NW Cider Summit, Seattle 2011

Almost all of the 60 different ciders at the NW Cider Summit Seattle 2011 were available for purchase at the event.

The second annual NW Cider Summit Seattle, 2011, met double the amount of people it had during the prior year. With over 60 different ciders and 19 ciderhouses, the uncommonly sunny Seattle day couldn't have been more pleasant.

Written and Photographed by Sarah Leonard for Hard Cider International.

"I think of this one as a sunshine summertime sipping cider," said Bruce Jordan of Sea Cider on Vancouver Island as he poured me a taste of his Pippins cider, an acidic, medium-dry brightly effervescent cider featured at the second Annual NW Cider Summit Seattle, on Sept. 10th in the South Lake Union Discovery Center located next to Denny Park in downtown Seattle.

Event attendees patiently wait in line to sample some 9 different ciders offered at the Wandering Aengus/Anthem table with a surprisingly sunny Seattle skyline rises behind.

Upon receiving a wristband, miniature cider glass, and my allotment of tickets, I stepped forward to take stock of what would become my first cider festival experience. White canopies circled the sun-lit grassy park, each tent boasting two tables and up to 4 different ciderhouses. Each table and ciderhouse display was crowded with event attendees chatting with cidermakers and among themselves, or patiently waiting with an air of barely-subdued excitement as they deliberated which cider to taste next.

And with good reason too. The options were numerous and far-reaching. With over 60 different cider varieties from 19 cideries spread among four states and over four countries, there were more ciders than a single person could sample throughout the event, which ran all day from 11am-7pm.  Admittance to the event included 10 drink tickets, with one ticket allowing a half pour (3 ounces) and two tickets a full pour (6 ounces).  People mingled, sat on the grass and listened first to Alan Hager and James Miller from Portland, Ore. and later the Drummerboy Duo on a small stage. Others sat at tables, although undoubtedly the majority of people stood in loose circles, hovering by the tables to drink in both their favorite ciders and the uncharacteristically bright sun as it flashed off Seattle skyscrapers in the background.

I headed to the farthest table and worked my way backwards through the alphabetically ordered ciderhouses.  Chatting with the cider-makers themselves, along with novice and experienced cider drinkers throughout my time at the festival, I was told that the event was a brilliant success, with over twice the attendance from last year.

In the foreground Bruce Jordan of British Columbia's Sea Cider pours out a glass of Rumrunner cider while Jeremy Marlow pours an Eaglemount cider in the background.

"It's considerably larger, which is really very encouraging…there is a real renaissance happening in the Pacific Northwest and the attendance today is clearly a sign of that," commented Bruce Jordan, owner of British Columbia's Sea Cider.

Echoing this observation was Spencer Reilly, an avid cider drinker for more than five years, who told me how his passion for cider ultimately led him overseas to learn about the English, French, and Spanish ciders.  Watching the market for cider grow over the last few years has given him reason to pursue a new dream: opening an exclusively cider bar in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle.  His vision would fill a void in Seattle, where beer always outnumbers cider on tap. Reilly is encouraged by the sharply rising interest surrounding cider in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest; he believes his bar can thrive off of it.

This exponential growth in the market for cider seemed to be the topic of the afternoon as event workers and attendees marveled at the wide variety of ciders available and the sheer number of people in attendance.  Just as many first time cider drinkers attended as old timers, and everyone had similar reasons for their peaked interest in hard cider.  The consensus seemed to be that cider is becoming more visible as an alternative, not just to expertly crafted microbrews, but to wines and liquors as well.

"Our big thing right now is education," said owner of Finn River Jim Bovino, who strongly stressed to me the importance of educating the population about cider. "Educating people as to what cider is, on an artisan level, that it's an expensive beverage to make, with very diverse styles, much like wine, and that it's not just a sweet alternative to beer." The entire event was more than successful in this regard as I spoke with multiple people that had previously never considered drinking cider, but stumbled upon the festival in the busy South Lake Union neighborhood, and thought they'd give it a try.


Alpenfire Cider, among others, adorned their table with the very apples they make their cider from.

"It just feels like what cider should taste like," states Kate Schmiett with a shrug, a seasoned, yet casual cider drinker, about the cloudy, fuller-bodied and sweeter The Saint from California ciderhouse Crispin Cider.

As the afternoon wrapped up and I quizzed event attendees on their favorite ciders I found that the most popular ciders of the afternoon were… all the ciders.  Some of the more exotically flavored ciders garnered numerous raves, such as the Tieton Cider Works Apricot cider, the Eaglemount Raspberry and Ginger ciders, the Blue Mountain Cranberry or the Finn River Black Currant Sparkling. Yet also winning approval were the drier ciders that featured more stringent and acidic notes.

I was fortunate to taste far more than the normal allotment of 10 ciders, and though my palate swiftly tired from overuse, even now, days later, I can still recall the stringent and fruity flavors of my personal favorites that afternoon: the Sea Cider Pippins and the Tieton Cider Works Apricot.

The event was sponsored by NW Cider Associationand SBS Imports.

Source: Hard Cider International

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