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Co-op brew corner

Co-op Brew Corner: Washington Apples & Local Hard Cider

Apples are a big deal in Washington State. A combination of nutrient-rich soil, arid climate, plentiful water and advanced growing practices have led to lush apple orchards that have been lovingly tended by generations of family farmers. Every August the apple harvest begins and continues until early November.  Annually, Washington’s yields more than 100 million boxes of apples, each weighing about 40 pounds.

Along with apple harvest comes apple cider, and hard cider. Hard cider has a long history in America – it was a common drink even before the early 1800’s. Commercial production dramatically slowed during the industrial revolution and Prohibition, but once again the popularity of cider is on the rise. With its approachable flavor and refreshing crispness, an abundance of craft ciders are tasty sparkling offerings for everyday celebrations and special gatherings.

Photo: Unsplash

Apple Harvest Trivia

  • 10 – 12 billion apples are harvested in Washington State each year. Each Washington apple is picked by hand. There are no harvest machines to pick apples.
  • 2,500 known varieties of apples are grown in the United States. Over 7,500 are grown worldwide.
  • In 2016 the average U.S. consumer ate 19 pounds of fresh apples.
  • Apples originated in Kazakhstan and were carried east by traders on the Silk Road.
  • The only apple native to North America is the crab apple.

An Apple a Day

Freshly pressed apple cider is not yet hard cider. Using time-tested fermentation processes, cider makers begin an aging process with brewing yeast to convert natural sugars to alcohol. Interested in making hard cider from scratch? Check out this link to Mother Earth News’ DIY Hard Cider.

All natural hard ciders are gluten free, and some are filtered or pasteurized. Due to our unique location in the heart of apple country, the Northwest has many food-friendly cider options. Pair hard cider with cream soups, rich dishes, or salad with vinaigrette dressing. Serve sparkling ciders as a palate cleanser with spicy foods, seafood, pork dishes or strong cheese.

Select Local Ciders Guide

The Co-op offers over a dozen ciders from independent, Northwest companies. Read on for a guide to some of our Northwest ciders:

Spire Mountain Cider – Spire Mountain Cider’s Dark & Dry and Crisp & Dry. Based in Olympia, the Spire Mountain Cider company has been pressing whole, Pacific Northwest apples for over 30 years. Spire is the oldest premium cider brand in America, their popular flavors include: Spire Dark & Dry – 5% alcohol by volume, semi-sweet – rich and dark golden in color, this session cider is approachable and friendly and Spire Crisp & Dry – 5% alcohol by volume, semi-dry – assertive tartness is pleasingly balanced by a hint of green apple tartness. Spire Ciders are now on sale for $6.99 per 4-pks, sale runs through 9/30/17.

2 Towns Ciderworks – this high end artisan cider company from Bend, OR makes a delicious range of flavors, from traditional Bright Cider ($11.99 per 6-pk 12 oz. cans) to imperial 10.5% alcohol Bad Apple ($6.99 per 500 ml). 2 Towns offers a semi-sweet, juicy Made Marion(berry) cider, Ginja Ninja and seasonal varieties like pumpkin Hollow Jack cider. Browse the Co-op’s beer and cider aisle to find 2 Towns’ Mixed 12-pk with 4 different varieties of hard cider: Ginja, Made Marion, Bright and Unfiltered Outcider.

Atlas Hard Cider Company – look for a graphic of the legendary Greek titan Atlas on the label of this family-owned operation based in Bend, OR. They specialize in fruit-infused hard ciders, including Blackberry, Pom-Cherry and Apricot. Top seller Atlas Blackberry is similiar to a dry red wine, filled with the tart flavors and tannins, with a dry and rich finish. Now available in 22 oz bottles and now 6-pk 12 oz cans.

Incline Cider Company – inspired by dry white wine and local hops, this family-owned Auburn based cidery specializes in hopped ciders. Their signature Scout Marionberry Hopped Cider is juicy, yet with a crisp and tart finish. Look for Incline seasonal flavors featuring the zesty elements of lemongrass, hibiscus and ginger. Incline Cider’s mission is to produce craft cider with no concentrates or artificial additives. Their ciders contain apples, yeast, hops and expertise. Incline Cider Company also proudly sponsors Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

By: Claire

ClaireClaire Harlock Garber loves to eat and drink and write about it. She has worked in the food industry for nearly a decade and was on staff at the Skagit Valley Co-op from 2010-2018, writing the regular columns Skagit Brew Corner, The Cheese Whisperer, The Bounty of Bulk, and What's Dippin' in the Well for the Co-op's blog, as well as articles for the Natural Enquirer newsletter.