Usually meeting your maker isn’t a good thing, unless he or she is making cider. The other night at the Green Dragon brewpub in Portland, Jeff Smith from Bushwhacker Cider took over some of Green Dragon’s 40+ guest taps for a Meet the Cidermaker event. There was one fermented apple concoction I had to taste above the others. But before I get to that, applaud the arrival of Alaskan Smoked Porter season. It has won more Great American Beer Fest medals (20) than any other craft brew. Brewery communications manager Ashley Johnston tells the story how brewer/owner Geoff Larson set out to brew a beer that pair well with Juneau’s tasty snack—smoked salmon. Using porter as the base, Larson “learned that the local (alder) hardwood was likely used to roast malts over direct-fired heat. Since alder is the same wood commonly used to smoke fish in Alaska, he looked to his friend across the street at Taku Smokeries,” the business that had been located directly across the street from the brewery. It’s the same smoker they use to this day.
It’s one of my favorite beers of all time. Yes, it helps that I love Bamberger Rauchbiers; the more campfire flavor the better. While people describe Schlenkerla Märzen as tasting like bacon, Alaskan Smoked Porter is often said to possess a strong lox or smoked salmon flavor.
So back to this cider. As fate would have it, much like our friends at Alaskan, Bushwhacker cidery is located right across SE 12th Ave from Edelweiss Sausages and Delicatessen, which does all its meat alder smoking in-house. Smith asked if they could smoke some apples for him. I should’ve known that when I overheard a couple at the bar saying that something smelled just like bologna, they were trying this smoked cider. These days, it’s not uncommon to find chicken-apple sausages with just a hint of sweet smoke. To say the cider tastes exactly like a big, smokey bratwurst (with just a hint of apple) is an accurate description.
It doesn’t end there for ciders. There now come dry-hopped, bourbon-aged, etc. Since brewers continuously experiment, what’s your take on cidermakers doing the same? What would you like to see take place in the cider field?