This past Saturday, my wife and I attended the 2nd Annual Cider Rite of Spring. This single-day festival, in just its 2nd year, was held at the Tiffany Center in SW Portland.
While I'm fairly new to ciders, it's amazing to see how quickly ciders have grown in popularity in the Northwest. For several years, Cider Summit Portland was the only cider-exclusive festival. Now Cider Rite of Spring and several other cider-only events have popped up. It's a great time to be a fan of fermented apple juice! Back to Cider Rite of Spring...
First, the venue was great. Tiffany Center is close to the MAX. Indoors is always a great idea for this time of year. There was a good-sized crowd in attendance, but the event space wasn't overly crowded. There were plenty of standing bar tables, and people took advantage of them to take notes and savor their samples.
I enjoyed the wide diversity of ciders that were offered. Thirty producers served up nearly 120 offerings! There were plenty of traditional and non-traditional options. I tend to favor the latter. Here were some of our favorite tastes:
- Alpenfire, Smoke: Made with Kingston Black, Dabinett, and Vilberie apples, this cider was triple fermented in whiskey and mead barrels. The flavors of smoke and bourbon complemented the sweetness. Definitely a sipper, Smoke weighs in at a whopping 16% ABV—but you'd never know it!
- Cider Riot!, Never Given an Inch: Lots of juicy blackberry flavor, but without the sweetness. Most makers back sweeten fruit ciders to provide extra sweetness. Cider Riot avoids this technique which results in great fruit flavor, but without being cloying. (Full disclosure: I am an investor in Cider Riot!)
- Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse, Wild English: Fermented with wild yeast that is naturally present on the apple skins, this cider is quite tart, very dry, and delicious.
- Seattle Cider Co., Gin Botanical: Fermented with spent gin botanicals, this had amazing floral and herbal flavors.
- Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Habanero Cider: The prominent heat nicely balances the sweetness. I should have tasted this last, but didn't.
- Swift Cider, Dank Hop: Dry hopped with CTZ (Columbia, Tomahawk, and Zeus), this has oodles of piney, citrus, tropical, and yes—dank, hop flavors.
It was a great afternoon of cider tasting! I expect the event will return next year, and hope the organizers offer longer hours (it was held from noon - 5pm) or add an extra day. Regardless, keep it on your radar and make this cider festival one of your rites of spring.