A fruit basket in the already agriculturally abundant Pacific Northwest, wild and domesticated trees dot the highways that saunter through Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. It’s from these trees — the fruit trees of neighbors, forgotten orchards of owners past, feral arboreal along the lazy turnpikes — that Eaglemount Wine & Cider got its start.
Cider has been in the Beck family for generations. Whether its production was legal or not is another story, but the current generation, with Mike Beck at the helm, is playing by all the rules and bringing Michigan cider to the forefront of the industry. The original 1918 packing house was converted into a cider mill in the 1970s by Beck’s parents, and when the time came to pass the fifth-generation, 240-acre farm down, Beck decided to turn those apples into Uncle John’s Hard Cider.
I spend a lot of time researching, thinking, talking, tasting and drinking cider. As editor-in-chief of this magazine and two other publications we produce, I can’t say I am teeming with spare time but when I get a moment, I like to cook. My husband is the more adept knife wielder in the kitchen and risotto is certainly one of his honed specialties — so when I took over the helm for the evening, he was cautiously (and carefully) glancing over my shoulder.
Maine is home to over 15 makers of cider and all fall into the southern portion of the state. In the physical middle of the pack, Norumbega Cidery sits on a family farmstead — complete with pigs and crops — in New Gloucester, about 35 minutes north of Portland. The Fralich family got their first apple trees in the ground in 2014, following the growing orchard with a farm-style ciderhouse and the resulting ciders.
Virginia is for lovers, and has been since the adage was coined in 1969. But Virginia has been for cider lovers since the commonwealth was formed in the founding of America, with patriots like Thomas Jefferson and his Monticello orchard outside Charlottesville leading the way.
Ingenuity is nothing new in the Pacific Northwest, home of Amazon, Nike, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and also the modern hopped cider movement. The Pacific Northwest was predicted to bring in nearly 96 percent of the United States’ total hop harvest for 2016 (numbers are yet to be released), with fruit-forward, citrusy varieties like Cascade, Mosaic and Galaxy topping the charts and moving into cideries as complementary adjuncts to the featured fruit.
When Vincent Sterne started Two Rivers Cider Co. in Sacramento, California, cider was hardly a gleam in the West Coast beverage industry’s eye. A longtime homebrewer and certified beer judge, Sterne began producing cider in a region better known for its affinity of wine and craft beer.