Cider is totally trending right now. The Northwest Cider Association lists 14 cider makers in Oregon—a list that only includes one of two new additions to the cider brewing world right here in Bend. Last weekend, Pickathon music festival in Happy Valley had its own specialty cider—made by Wandering Aengus Ciderworks in Salem—by Sunday afternoon of the three-day festival, cider was SOLD OUT!
Cider allows gluten-free dietens to participate in the craft brew phenomenon and is a great alternative to micros that boast HOPS HOPS HOPS. It's refreshing, it's light and it's something different than the customary Bend IPAs, porters and pilsners, proving that Bend's craft brew explosion isn't limited to beer.
In the last year, two cideries (and one Meadery) have opened locally, Atlas Cider Co. (900 SE Wilson Ave. Suite H) and Red Tank Cider Company (840 SE Woodland St. #185) are producing high-quality ciders with local focus and without additives. Both boast sustainable techniques, no gluten and are at the front end of the oncoming cider wave.
We sipped two apple-based brews to see what the buzz is all about.
Hard Cherry Cider, abv 5.8%
Ciders are sweet—yes—but the test of a really good cider is balance, especially when adding variables beyond apples. If done wrong, cider ends up with an overwhelmingly sweet flavor like unmixed Jello. Atlas' Cherry Cider passes the balance test with flying colors, a sweet but tart lightly carbonated sipper that doesn't become syrupy or cloying at the addition of the rich cherries.
The cider is tart-tasting more like a cooking apple like Fugi or a Granny Smith than a traditional sweet full Red Delicious. It's a bit on the punchy side, but has just enough sweetness to keep a drinker coming back for more. Although the cidery only opened in May of this year, its 22 oz. bottles, both cherry and traditional hard apple cider, are available all over Beer Town, USA at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Platypus Pub, Newport Avenue Market, Broken Top Bottle Shop, Ray's Food Place. Atlas Cider is also on tap at various restaurants and bars and at the ciderhouse on Wilson Avenue. You can even get a growler of the sweet stuff at Growler Phils, Growler Guys or Gorilla Growlers.
Happy Cider, abv 5.5%
Red Tank is keeping it dry. The Happy cider resembles a white wine in color and consistency but has a smoother, sweeter finish. The light-colored brew could easily be confused for a straw-yellow chardonnay until the full-bodied apple taste hits the lips—then it's unmistakably cider. It's crisp without being tart or pucker-worthy and has just the slightest delicate bubbly carbonation.
Red Tank is jumping on the microbrew canning craze, joining other ciders like Angry Orchard, selling Happy Cider in easy to transport 16 oz. cans. Tall boys! Look out, lake day, this drink is about to destroy. Also, look for Happy Cider on tap at Velvet.