Not Your Father’s Hard Cider
Today it gets barrel-aged, Brett-o-mized and sake'd out
Slightly northwest of Finnriver is Sea Cider, near Victoria, British Columbia, which at only two years old is already scintillating cider enthusiasts in a way beer lovers would understand. Their Rumrunner is aged in rum barrels, which would’ve been enough, but then they one-upped the game by procuring Screech Rhum barrels from Newfoundland. That’s where, as the story begins, cod fisherman historically traded salt fish for Jamaican rum. Due to legal issues, once it is distributed south of the border, it will be called Prohibition Cider in the US market, and they are eyeing 17 states (primarily in the northwest). “Five years ago, you didn’t see cider sections,” says owner Kristen Jordan, who puts their annual production at under 5,000 barrels. “Now you have ‘em in Whole Foods on display.”
Sea Cider also makes Wild English that is spontaneously fermented inside neutral bourbon barrels in the Herefordshire style. “I’m sure there’s Brettanomyces doing its job,” says Jordan. “It’s earthy, tannic, and phenolic… and goes with strong cheeses. We let Mother Nature do her thing.”
And back in Bushwhacker—the cider bar that offers everything from 3 percent alcohol French ciders to 19 percent Quebecois pommeaux (pommeau is cider that’s been distilled into brandy, then “cut” with fresh juice)—cidermaker Smith makes mostly English-style ciders, but tailors his cider based on the “market research” he gets everyday direct from the customers across the bar. Or sometimes inspiration comes from across the street.
Famously, Alasskan Brewing founder Geoff Larson looked to his friends across the street from the brewery at Taku Smokeries that smoked Juneau’s tasty snack—smoked salmon—over alder, the local hardwood. It’s the same smoker they use to this day. It’s why the porter that has won more Great American Beer Fest medals (20) than any other craft brew is often said to possess a strong lox flavor.
As fate would have it, Bushwhacker Cider is directly across the street from Edelweiss Sausages and Delicatessen, which does its entire meat smoking in-house over alder. Smith asked if they could smoke some apples for him. The result—as should come to no surprise—is a big, smokey bratwurst-flavored beverage with just a hint of apple. It is perhaps the world’s first rauchcider.
Brian Yaeger lives in Portland, OR.