From homebrewing with her father as a kid, Caitlin Braam’s first love may have been beer, but her captivation with Washington State’s apple country fueled her passion for cider, inspiring two new drinks-focused ventures.
“When I moved from Minnesota to Seattle, I was enthralled by the breadth of craft beverage that was available,” she says.
Since that move, she’s been busy: most recently Braam was the brand strategist for Angry Orchard Hard Cider and prior to that she was the president of Seattle Cider Co. Now, she is the visionary behind two recently launched cider companies – one consumer-focused and the other industry-oriented – both located in the self-proclaimed “Apple Capital of the World” of Wenatchee, Washington.
CIDER FROM THE SOURCE
The industry-focused business is The Source Cider, a custom-crush facility aiming to help cideries grow their brands by providing easy and affordable access to juice and fermentation, co-founded with Tim Larsen of Snowdrift Cider. In addition, Braam simultaneously launched a new line of craft ciders called Yonder. Both ventures have one goal in mind: to shine a light on the amazing apple region Washington has to offer.
“I love the ability to show people cider can be as complicated and complex as wine, but it can also be enjoyed the same way you can drink a beer,” she says.
Among the otherwise arid desert, Wenatchee’s rolling hills produce a multitude of various fruit crops, but the area is best known for its luscious apple trees. During Wenatchee’s rich homesteading history, the earliest white settlers began planting apple trees throughout the region. This led to a booming apple industry in the early 20th century, ushering the community to embrace the industry and proclaim itself as the “Apple Capital of the World.”
Based in the heart of this agricultural cornucopia, Yonder and The Source have access to orchards growing both culinary and cider fruit. Cider apples like Porter’s Perfection, Dabinett and Kingston Black offer more tannin, acid and flavor, but the fruit is more rare and expensive than readily available culinary apples like Fuji, Gala and Honeycrisp.
As the juice supplier for Yonder, The Source blends both cider and culinary apples, striving to produce a complex cider with character at an affordable price point. “Cider has this ability to go across all sorts of platforms,” Braam says. “With Yonder we’re hoping to pull drinkers from every category.”
The Source hosts juice buyers across the United States, throughout Washington, down to California and as far as the East Coast. Cideries looking to expand offerings or breweries that want their own cider on tap can do so through The Source and bypass a hefty capital investment.
“All of our clients are looking for something a little different,” Braam says. “Whether it’s custom fermentation or premium juice, The Source provides more flexibility, capacity and variety.”
APPLES FROM OVER YONDER
In regards to her own brand, Braam says Yonder is a blend of contradictions: bitter and sweet, simple and complex, modern and traditional. Its apples create a balanced and bright cider – a reflection of the land they come from.
To attract beer, wine and hard seltzer drinkers alike, Braam says a huge focus behind Yonder was to make the packaging as beautiful as the cider on the inside. “When it came to designing Yonder, it’s as much about the cider as it is about the brand,” Braam says.
With help from creative director Maddy Porter and Larsen as head cidermaker – both experts in their prospective industries – the team worked hard to shape the Yonder brand, and its correlating packaging. “We wanted people to look at it and know it was a great product without knowing about all the nerdy apple stuff,” Braam adds. “All that information is there, but it’s not shoved in your face.”
The room for learning, growth and excitement in cider is what threw her into this line of work in the first place, Braam says, and the reason she’s stayed there for so long.
“When I have people taste a cider that I know is amazing, [I] just watch as it changes all of the perceptions they had before,” Braam says about her favorite part of working in cider. “I feel honored to have that opportunity.”
In time for this year’s apple harvest, The Source will launch a new juice and fermentation facility in July. As for those eager to taste that blend of bitter and sweet, Yonder Cider will be available in August throughout Washington State, canned and on draft, as well as online and shipping to 40 additional states.