Wednesday, September 14, 2011

FoodTrek: Along Came Some Cider, That Sat Down Beside Her...

If a bottle of cider saunters over and settles down beside you, it's probably a sign you've had too much to drink, so let's just write that blog title off as, "Well, it rhymed...sorta..." On what truly felt like the last weekend hurrah of summer, we managed to jam whatever vitamin D we could into our systems, along with some cool, crisp cider, at the second annual Cider Summit NW, held over at South Lake Union Discovery Center Park.

Cider coming together for world peace at the Cider Summit in Seattle - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Don't be sad you missed the Cider Summit over the weekend, as Washington Cider Week is still in full swing, from September 10-18. Both the Cider Summit and the Northwest Cider Association are making sure people raise a glass to cider for a week, as it's a way to celebrate a lot of really delicious ciders and discover some local cidermakers. The full list of events and participating locations for Washington Cider Week are on NW Cider Association's site, if you want to track down what's going on throughout the week. I had a chance to meet David White of, whose love of the fermented apple brought him and several local cidermakers, including Tieton and Snowdrift, to put together the Northwest Cider Association, which is like a Justice League of Cidermakers, made up of local, Washington and Oregon-based cideries. His mission is to bring cider out of the shadows of obscurity and sugary-sweet macro-brewed Girl Drink Drunk-ville, and show it off for its true merits -- a refreshing alcohlic beverage with as much flavor complexity as beer or wine, with an equally rich history. And given our Northwest status, we have the added benefit of enjoying something that is truly locally made, with the apples coming from the orchards, right into the glass.

A local haven for cider lovers - get to know the NW Cider Association - Photos by Wasabi Prime

As to the subject of cider, we're talking about grown-up alcoholic apple juice, not the squeezebox drink you jam a straw into for snacktime as a kid. Although if the alcoholic cider could be put into a squeezebox, more power to 'em. Cider is made all over the world, but probably most associated with the United Kingdom, where it's most popular. Cider is made from apples that are ground up into a pulp or pomace, then the juice or must is pressed, just like how you'd make regular apple juice, except that the blend of apples generally used are a mix of apples you would eat and cider apples, which have a higher sugar content -- that comes in play for the fermentation process, where the yeast will need something to nosh on while it produces alcohol. Or as I like to call it, yeast farts. Or burps, whatever end you prefer. Cider is a little like the half-sibling of beer and wine, as it uses the juice from fruit, like a wine, and the fermentation process is similar to beer in that this process yields carbonation. This is a really simplified way of describing the process, I know, because I'm not trying to bore you with the numbers, temperatures and the finer points of a particular strain of yeast. Cider is a bit like the porridge that was just-right that Goldilocks settled on when she did that smash-n-grab job on the Three Bears' house. Beer drinkers can at least appreciate the process and history of ciders, even without the bitterness of hops to punch them in the face with IPA-umbrage. Wine drinkers can take off the "wine only" crown for a spell and give one of the dry ciders a sip, as I think they'll find it as clean and crisp as a good Viognier or Chardonnay, minus the buttery notes. Cider is the drink that says, Can't we all just get along?

Summer fun with man's best friend (cider, of course). The dogs were cute, too - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Cider generally attracts more of the beer fans, as cider and beer are closer in association -- a lot of the beer-friendly restaurants and bars around the city will have more cider options as well. And even on the shelves in stores, ciders will be placed near beer versus wine, if you happen to be out shopping. If you're a beer fan, you're a single dude and you're still shaking your single-dude-head about the merits of cider, how's this for convincing -- chicks dig cider. Even Mr. Wasabi observed the sharp difference in attendance at the Cider Summit. At the beer festivals we attend, it's a strong male presence, with female attendance probably being girlfriends and wives stuck with DD-duty. More beer with your sausage? At the Cider Summit, it was a mix of people, but definitely lots of ladies in a happy cider-sipping mood, so let this be a Wasabi Wing-person tip to the beer dudes out there -- keep going to the beer festivals with your bro's so you can pass out on the grass by noon in a brewski-haze, but put on a nice shirt (with buttons) and put on the charm when you're at a cider festival.

See that sunny day? I think that was the last one in the NW - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Aside from the stellar sunny weather and over fifty different ciders to try, the festival was dog friendly! That's not why we went, of course, but it was a fun way to give Indy a little adventure and just see all the other doggies in the park. Imagine a dog park that served alcohol. Not as chaotic as you'd think. But as to the important facts at hand -- Wasabi, what frosty beverages did you partake in? Had some lovely sips from Alpenfire out of Port Townsend -- nice range of lightly sweet to dry with their Ember and Spark organic ciders. Methow Valley Ciderhouse's Honeybear had a balanced sweetness, also from Washington, in Winthrop. My old favorites, Snowdrift Cider, out of Wenatchee, were there with their ciders, including their Orchard Select, which was a little more robust than their typical Dry and Semidry (I like their Semidry). The ones from Oregon I liked were from Blue Mountain, from Milton-Freewater, who had a mix of fruit blends, a cranberry and a cherry, but I stuck with their Dry Creek, a nice, clean apple cider, which was like having champagne. The it-factor probably had to go with Wandering Aengus Ciderworks from Salem, OR. Their lines were the longest as they had nearly a dozen to sample, and they had unusual ones like their Oaked Dry (obviously oaked, so with the flavor notes from the wood), and their Anthem Hops, which yes, had hops in it. There were a couple of ciders that used hops in the flavoring. It's really light, so the bitterness isn't as apparent in the flavor, more in the aroma, and it gives the flavor a citrus, almost lemonade tang. I personally enjoyed Sea Cider, which came all the way down from British Columbia in Canada. They had their Pippins, a more traditional dry cider, and then one unusual one, their Rumrunner, which had a darker caramel color and had notes of molasses in the flavor. It had a rich depth of flavor unusual to cider, so it definitely caught my eye, er tastebuds. While I think most ciders are perfect for a hot summer day, their Rumrunner would be good on a chilly winter night.

Dog days of summer - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Overall, it was a really good occasion to celebrate both cider and the fact this summer is ready to pack its bags and get outta Dodge. We're already seeing the days shorten and the heat from this weekend may have been the last of the 80-degree days. But that's OK. We had our summer fling with summer, as short andn weird as it was, and this was a nice way to enjoy the heat -- in a park, with friends and dogs, with a glass of something bubbly in hand. Cheers to Cider Summit NW and the NW Cider Association -- keep raising a glass to cider for the rest of the week and looking forward to next year's festival!

Indy meets cider, runs afowl, meets Mike Tyson, and wonders what happened - Indy Photos by Wasabi Prime

As for Indy, she had a heck of a hangover from the weekend's activities. No, we didn't get our dog drunk. But from these photos, it sure looked like she did! She was very pleased for a dog-friendly event and the chance to totally blow her mind with sensory overload from all the people, dogs and just walking around Seattle for a day. Whew. The pup was pooped.

1 comment:

  1. You have deftly described the Summit and cider culture. I raise a glass to you.

    Cheers, Bruce Jordan, Owner, Sea Cider.


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