This story original ran in our current winter/spring issue—for more in-depth stories like this, click here.
By Pete Brown
Cider has always been a calling for Abram Goldman-Armstrong. “I was lucky enough to grow up knowing White Oak Cider—traditional West Country-style, made exclusively from cider apples in (Oregon’s) Yamhill County,” Goldman-Armstrong says. “Their Kingston Black was truly a thing of beauty—you could sniff the aroma for days before taking the first sip.”
Goldman-Armstrong didn’t wait long to have a go at making his own. When he arrived at college, he found a recipe for cider in a punk fanzine. “I ‘scrumped’ some apples from the dining hall, got a cheese grater, two plates for a press, and some Champagne yeast,” he recalls. “About two weeks later we started drinking it, decanting from a carboy to a pitcher. It wasn’t fit to drink, but drink it we did.”
Happily for Goldman-Armstrong and his drinking buddies, his cider making improved. Over the next 15 years he made cider every fall, just one of many activities that kept him busy. As well as being a builder and carpenter, he published ‘zines and wrote about beer, becoming editor of Northwest Brewing News. “As the late Don Younger (a famous Portland publican) was fond of telling me, ‘there is no work and there is no play, there just is,’” Goldman-Armstrong says. “I’ve been able to turn most of my hobbies into work in some manner, and cider making was the same.”
Friends kept urging Goldman-Armstrong to go pro with his cider, and began asking where they could buy it. He’d already registered the domain name ciderriot.com, without having a clear idea of what it might become. Early in 2013, he visited fellow Oregonian Reverend Nat’s basement cidery and decided he could do something similar. As it was the 250th anniversary of the cider riots in England, it seemed obvious that Cider Riot would become the name of a new cider producer.
When considering how his previous job helped his new one, Goldman-Armstrong thinks first of his carpentry and building skills rather than his profile and knowledge as a beer writer. “It was pretty much a seamless transition as most of the first year was spent remodeling the space,” he says. “Attention to detail is a key aspect of cider making as well as carpentry. Working on projects such as bars for tasting rooms for Gigantic Brewing and Breakside Brewing, I really had to make certain my measurements were correct. The same is true in cider making, it’s just now I’m measuring volume rather than length.”