Before this country was a country, apples weren't for eating; they were for drinking. Bacteria in colonial waters had a tendency to kill us, so we brewed cider to get rid of any water-borne bacteria. In the centuries that followed, cider became the drink of presidents and plowmen alike—even children were permitted to drink it—which makes you wonder how revolutions were fought and industries established in a nation that leaned so heavily on its collective bottle.
Before the cider revolution could reach the coastal states of Oregon and Washington, Prohibition came along and effectively squashed cider, and it languished, dead to all but a few home-brewing enthusiasts. Thus, America became subject to oh so similarly flavored domestic beers, imported spirits and cheap Californian wine.
But the wine got better, and then the beer did too. So, it shouldn't come as a shock that cider is also being resurrected and getting its day in the sun, especially in a region like ours, known for growing a long roster of apple varietals.
Neighborhood Notes recently sampled seven ciders from all over Washington and Oregon, including two that are produced within Portland’s city limits. All of them are available at pubs and bottle shops throughout the city and, according to Belmont Station General Manager Neil Tandow, all of them should be gluten-free. So if you can't digest wheats and flours, then cider might just be your thing. Just be sure to check with your retailer or bartender to be certain.
We hope you enjoy these hard ciders as much as we did. Cheers!
Bushwhacker: Dry Cider
The folks at Bushwhacker offer plenty of their own home-brewed ciders on draft, but they also carry well over 100 bottles of cider brewed throughout the region and across the globe. Their Dry Cider is sugar free and cloudy, bearing a bright lemony color. The first sip disguises itself—it tastes like a pilsner beer—but its smooth finish mellows out with the taste of the Oregon apples from which it's made. Comes in 12-ounce bottles with an alcohol by volume (ABV) content of 5.9 percent.
Bushwhacker Cider, 1212 SE Powell Ave., Ste. D, 503.445.0577
Find it: Balls the Cat's Moonshine Kitchen & Lounge, The Beermongers, Belmont Station, and on draft at both Gemini Lounge and the Horse Brass Pub. See the full list of available locations.
Reverend Nat's: Providence
This cider, brewed in the proprietor's home basement, comes in handsome 750-milliliter resealable bottles and packs a no-nonsense ABV of 9.8 percent. It's also very deceptive. On first pour, the nose bursts with the scent of cinnamon, but that doesn't prepare you for what you're about to taste because the first sip is an almost savory one, with oaky notes, followed by an incredibly dry middle that vanishes before it even starts. But, it's the finish that sticks with you—a long tail with just a trace of apples, dominated by the complex and aromatic notes of the cider's other ingredients (raisin, cinnamon and nutmeg).
Reverend Nat's Hard Cider, 503.567.2221
Find it: 1856, Belmont Station, The Hop & Vine, N.W.I.P.A., Saraveza, Spirit of 77 and Superjet. See the full list of available locations.
E.Z. Orchards: 2010 Cidre
E.Z.'s batch of 2010 Cidre tastes the way an apple does when it's plucked fresh from the tree, which makes sense when you consider that the ingredients list on the back label simply states: apples. Earthy, smooth and the color of an autumn sunset, this cider walks a fine line between tart and sweet, with a finish that's topped off with a carbonated bite that finds its way to the tip of your tongue. Comes in 750 ml bottles with an ABV of 5.7 percent.
E.Z. Orchards, 5504 Hazel Green Rd. NE, Salem, OR, 503.393.1506
Find it: Barrique Barrel, The Beermongers, Belmont Station, Bushwhacker and John's Market. See the full list of available locations.
Wandering Aengus Ciderworks: Wanderlust
Wandering Aengus' Wanderlust almost seems more like a wine than a cider. It smells like wine and its burnished gold color has a clarity like wine. In fact, this cider even has legs. Made with Oregon-grown heirlooms apples descended from English and French orchards, this semi-dry cider is full-bodied (not unlike a well-crafted wine) with a complex favor that's equal parts tart and sweet. Comes in 22-ounce bottles with an ABV of 7.5 percent.
Wandering Aengus Ciderworks, 6130 Bethel Heights Rd. NW, Salem, OR, 541.361.2400
Find it: Belmont Station
Blue Mountain Cider Company: Cherry Hard Cider
Another deceptive brew, Blue Mountain's Cherry Cider has a mellow nose that smells of whetstone or damp clay, properties which will never prepare your tongue for what you're about to taste, which is the rich, tart tang of cherries. Perhaps that shouldn't be a surprise since it is a cherry cider, but the aroma sure does fool you. Crisp, clear and ruby red, this cherry-forward cider is like drinking a hearty, acidic, full-bodied slice of homemade cherry pie. Comes in 22-ounce bottles with an ABV of 6.2 percent.
Blue Mountain Cider Company, 235 E Broadway Ave., Milton-Freewater, OR, 541.938.5575
Find it: Belmont Station, Blitz Bar, and on draft at Bushwhacker and Hawthorne Hophouse. See the full list of available locations.
Finnriver: Five Barrel Cider
It should come as no surprise that this cider has a strong, peaty nose and tastes, at first, like a sip of whiskey—it's been stored, after all, in Kentucky bourbon barrels. But once the whiskey's vanilla and caramel notes settle, a swell of heirloom apple flavors sneak back up on you and linger on your tongue for a long, pleasant finish. Comes in limited-release 22-ounce bottles—each one inscribed with handwritten batch numbers—with an ABV of 6.9 percent.
Finnriver Tasting Room, 62 Barn Swallow Rd., Chimacum, WA, 360.732.6822
Find it: Belmont Station
Tieton Cider Works: Apricot Cider
Tieton's Apricot Cider takes you back to more innocent days because it smells exactly like the soft ciders you used to drink as a child on field trips to your local orchard. Cloudy, yellow, crisp, tart, and surprisingly (as well as pleasantly) sweet for a semi-dry, Tieton's cider tastes, at first, like a stampeding rush of apricots, but, as the finish relaxes, the apples catch up and outrun their fellow fruit. Comes in 22-ounce bottles with an ABV of 6.2 percent.
Tieton Cider Works, 1480 Section 1 Rd., Tieton, WA, 509.673.2880
Find it: 1856, Apex, Bailey's Taproom, Belmont Station, EastBurn, Grüner and Lardo. See the full list of available locations.