Onward to Cascadia!
As many of your know, I’m obsessed with cider–whether it’s seeking out and sampling ciders, making cider, learning about (and now, growing) cider apples, or visiting cideries and cider bars.
Some of you may not know that I also have aspirations of getting into the cider business…though it should come as no surprise.
I recently spent a few days in the Seattle and Portland area visiting friends and cider destinations, as well as attending a workshop on the business side of hard cider.
In this series of posts, I’ll be sharing some pertinent highlights of this trip with you, as well as details of another website that I’m planning–I hope you enjoy it.
Day 1: Seattle
Washington Park Arboretum
Don’t worry, I’ll get to cider shortly. But I thought I’d set the scene for you by sharing a little about a great Seattle destination with you first: Washington Park Arboretum. This was the first place we went to after escaping the airport, and it served as an enlightening introduction to the region’s incredible diversity of plant life. It’s filled with incredible collections of plants–Rhododendrons in particular are everywhere–and, unsurprisingly, trees.
You can easily spend hours wandering this park, and there are many secluded, well-placed benches which are ideal for contemplation, unwinding, and–depending on who’s there with you–snuggling.
A highlight for me was one of several giant sequoias:
As was this epic Wisteria vine–one of many wrapped around columns outside the visitor center:
And this pedestrian bridge:
I highly recommend the arboretum–it’s a perfect spot to reset after the bustle of traveling. Our spirits refreshed, we were well-prepared to begin exploring Seattle’s cider scene.
And explore we did…
My girlfriend and I both have friends in Seattle, and on the evening of our first day in Seattle we dragged everyone to a cider bar/restaurant that I’ve long wanted to go to: Capitol Cider. I was not disappointed.
Capitol Cider features many ciders on draft, as well as a surprising selection of Calvados, some good craft beers, and a gluten-free menu.
The Seattle and Portland cider scene is growing fast, and this place–on a bustling corner of East Pike street–is at the heart of the trend. Of the 20 (!) ciders and meads they had on tap, 15 were from Washington or Oregon. The lone representative from Colorado was Redstone Meadery‘s Nectar Of The Hops.
Sadly, I didn’t try all 20–which my liver was thankful for–but I did have several, along with various small plate dishes, all of which were excellent.
The Ciders And Meads
Here are the ciders and meads I sampled at Capitol, along with a bit of information about each:
- Basil Mint (Seattle Cider Company)
- Sparkling Pear Cider (Finnriver Farm & Cidery)
- Pippin Cider (Dragonshead Cidery)
- Hot Tamale Cider (Alpenfire Cider)
- Chai Mead (Beehaven)
- Anthem Chili (Wandering Aengus)
One thing was very apparent when sampling at Capitol and subsequent venues: Cascadian cidermakers are an experimental bunch. At every turn, there were ciders with interesting added ingredients or made using yeasts–e.g., Belgian or farmhouse–not typically associated with ‘traditional cider’. Of the experiments this evening, the Basil Mint cider above was quite a success–the mint was apparent and the basil was subtle enough to be complementary to rather than overwhelming the apple flavor.
My favorite cider of the evening was the Dragon’s Head Pippin–there’s something about the minerality of a dry Pippin or Gravenstein cider that always reaches out and grabs my attention. That it can be sipped all night without fatal overdoses of sugar or alcohol is quite a nice feature as well.
After dinner–I highly recommend the potato croquettes, the house-made pickles, and the broccoli, by the way–we went downstairs for a bit. The downstairs area features a stage, another bar, casual seating and a number of games. It was a fun, casual environment, with an eclectic two-piece band playing.
Capitol Cider was not the end, but rather the appetizer of this trip. Day Two featured a very different set of cider-related activities, but no less interesting to me–I attended an all-day workshop on the Business of Hard Cider held by the Northwest Agriculture Business Center.
If, like me, you have aspirations of building your own cider-related business someday, you’ll want to stay tuned for this content…
But first, I’ll skip past that part and talk about the rest of the cider venues in part 2.