As the cool breeze of November signals the height of autumn, we celebrate Washington’s apple harvest. But not all of those apples find their way into kids’ lunch boxes or homemade apple pie. The hard cider trade in Washington is booming, and Spokane and North Idaho are the home to a growing menu of hard cider businesses.
Washington is America’s leading producer of apples, harvesting more than 70 percent of the annual crop—and we’ve been the leader for decades. And Washington leads the nation in the production of hard cider.
The geography of Eastern Washington is Mother Nature’s gift to apples. For generations, farmers have cultivated mineral-rich soils fed by pure, clean water that spills into tributaries from the mighty Columbia River. This summer we experienced the heat of August, tempering into September then fading into the cooler weather of October and November—the perfect growing conditions for apples. Forecasts predict a record 2016 apple crop with a projected harvest of a whopping 140 million cartons of apples.
Hard cider is a fermented, alcoholic beverage made from the juice of apples. But the key to a good hard cider is to find the right blend of apple juice, hitting the perfect flavor notes with a balance between sweetness, hints of tartness, alcohol punch and the fragrance of the apples.
Let’s take a tour of some of the hard cider artisans in our region and toast to the spirit these folks are bringing to their craft.
north idaho cider
Take a leisurely drive through the colors of fall north of Coeur d’Alene and you’ll arrive at North Idaho Cider. Owners Keith Allen, Matt Peterson and Jeff Selle craft hard cider with natural juice and no preservatives.
Apple juice arrives regularly from Grandview, blended to their specifications to create a unique hard cider with a dry, crisp, fresh effervescent flavor.
North Idaho produces seven types of hard cider, including a seasonal special. The Logger cider, with bright apple flavors, is accented by the woodsy notes of oak and a hint of pine. The seasonal Fall cider reminds one of the flavors of apple, cinnamon and spiced tea.
In October, North Idaho Cider hosted their 2nd Annual “Tail Waggin” Chili Cook-Off to benefit the Kootenai Humane Society. They also host the popular Saturday movie nights in September. Future plans call for stoking the fires of the competition barbecue smoker the guys brought in to feature cider and barbecue feasts.
Growlers are available to take your cider home, and you can find North Idaho Cider on tap at Manito Tap House in Spokane. 11100 N. Airport Rd., Bays 5-6, Hayden, Idaho. (208) 480-1048. Fri: 4 p.m.-8 p.m. and Sat: 2 p.m.-8 p.m. northidahocider.com
One Tree Hard Cider In 2012, Grant Barnes started a hobby at home with a hard cider kit his wife gave him for Father’s Day. From those humble beginnings, Grant and his partner, Neal Hennessy, built One Tree Hard Cider and today they are producing upwards of 10,000 gallons of cider a month.
One Tree has partnerships with apple growers in the Tri-Cities, Yakima Valley and Wenatchee, who deliver a custom blend of apple juice. As Grant noted, “we want to craft ciders with sweeter notes.” One Tree introduces flavor infusions in their ciders, like the Lemon-Basil cider with clean, citrus notes of lemon accented by the anise flavors of fresh basil.
As a connoisseur of our cherished huckleberries, I tasted the Huckleberry Cider, a perfect pairing of sweet apple and the unique perfume and tart, yet sweet flavors of huckleberry.
One Tree has expanded their market, reaching throughout Washington, into Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, with future plans to expand into Utah. You can find One Tree at major grocery stores in our region, and restaurants including Waddell’s and Northern Quest Casino.
Grant and Neal, dedicated food lovers, partner with local chefs to host cider dinners, creating menus and dishes that naturally pair with the flavors of their ciders. 9514 E. Montgomery, #25, Spokane. (509) 315-9856. Thurs-Fri: 3 p.m.-9 p.m. and Sat-Sun: 12 p.m.-9 p.m. onetreehardcider.com
Rick Hastings crafts ciders by showcasing apples from local farms and traditional methods to evokes the flavor expressions of each apple. It’s a similar approach used by winemakers, aging the cider in oak barrels before bottling. The Stonewall cider is aged in whiskey barrels from Dry Fly Distillery, imparting flavors of vanilla and a hint of burnished oak to the cider.
Liberty procures their apples from Bishop’s Orchard in Garfield, and crabapples are sourced from Prosser. Rare apples are grown for Liberty at Steury Orchards in Potlatch, Idaho. Liberty presses apples at their ciderworks, creating each blend of juice in-house.
I tasted the Cellar Series #16 made in the spirit of the UK—a blend of Chisel Jersey, Dabinett and Kingston Black apples, fermented with wild yeast and barrel-aged, creating a dry cider with smoky notes and the scent of an apple orchard on a November afternoon.
The Core Club gives members perks for special offerings and events. Rick teaches classes on cider making, including tastes of ciders from around the world. Liberty partners with 2nd Harvest Food Bank, sponsoring the Backyard Apple Drive—encouraging the community to bring apples in for cider, with sales proceeds going back to 2nd Harvest.
Liberty ciders can be found at restaurants and markets throughout both Eastern and Western Washington. 164 S. Washington, Suite 300, Spokane. (509) 321-1893. Thurs-Sat: 4 p.m.-9 p.m. and Sun: 1 p.m.-6 p.m. libertycider.com
Searchlight Hard Cider
Matt Gibson embodies the entrepreneurial spirit of our emerging food and beverage culture.
As an ode to his grandfather, Ed Scherschlight, Matt founded Searchlight Hard Cider. Ed’s friends at the aluminum plant couldn’t pronounce his German last name, so they called him “Searchlight,” and Searchlight is now guiding Matt’s cider business forward.
“We want to create a cider market that is fun and approachable, crafting hard cider that will reach a new audience speaking to today’s lifestyles,” says Matt. He has introduced Searchlight Hard Cider through his dedication and partnership with Startup Spokane.
Searchlight is tasting and testing ciders—a blend of Washington apple juice that has pure apple flavors and a whisper of lemon notes. “Our cider tastes like apples,” he says, without the sweetness found in soda pop. Searchlight uses beer yeast in their process, bringing forward the greatest amount of true apple flavor while the cider ferments and ages.
Future plans call for a tap room creating a community space where folks can taste Matt’s ciders in a comfortable, fun atmosphere. Call Matt for a tasting of his cider and look forward to more information as Searchlight grows. 216 West 34th Ave., Spokane. (509) 869-9674 and on Facebook.