A Cider for Everyone

In a previous article, I wrote about the history of cider, my experiences in Spain, and now those in Oregon. I had the opportunity to visit the Northwest Cider Association Rite of Spring event in Portland, where I tasted ciders that would work for pretty much any palate, from those who aren’t so sure about trying cider, to the wine lovers among us, to the beginner cider drinkers.

Whether you are drinking cider simply because it is a gluten-free alternative to beer or perhaps you simply love the taste of apples, there is a cider out there for everyone. Here is my list:


For the “Not so sure about cider” people: You know who you are; you are generally a craft beer drinker, and you may sip wine from time to time, but…cider? Yes, cider…it is quite tasty, has hops, and is well worth a try.

For Saison Lovers:  Rev. Nat’s Hard Cider Hallelujah Hopricot starts with classic American apples such as a Belgian wit(white)-style cider which is then steeped with coriander, bitter orange peel, and paradise grains, and subsequently fermented with a French saison ale yeast. Lastly, it is topped off with pure apricot juice and finished with Oregon-grown Cascade and Amarillo hops. The coriander lingers with a back sweetness of ginger and a slight hoppiness at the end. It is a very interesting hopped cider that I would highly recommend finding. They also have a phenomenal Tepache which is made from pineapple and can be blended with a Lager. If you’ve been in Germany, just think Bananaweizen but with Pineapple and Lager. In fact, it is so new that they are doing their release party this Cinco de Mayo (5th of May) at their Portland Taproom.

For Beer Lovers:  McMenamin’sEdgefield Dry Hopped Hard Cider is a fermented dry cider with the addition of three different types of hops at different times. Initially they use Cascade hops after the primary fermentation, then prior to bottling finish it with Chinook and Nugget hops. This cider has a nice crisp citrus finish to it; it isn’t overly hoppy and has more aromatics than bitterness.

Sea Cider

 For Wine Lovers: Cider is a relatively new thing to you, or perhaps you’ve had a number of sweeter hard ciders and had initially written them off. I am happy to say, there are a number of great French- and Spanish-style ciders out there for your refined palates.

If you like a little barnyard, just a subtle amount: Try 2009 Ez Orchards Cidre. This cider (or cidre in French) is among my very favorite of ciders.  It is complex and has multiple layers to it due to its extensively long, cold, and wild fermentation process. It is unfiltered, and final fermentation takes place in the bottle, giving it a natural fizziness similar to champagne. It is not for the faint of heart but for those true European wine lovers.

If you like champagne: Try Alpenfire Ember, which also uses wild yeast.  However, champagne yeast is added at the end to create a French-style cider with about 2 to 3% residual sugar to balance out the acid.

Another one worth trying: Make sure to try Finnegan Dry Cider, which is fermented completely dry and has a nice balance of acid and fruit. Finnegan’s is also doing a Spanish-style Sidra type of dinner at event on May 4th at Pix Pâtisserie in Portland.


For the Newbie Cider Drinkers: Beer isn’t quite your thing; you might not like the bloating.  You kind-of like wine, but wine is a bit dry for you? You tend to prefer the sweeter things in life. If this is you, then perhaps you’d enjoy the following great ciders.

Love Apple Pie?   I have the perfect cider for you, full of spice and all things nice.  Try Carlton Cyderworks Auld Lang Spice, which has about 14 grams of sugar and literally could be a liquid dessert. It tastes just like apple pie. If anything, I love their tongue-in-cheek labels like Carry Nation.  If you like the apple pie, you’ll also like their Duke Apple Blueberry, which not quite as sweet, and with a hint of blueberries at end.

Land of Flowers and Honey:  At Finnriver Farm and Cidery, you can literally taste the land in the ciders they make. This certified organic cidery makes two very tasty ciders, the Honey Meadow cider, which is infused with botanicals like lemon balm, chamomile and honey; and their Sparkling Black Currant cider, which reminded me of when I used to pick currants off our family bushes and eat their tart sweetness.

