In 1763, the British government proposed a measure that would tax the production of cider to compensate for the nation’s unprecedented debt. Cider-producing areas, like the legendary West Country, were less than pleased with this bill passing and the offense resulted in widespread riots and general hostility. The bill was quickly repealed three years later.
In 2013, when Abram Goldman-Armstrong was looking to launch his cidery in Portland, Oregon, he reflected on this bit of history that was marking its 250th anniversary that year. He knew that he wanted to make English-style inspired ciders, ones that were worth fighting for then and are worth working for now — so Cider Riot! was born. Three years later, Goldman-Armstrong moved Cider Riot!’s production facility from his small garage to its own cidery and pub on Portland’s Eastside, where he and his team have continued to create ciders that are straightforward and apple-focused.
“Our main philosophy focuses on refreshment and not getting in the way,” says Goldman-Armstrong of the cidery’s recipe for success. “We don’t put sulfites in our ciders, we don’t pasteurize, we don’t mess with it. We take the fruit that we’re given and we turn it into great cider.”
The apples used in Cider Riot!’s blends come from around the Pacific Northwest, with a large portion coming from the tenured cider fruit orchard that supplied the now-defunct White Oak Cider in Yamhill County, where Goldman-Armstrong started his love affair with all things cider as a teenager. These days, the ciders created at Cider Riot! follow in the tradition of classic, dry English-style ciders while showcasing the flavor profiles of Northwest cider apples and other local ingredients. Throughout the year, the cidery has featured about 20 different ciders in its neighborhood pub, with fan favorites kept on tap as various seasonal varieties are cycled in and out of the mix.
“We do a lot of experimentation with different botanicals and fruit,” Goldman-Armstrong says of their approach to creating new ciders. “When we’re trying to come up with new cider blends we ask ourselves, ‘Is it refreshing? Do these favors work well together? Does it fit into our family of ciders?’ If the answer is yes, then we go ahead and try it.”
The results from the cidery’s hard-working team are refreshing, dry ciders that please the palate without overpowering the senses with sweetness. Each cider has a story and is made to match specific moments in time and moods as they’re sipped.
One of their most popular pours is Burncider, an ode to English draft ciders with a bittersweet base blended with dessert apple juice and Scottish ale yeast, resulting in a blissfully smooth and clean cider that’s made year round. The 1763, a nod to the cidery’s name, is a bittersweet cider made with all cider apples.
In 2015, the 1763 took home the bronze medal in the traditional category at the Bath & West British Cider Championships, a longstanding annual competition held in the United Kingdom. This victory, along with the other awards that the 1763 has won for Cider Riot!, solidifies Goldman-Armstrong’s hopes to continue experimenting with different cider blends while keeping the traditional English style in mind.
“That’s the thing that I think we really excel at — making a traditional English farmhouse-style cider,” says Goldman-Armstrong on what sets Cider Riot! apart from other makers. “There’s not a lot of people doing that in the States.”