Alpenfire Cidery, Port Townsend
After two weeks of beer, I decided to spice things up a bit, and visit Washington’s first certified organic cidery (not to mention second in the nation). Cider comes with a bit of history- prior to Prohibition, hard cider was the #1 alcoholic beverage in the US.
Located in gorgeous Port Townsend, Alpenfire is the creation of Cidermakers and Orchardists Steve “Bear” & Nancy Bishop. After visiting areas of England, France, and Spain in 2001, and enrolling in a course at WSU taught by English Cider Master Peter Mitchell, the pair promptly placed an order for 900 French & English cider variety apple trees. They then spent the next year clearing and prepping the land, and in 2003, planted their orchard. The first harvest would follow in 2008.
Going organic was an easy choice for Bear and Nancy, although it definitely comes with its share of dilemmas…tent caterpillars for one! Instead of using poison or deterrents to clear the orchard, Bear either torches the pests, or, during the spring, when local elementary schoolers are present to assist with hand pollinating (the orchards mason bees can’t be expected to do all the work), Bear will often simply munch on a handful of them for an afternoon snack (I’d personally recommend not trying this at home).
After a quick tour of the orchard and greenhouse (I’m told the Bishops attempted an heirloom tomato wine last year, that was…“interesting”), I made my way back to the quaint tasting area, to enjoy sampling a few of Alpenfire’s most popular wares myself.
My absolute favorite cider was Glow, made from a single apple variety, the Hidden Rose, which is a red-fleshed apple that delivers a beautiful color, aroma, and candy apple flavor. I may or may not have had to take a few bottles home to share (or not). Fun fact: Alpenfire is the first cidery in Washington to ferment with a red-fleshed apple. Also, coming up in the winter of 2015, Alpenfire will be releasing a “sparkling” version of this cider, called Cinders, which will maintain the same flavor, but have the added bubbly aspect of champagne.
Another tasty treat is the Dungeness Orchard Blend. Quite different from any other cider I’ve tasted, this is a non-carbonated, still beverage made from a collection of over 200 apple varieties within the Dungeness Orchard in Sequim, originally planted by apple pioneer Charles Parkman.
One of their most popular sips I’m told is Calypso, which sadly had sold out prior to my visit, and wasn’t set to be bottled again for a few more weeks. Made from organic heirloom apples & Graymarsh Farm blackberries, fermented together in Bull Run Distilling rum barrels, it isn’t hard to imagine why this is a top seller!
While most of the Alpenfire ciders ferment for 9 months, one brew, named Smoke, takes a much longer 16 months. While still considered a cider, has a 16% ABV and is much more of an after dinner tipple (think port) than your run-of-the-mill cider. Made from the bitterest of traditional cider fruit, Smoke is triple-fermented, first in stainless steel, then in a mead cask, and finally in smoky, oaky whiskey barrels.
While sampling ciders I was also invited to taste some of their tasty vinegars, my favorites of which were the Spring Tonic – a wild ferment vinegar (meaning no commercial yeast is used) with wild crafted nettles & dandelion, and the Elderperry – made from elderberries & pear vinegar, ideal for cooking, bartending, as well as a natural cough suppressant (and pretty dang delicious on a fresh baguette).
The Tasting Room is open most weekends, Friday-Sun, noon-5pm, with tours given by appointment/request. For a full calendar of upcoming events, as well as locations where Alpenfire Ciders & Vinegars are available around the area, check out their website at www.alpenfirecider.com.
Stay tuned next week for another Washington Brewery Adventure!