Just off of Lake City Way in North Seattle, in two rooms no bigger than a storage unit, you’ll find Marshall Petryni and brothers Andy and Ryan Short pressing apples and making cider under their brand Greenwood Cider Co. The trio fell into cidermaking by happy circumstance: Petryni was working for a fruit delivery company that would over order so he’d take the extra apples for fermenting projects. Meanwhile, the Short brothers were experimenting with fruit-winemaking after finding some huckleberries up in the Cascades.
The three settled on cidermaking as Andy and Ryan came to the conclusion — after a few experimentations that turned out less than stellar — that it was a lot easier to make an OK cider than wine.
What started as a weekend hobby has turned into a nearly full-time gig for the team. Ryan mostly takes care of the sales while Andy and Petryni handle the making of the cider.
“Here we are four years later; penniless, broken spirits and aching backs,” Andy Short jokes.
“But we have a whole of cider to drink,” Petryni chimes in with a laugh. “A lot of people don’t like our cider.”
The guys don’t take themselves too seriously, the success of the business wasn’t something they sought. Contrary to their joking, Greenwood cider is paying for itself, and then some.
“This summer we did more than ever before,” Petryni says of the cidery’s sales. “Normally I’d go out and do some sales but I didn’t have to do that this summer because we just couldn’t keep up with our current demand.”
After expanding, Greenwood Cider can now produce 500 to 600 gallons a month, which they hope will be enough to keep up with that consumer demand.
Their bestseller, a Huckleberry cider is, like all the others, extremely dry but the huckleberries — which they’ll go out and harvest themselves — give the cider a fruity taste.
“We’re turning waste into a resource, really,” Petryni says. “Washington’s such a giant apple industry and so much of it goes to waste.”
Short explains that the apples that don’t make it to grocery are then sold dirt cheap as horse feed among other things or pressed into juice. Whereas many commercial cideries will buy juice for their ciders, Greenwood Cider presses its own apples.
“During apple season we spend a lot of energy seeking out cool trees or small orchards that are growing cider varieties,” Short says. “We’ll either pick them or if we’re lucky, we get to buy them.”
Right now they’re working on bottling up a Fire Roasted Pepper cider that Schilling Cider House, in the nearby Seattle neighborhood of Fremont, offers on tap. “We try to do a bunch of new things, I think that’s kind of what we’ve discovered is [that] it’s easier to sell stuff when we do things that people aren’t doing,” Petryni says. “So we’re not making a pineapple cider; we stick to local ingredients.”
As for the future, Petryni and the Shorts don’t have too much planned besides upgrading equipment and branching out of the small production units. They don’t plan to attempt to scale up to the mass market level any time soon.
“We want to make more cider…” Petryni says. Short adds, “More easily.”