Washington state is known for its hundreds of craft breweries—rightly so! But Washington is also one of the world’s largest producers of two other things: apples and people with gluten intolerance (we kid because we love!). As a result, the state is leading the charge in hard-cider production and consumption, bringing the concoction to new (read: not sickeningly sweet) heights. Here are a few of the taste-makers.
Tieton (Yakima) Tieton makes a plethora of great ciders, including an apricot and a dry-hopped, but it was the cherry cider that taught me that hard cider didn’t have to be disgustingly sweet or apple-only. When the cider movement began, it seemed only syrupy, thick, apple-only versions existed. But, especially over the past five years, things have changed, thanks in large part to the Pacific Northwest and (for me personally) Tieton.
Whitewood Cider Co. (Olympia) You can’t go wrong with a cider made from heirloom apples, and that’s why Whitewood uses so many in their effervescent drinks. Whitewood, which produces standouts like the subtly gingery Switchel or the champagne-like Heritage, has been producing high-end bottled cider since 2012. It’s available in a number of Seattle taprooms (including Holy Mountain) and shops (including Bottleworks). While they don’t have their own taproom, Whitewood, which is always experimenting (they even make sour ciders), is prominently featured at Olympia’s Three Magnets brewing.
Eaglemount (Port Townsend) About 15 minutes up from Chimacum, Eaglemount’s tasting room is in the middle of a giant farm, which includes a massive mansion that used to be a brothel and then a home for bootlegging. Our kinda place! The business that currently resides there makes both wine and cider—and the ciders are packed with flavor. The standouts are the tart and sharp raspberry-hopped apple cider and the robust ginger cider, which co-owner Trudy poured for us while dropping the fun fact that the property used to be owned by the Flying Karamazov Brothers. After the tasting, she showed off the performance hall, which would be the perfect Avett Brothers unplugged venue. Eaglemount is one of a trio of cideries in the area, along with Finnriver and Alpinefire Cider, a certified all-organic producer everyone raves about.
Finnriver (Chimacum) Home to my favorite berry cider (their decadently tart Black Current), Finn River makes delicious product after delicious product (available almost anywhere in town). Not only does Finnriver make wonderful ciders, it also makes a cacao fruit wine that would gloriously compliment a cup of coffee, and fire-in-the-belly apple port-style spirited wine. Sitting in its new tasting room, located a few miles up from the farm, you feel pleasantly mulled while looking out on sprawling orchards; if you’re lucky, try the lavender cider, which feels like a flower petal coved in sweet dew tickling your tongue.