which drink more like wine than many modern options on the market. “Our ciders often have a vinous quality, with a myriad of flavors and aroma profiles that may surprise those who are used to ciders that are lighter and taste very apple-y,” says Cavalli. The couple knows that, like wine, good cider starts in the orchard. On the farm, they experiment with 130 varieties of mostly bitter apples, as well new trees they’re planting to try to discover a new Sonoma-native variety. The tasting room, in Windsor, is intimate, which means guests have more one-on-one access to learn about the process, tour the production facility, and taste their way through the menu.
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Western Cider, Missoula, MT
Western Cider’s congenial tasting room is surrounded by dozens of apples trees offering a taste of what’s happening nearby at the orchard, where the team tends more than 5,000 trees and 50 apple varieties. Within just a few months of opening in 2017, the crew took home a Best in Show award at the Portland International Cider Cup—a testament to the care that goes into this brand, built to reclaim part of the Bitterroot Valley’s apple growing history and support local agriculture. Food trucks rotate through the cidery and follow the same line: for example, Take it or Leave It, a mainstay, doles out juicy burgers with meat from its own farm and veggies from its neighbors.
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Meriwether Cider Co., Boise, ID
Since opening in 2016, Meriwether (named after the famous explorer with whom the owners share ancestry) has been flipping the script on what Idaho thinks about cider—not a syrupy poor-man’s beer made from concentrates, but a carefully crafted, nuanced beverage with as much depth as any other craft beverage. Soon, they’ll expand on that education at a new cider house in downtown Boise. You’ll have to go to the Garden City flagship to see the cider makers in action; but if you want to expand your repertoire, the downtown location will offer flights with Meriwether’s own and other artisan ciders.
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Tieton Cider Works, Yakima, WA
To say Tieton Cider Works has been on a meteoric rise is an understatement. What started out as a test project with two acres of cider apples and 200 cases in 2009 is now the largest cider apple farm in Washington, with 55 acres and a booming craft beverage business that shells out 100,000 cases annually. That’s what you get when you combine a family with almost a century of orchard keeping experience (the Campbells, who own Harmony Orchards—the birthplace and still-supplier of TCW) with the savviness of a beverage industry pro (cider maker Marcus Robert). While business is booming, Tieton hasn’t lost its down-home feel: the team regularly hosts behind-the-scenes tours at their Yakima location and lets guests test out new recipes to determine what will end up in the bottle.
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Stem Ciders, Denver, CO
Eric Foster and Phil Kao grew up working the cider mills in Michigan. This set them up to launch one of Colorado’s most buzzed-about cideries with locations in Denver’s hip RiNo ‘hood and a new farm operation in Lafayette. At Acreage, the 12-acre locale opened in February 2018, imbibers can see how the cider is made while noshing on Basque-inspired food that pairs perfectly with the crew’s crisp sippers. In the coming years, the team will also plant a full farm operation with apple trees to bring the whole orchard-to-glass concept closer to home. ‘Til then, you can explore Stem’s wild collaborations with regional producers that churn out fan favorites, like the Coffee Apple Cider made in partnership with Method Roasters.
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Tin City Cider, Paso Robles, CA
Following the lead of Paso Robles’ spunky wine culture, Tin City Cider serves up inventive libations—each born of the three founders’ (all wine industry pros) knack for experimenting with yeasts, fruit, and barrels. On weekends, people of all stripes fill the modern warehouse to share flights of taproom-only flavors, like a granny smith variety blended with Sauvignon Blanc or a rum-barrel-aged sipper with pineapple. There are games, too, and the cidery’s location in the revitalized Tin City complex practically guarantees you’ll find food trucks and live music, in addition to a stellar lineup of other artisan producers, nearby.