A new brand of hard cider from the Pacific Northwest will soon begin competing for the coveted spot of the apple 0f Minnesotans’ eyes–or pint glasses, as it were.
Seattle Cider Company, which is based in its namesake city, touts its exclusive use of fresh-pressed Washington apples and the absence of concentrates and artificial flavors and colorings in its year-round, seasonal, and limited offerings. “We really pride ourselves on our use of real ingredients,” said Caitlin Braam, director of marketing and business development at Seattle Cider. “We wouldn’t put anything in our cider you wouldn’t eat.”
The company’s year-round ciders, which will begin showing up in Minnesota liquor stores in four-packs of 16-ounce cans and on draft in bars in early May, include its Dry Hard Cider, Semi-Sweet Hard Cider, and new Citrus Hard Cider.
Their seasonals, which are packaged in 22-ounce bombers, include Basil Mint (spring), PNW Berry (summer), Pumpkin Spice (fall), and Oaked Maple (winter).
Seattle Cider’s limited releases, which also come in 22-ounce bombers, include Three Pepper, which is fermented with jalapeno, habanero, and poblano peppers, and Gin Botanical, fermented with spent gin botanicals.
To celebrate its launch in the Twin Cities market, Seattle Cider is planning several tasting events May 4–6 (schedule below).
Building with brix
One of the unique ways the company is seeking to educate consumers about its products specifically—and hard cider in general—is through the inclusion of each cider’s brix rating on its packaging.
Wine drinkers will likely be familiar with the brix scale, which is used to measure the sugar content of liquids. Essentially, it translates to how sweet or dry a wine or cider is–the higher the rating, the sweeter the liquid.
Seattle Cider’s products range in sweetness, but are notably less sugary than most well-known ciders currently available in Minnesota. Here’s how they rank: the Dry Hard Cider carries a zero brix rating, the Semi-Sweet clocks in at 2.6, and the Citrus falls somewhere in the middle at 1.3. (For comparison, some of the more well-known hard ciders on the market are closer to a seven on the brix scale.) They all are around 6.5% ABV.
Braam likens the inclusion of the ciders’ brix rating on cans to how beer companies include IBUs on their packaging. “You want to know how hoppy your beer is going to be,” she said. “And when you pick up our cans we want you to know how sweet or dry our cider is going to be.”
As for the misconceptions many people have about cider, Braam says they’ve grown used to skepticism from beer and wine drinkers when presented with a sample of their cider. “I tell people the key is just tasting it,” she says. “We go to a lot of tasting events and people come up to our booth and say, ‘I don’t like sweet ciders, do you have anything more dry?’ We give them a taste of our Dry and they say, ‘Whoa, not that dry. Do you have something with a little sugar in it?’”
A process steeped in simplicity
Cider is a natural product for the Pacific Northwest. Of all the apples sold in the U.S., about 70 percent come from Washington state – many from the Yakima region, a short two-hour drive from Seattle Cider’s home base. All the apples used by Seattle Cider come from this fruit-ripe region.
Instead of paying the expensive shipping costs to have whole apples trucked from orchards over the Yakima mountain range, Seattle Cider’s apple producers take a blend of dessert apples—Fuji, Gala, Red Delicious—and press them for the cidery before shipping the juice in tanker trucks to the company. When the juice arrives, it is pumped directly into fermenters and the cider-making fun begins.
To flavor the seasonal and limited release ciders, the necessary ingredients are added directly to the fermenting juice, along with a white-wine yeast strain. Braam explains that this process allows the flavors to blend while preventing the taste of the apples from being overpowered.
For example, for the Basil Mint spring cider, which will be the first seasonal to arrive (soon!) in Minnesota, Seattle Cider adds a whopping 118 pounds of fresh basil and mint to the fermenters. “You still get the apple, but it’s complemented by that basil and mint flavor,” Braam says.
For their Citrus, dried orange, lemon, and grapefruit peels are added to the fermenters. Even the limited release, Three Peppers, maintains its apple flavor—although Braam notes that it’s defining feature is a nice, fresh green-pepper nose from the jalapenos and subtle habanero spice on the finish.
Before bottling or canning, a small amount of pure cane sugar is added as a back-sweetener to give their ciders the right hint of sweetness.
Coming to Minnesota
Seattle Cider began distributing in Wisconsin and Illinois before setting their sights on Minnesota. “There’s a lot of great craft cider on the west and east coasts, and we saw an opportunity to fill a gap and educate folks in the Midwest,” Braam said.
Seattle Cider will be distributed statewide by Wirtz Beverage Minnesota.
“Seattle Cider Company is just what this state has been waiting for and will be the perfect fit for a warm Minnesota summer,” Corey Rung, craft beer brand manager for Wirtz Beverage Minnesota, said in a press release.
Seattle Cider Company Launch Events
Monday, May 4
- Free cider sampling at Stinson Wine, Beer & Spirits, 2315 18th Ave. NE, Minneapolis, 4–6pm
- Tap takeover and tasting at Republic Seven Corners, 221 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis, 5–8pm
Tuesday, May 5
- Free cider sampling at Elevated Wine, Beer & Spirits, 4135 Hiawatha Ave., Minneapolis, 4-6pm
- Tap takeover and tasting at The Happy Gnome, 498 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 5–8pm
Wednesday, May 6
- Free cider sampling at South Lyndale Liquors, 5300 Lyndale Ave. S, Minneapolis, 4–6pm
- Tap takeover and tasting at Town Hall Tap, 4810 Chicago Ave. S, Minneapolis, 6–8pm