Tumalo Cider Co. is bucking the sweet cider trend.
Bend, it's fair to say, is going almost as crazy for cider as it is for beer. Although the city doesn't yet boast a cider-only bar, it does house five local cideries, including Atlas Cider Co., the three-year-old Old Mill standby that the OLCC has officially declared to be Oregon's biggest-selling craft cidery.
Tumalo Cider Co. owner Jeff Bennet says, "I think it's a good market to be in because there's a lot of excitement in cider and a lot of people engaged with it in a way they weren't before."
And it's not just wishful thinking on his part. He's helping longtime beer and cider brewer Kelly Roark to launch Tumalo Cider Co., whose first semisweet offering should be on tap at Pizza Mondo and Brother Jon's by the time this story reaches print. (They'll also be pouring at the Fermentation Celebration craft fest on June 23.)
The drive that Roark and Bennett have for their cidery is clear when you visit the premises, a green, rectangular building off US-20 in the middle of Tumalo built from scratch by Roark and friends. "We looked around Bend for space," Roark explains, "but I wanted something different from a typical industrial area. The walls here are made of what's called pumice-crete; it comes from the local lava rock and it's really good at insulating, which is important with a cidery, where temperature regulation is key." The cidery is open by appointment only for now, but Roark is also planning a large outdoor area in the backyard to host larger groups and events.
It's a fine place, but it's the cider that's the important thing, and on that score, Tumalo doesn't disappoint. Their semisweet cider is refreshing and flavorful without being cloying, and the dry version offers an intriguing counterpoint to the sweet ciders that dominate much of the American scene.
"Giving samples to barkeepers and owners around town," Roark says, "it's been great to see how they take a sip and go, 'Wow, this really tastes different.' There's a lot of great cider made here, but I think there's also a demand for drier cider, something where you can have a couple and not feel like you're consuming a lot of sugar."
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misidentified Jeff Bennett as being associated with Atlas Cider Co. Bennett is co-owner of Tumalo Cider Co. The two cider companies are separate entities.