There you have it, a cider for all palates!  If you are in California, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Virginia, or Washington on June 20-29, make sure to join all of these great Northwest cideries to celebrate Oregon Cider Week in your area. To kick off Cider Week in Oregon, join the Northwest Cider Association for the Portland Cider Summit NW at the Fields Neighborhood Park in the Pearl District on Saturday, June 21-22, 2014.


Enjoy all these faces of cider!


Cider, a drink meant to be shared

Cider is rapidly becoming America’s darling as an alternative to beer and wine. This fermented apple juice is not only rich in flavor but also in antioxidants. Moreover, it is gluten-free.  Cider is, in a lot of ways, “apple wine.” Given all this, it is clearly a drink meant to be shared, if not for your health then for your friendships, according to Mr. Franklin.

“He that drinks his cyder alone, let him catch his horse alone.”

     ~ Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack

Cider has a truly interesting history.

The History:

Once considered America’s favorite drink, cider was widely consumed by the early English settlers on the East Coast.

Due to the inedibility of the apples the English settlers found upon arrival, the colonists requested apple seeds to be sent from England, and they began cultivating orchards. Initially the cultivation of barley and other grains was difficult, so cider became the beverage of choice. Furthermore, due to its low alcohol content, cider was a beverage that could be consumed throughout the day and as an alternative to water when sanitation was an issue.

However, later, the Temperance Movement and Prohibition slowed and nearly eliminated the production of “hard” cider.  It wasn’t until later that apples gained popularity as a table fruit.

Modern Day:

Today, craft cider is rapidly gaining popularity just as is the craft beer movement. In particular, the Pacific Northwest offers a unique location where the soil is rich, the water plentiful, the winters mild, and summers ideal, making this area a perfect location to grow apples.

As craft beer consumption has exploded, drinkers are now looking to find the next interesting beverage. Craft cider offers a great alternative to beer.  Besides being gluten-free, it is slightly sweeter (depending on the cider you choose), and it also is a great food-pairing option.

The cider industry is ripe for expansion, especially with the fact that ciders fill an interesting niche market. With its being sweet, gluten-free, and natural, and having a low alcohol content,  cider creates an appealing market option for women and for drinkers seeking the next big thing.  It has also caught the attention of the larger breweries such as MillerCoors, Anheuser-Busch, and Carlsberg A/S.  In February of 2013, MillerCoors and Molson Coors bought Crispin Cider Co.  Anheuser-Busch also introduced their premium-priced Stella Artois Cidre and a low-calorie Michelob Ultra Light Cider.

Despite all these big breweries purchasing up some of the small cider houses, there are still plenty of individual craft brewers making the kind of cider that may not appeal to the mass market.  However, in the quantities these individual craft brewers produce, this is not an issue.

According to the Northwest Cider Association, “cider can range from light, delicate and sparkly to rich, dark, and full of complexity. There are hundreds of varieties of cider apples that can grow a wide variety of luscious flavors, fragrant aromatics and intense tannins. These are the building blocks for good cider. Cider makers carefully select their preferred varieties to get the flavors they seek.”

Cider appeals to all those looking for a new taste experience:  from wine lovers, beer lovers, and chefs, to foodies and anyone who is curious. Everyone can now enjoy the new resurgence in the world of cider, and all the new flavors are there to experience.

Basque-Style Cider, also known as Sagardo 

Having returned from Spain recently and having experienced the Basque style of cider, I was looking forward to finding cider with a similar dryness and almost bitter taste. A cider house in Basque country is also known as Sagardotegi, in Basque. The word sagardotegi is built on three roots: sagar (apple) and nardo (wine) give the word Sagardo, literally “apple wine”, translated into French from cidre. The suffix –tegi means a building or activity in a place. The word translates as “place of manufacture of apple wine (cider).”

The Basque country of Northern Spain is well known for its cider, and, like traditional French-style cider, Basque-style cider tends to have a bittersweet taste to it that pairs extremely well with foods of the region. From the picture below you can see how the Basque style of cider is stored and later retrieved by lucky cider lovers.  The cider is aged in large oak barrels and retrieved by customers on a rotating basis of about 20 minutes so that the barrels are always partially filled. The ritual of capturing the cider is called “Txotx.”  See the photos below! In this case, we were on the outskirts of the lovely city of San Sebastian, Spain (Gipuzkoa), at a place called, Petritegi Sagardoa.

