Craft and Community at Schilling Hard Cider

by | Oct 7, 2016

The Pacific Northwest is a breeding ground for both large-scale technology and artisan ingenuity, home to both Amazon and the DIY, handmade craftsman. With a business degree and a corporate position in the rear-view mirror, Colin Schilling, along with his college friend Mark Kornei, left his desk job to chase that creative entrepreneurial dream, starting Schilling Cider in November 2012.

The two friends went on a hike — as Northwesterners do — and talked about the logistics of opening up a cidery. The next month, they filed their paperwork. By February 2013, they received their permits and, two months later, Schilling Cider was on shelves in both Washington and Oregon.

The hand-built facility was stocked with brand new, made-to-order equipment, including a few customized wine tanks to work for cider in a way they sought out. Even with a limited budget, the space turned into their vision and Schilling ciders were rapidly well-received by the public. So quickly, in fact, that they had to purchase a few more warehouses to store product, finding themselves planted south of Seattle, in Auburn, Washington. Although wanting to be based 100 percent in the Emerald City, the price on the rental space is what makes them remain.

“A big part of our motto is make really high quality craft cider out of the best local ingredients, but don’t rip people off while you’re selling it in the market, just an honest fair price,” Schilling says. “A part of doing that was finding a good deal on the rental space that we’re in.”

A business man at heart but a cider lover in his soul, Schilling says he’s grown up around cider. Having made his very first cider at the age of 14, he was stuck on the fermented fruit. He continued making ciders in his dorm throughout college and knew the historic bevvie would always be a part of his life. Taking it beyond the cidery, Schilling also sits on the executive board for the Northwest Cider Association as secretary, where he lead efforts to overturn Washington State’s ban on the growler filling of cider and continues to make additional legislative moves in the name of craft cider. The Schilling Ciderhouse in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood lays claim to the nation’s largest selection of ciders on tap, plus more than 300 bottles for retail and in-house enjoyment, at a price and quality that Schilling says he is proud to offer.

“There was kind-of a void in the market for craft cider,” Schilling says of when he started, defining “craft” as natural, sans additives. “With us, being here in Washington with all these great apples right in our back yard and the ability to fresh press year-round, we could sell our cider across the country — high quality cider — at prices that other people just couldn’t do.”

The first ciders on Schilling’s menu consisted of a hopped cider, a ginger cider and an oak aged cider. Times have changed since then, now focused on variety and enterprise in the cidery, with only the ginger cider remaining from the original release. Innovation is something Schilling Cider has set its sights on and with that comes ciders that nobody has ever seen before, like the Grumpy Bear nitro cold brew, a boozy coffee cider with caffeine kick that took roughly 18 months of experimentation.

The coffee beans Schilling uses are sourced from Street Bean, a local, nonprofit organization which takes homeless youth off the street, from ages 17-23, and give them job training, then help to place them in the workforce. Every batch Schilling makes with Street Bean provides 500 hours of job training for their apprentices.

“It’s a really awesome way to give back to the community while affecting the core of the problem, which is that they don’t have skills that can get them a job,” Schilling says. “You’re not giving them money, you’re actually giving them a job.”

As part of the cidery’s ethos, Schilling says the cidery has no plans to stop innovation cider production. In December, they’ll release their barrel-aged Chaider, a Chai-spiced cider made in collaboration with Dragonfly Chai, a tea microbrewery in Portland, Oregon. With quality and price at the core, Schilling’s vow for affordable and craft cider ventures on.

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