In 2015 Shama and Tim “Herb” Alexander, self-dubbed “ciderheads,” made their first batch of cider. Three years later, Herb’s Cider is canning, opening a tasting room and working with one of the most notable Pacific Northwest cidermakers in the business.
Based in Bellingham, Washington, Herb’s Cider currently cans its Single Stroke, Double Stroke and Triplet foundational ciders, all named for actions Tim makes behind the drum kit. In addition to cidery co-owner, Tim is the drummer of rock group Primus who rose to fame in the ‘90s.
To understand the cider at Herb’s, it’s best to talk to the man behind the libations, head cidermaker Chris Weir. At 15-years-old, he started working at Finnriver Farm & Cidery, initially as a blueberry picker. He worked at the cider farm until he turned 24, and as time went on, he eventually began making cider, the first branded cider he made was a Champagne-style blend.
“In the beginning, making cider was very hard work,” Weir says. “We were pressing 100 gallons of apples a day by hand, despite the weather, snow or rain. Those were the ‘good old days.’”
After Finnriver, he went down to California to race stunt cars and try his hand at winemaking, spending time at Kenneth Volk Vineyards. He returned to Washington State to be with family, where he took a job at Port Townsend Brewing Co. and brewed there for four years, until he met the Alexanders during their research and development phase of Herb’s.
Weir was persuaded to join their fledgling operation and, after working in three separate craft beverage industries, he knew he liked cider best.
“It’s not that I don’t enjoy brewing beer,” he says. “I’m just personally more into cidermaking and winemaking, and cider is closer to making wine than beer is. So when this opportunity arose I was happy to take it.”
For Weir, cidermaking is all about the scientific and creative elements behind it. He spends a lot of long hours, and days, making cider, working hard to come up with new and exciting variations. He says the explorative element is his favorite part, creativity making his job enjoyable.
He says he also enjoys the lab work side of things. Across from the canning line at the Herb’s Cider warehouse is his lab, full of beakers, test tubes and testing equipment. There he tests for PH, acidity and sulfite levels, before, after and during the cidermaking process.
Weir is excited about the future, Herb’s Cider is only in its first year of production, and he has a lot of interesting ciders he’s ready to introduce to the cider community.
“At Herb’s, I am most excited about my series of single varietal ciders using only one heirloom apple [variety] per cider,” he adds. “Typically cider is made with a blend of apples per cider, but I wanted to try something different and just use one heirloom apple.”
Though he admits one single varietal doesn’t necessarily make the best cider, but it makes a very interesting one. He says it will help drinkers locate the specific flavor profile of favorite apples, allowing the consumer to focus in on them when trying ciders. He says he wants to educate cider drinkers on apple flavor profiles and the philosophy on using certain apples for certain ciders.
Herb’s Cider recently opened a tasting room in downtown Bellingham where ciders are paired with charcuterie specific to the drink, encouraging that the flavor profiles of both the cider and food served with it are brought to the forefront.