How to properly catch your cider in the Basque country of Spain.

How to properly catch your cider in the Basque country of Spain. The“Txotx.”

You are allowed about an inch of the cider stream at a time, and this ensures that you get the freshest cider possible. It is common tradition in Northern Spain for people of all ages to capture their own cider. The trick is to capture this beverage from a distance to oxygenate the cider.  There is generally a line of people waiting patiently behind you to grab their next inch of fresh cider.

Catching the cider, quickly and efficiently.

Catching the cider or Sagardo, quickly and efficiently.

Back in the US

When I returned from Spain, I missed the cider houses and the taste of cider in Europe. In the U.S., I tried a number of the commercially made ciders, with no real success. However, one day, I was invited to join a number of friends for a homemade pizza gathering and there met Sharon Zielinski, the sister-in-law of Kevin Zielinski of EZ Orchards. Mark, Kevin’s brother, quickly introduced me to this dry, traditionally-made French-style cider—and I fell in love.

EZ Orchards is located in NE Salem, Oregon.  Kevin Zielinski is the lead cider maker; his family has owned and operated this farm and its orchards of apples, pears, and peaches for three generations.  He is focused on making the traditional French-style cider from French cider varieties that are more bittersweet in taste and have the tannin structure necessary to make a traditional cider.

What makes this French-style cider from EZ Orchards different is that it uses spontaneous fermentation, which means that there is no foreign yeast added to the apple juice, and the only yeast it has is wild yeast from nature itself. This ensures that there will be a cold fermentation process lasting from two to three months.  This also ensures that there is maximum flavor and aroma in the cider, as well as natural carbon dioxide development in the bottle, thus providing that sparkling quality that we all love and enjoy. Following in the footsteps of the traditional methode champenoise (a process very similar to that used for the creation of French champagne), the cider undergoes its last stage of fermentation in the bottle.

You might be wondering how other commercially-made ciders are made.  In general, mass-produced cider generally has yeast added to it; this yeast addition can change the output and the speed of fermentation. Additionally, mass-produced cider has carbon dioxide added at the end right before bottling takes place.

To learn more about EZ Orchards, check this video out:

Here’s a unique chance to taste and experience Northwest cider:

Rite of Spring

NWCA Cider Rite of Spring on Saturday, April 26 at the Tiffany Emerald Ball Room in Portland, Oregon. Tickets are $25

Cider Week

2014 Oregon Cider Week on June 20-29 throughout Oregon

Now, it’s time for me—and you!—to enjoy a nice glass of cider!  Cheers!


My Favorite Cider Houses


5504 Hazel Green Rd NE, Salem, OR. 97305


Lake Oswego, OR. Available at many locations


33848 SE Eastgate Circle, Corvallis, OR. 97333


275 S Beavercreek Rd #149, Oregon City, OR 97045


For a list of cider houses in Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Canada, click here for the NorthWest Cider Association Members.

“Salud! Santé! Prost! Cheers!”

About the author: April Yap-Hennig

April Yap-Hennig is a wine lover and marketer with 12 years of experience in International Marketing and Communication in Europe and the United States, and with life experience also in the Caribbean and South America. She holds a Masters in Viticulture and Enology from the University of La Rioja, Spain, an MBA from Purdue University, and B.A. from University of Utah. She is also a Certified Wine Sommelier from the International Wine Guild in Colorado.  April was born in Utah, raised in the Dominican Republic and Ecuador, and has lived and worked in The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and Spain. Her love of wine started when she studied in La Rioja, Spain, during her undergraduate studies. This is where she fell in love with the country, the region, the people, the culture, and, finally, the wine–thus changing her life and eventually her career.

She is now the co-founder and owner of Epicurean Media, a beverage-and-food artisan public relations and marketing consultancy; she also founded and writes the Sacred Drop Channel at www.sacreddrop.com. She is forging a new future in Oregon with her husband and their hilarious French bulldog, Guapo.

Check out her websites: www.about.me/aprilyaphennig,  www.sacreddrop.com, andwww.epicureanmedia.com.