Washington State is rather famously the "Apple Capitol of the World". Washington grows more than 65% of the 10.5 billion pounds of apples grown annually in the United States. With more than 1/3 of the apples grown in Washington exported out of the U.S., it's common to find one of the iconic red "Washington Apple" stickers on a red delicious apple at markets around the world.
But what about Washington cider?
The Washington cider scene is amongst the most prolific in the U.S. with more than 100 cideries across the state. More apples are grown in Washington State than anywhere else in the country, and the state features some of the best cider in the world.
But the cider culture in Washington State features a variety of cider styles being produced that is often misunderstood, at least relative to the "Apple Capitol" legacy of the state. Some of that has to do with geography (and thus terroir), and much of it has to do with a challenge facing the cider industry more broadly - a challenge of identity or lack of clear style guidelines, at least as it's known to the broader consumer market.
A brief history lesson on cider:
For 100s of years, cider was traditionally made almost exclusively with bittersweet (high tannin, low acid) bittersharp (high tannin, high acid) and sharp (low tannin, high acid) apple varieties. The presence of tannins and or acid and the characteristics of the individual apple varieties result in a delicious and interesting or complex flavor profile. These traditions (and these apple varieties) were brought to the U.S. from Europe, and prior to prohibition, American cider was made in the traditional methods and more popular than beer or wine. American Cider nearly died all together during prohibition. Commercial apple production ever since has favored sweet apple varieties. These watery, sweet apples are low in both tannins and acid and make for a rather uninteresting cider. Many modern cidermakers use sweet apples (often buying bulk juice) to make relatively cheap cider that lacks interesting flavor profiles without the addition of added sugars, fruit, or other flavors. Ciders are often broadly categorized as "traditional" or "modern" based on these cider-making differences. It's also common for "traditional cider" to be generally referred to as "dry cider", and "modern cider" to be referred to as "sweet cider" in the most basic of conversations about cider (even though many modern cider makers will sell a "dry cider"). Herein lies the identity crisis of cider, or more perhaps more appropriately the challenge facing cider makers at market.
Back to Washington Cider:
The overwhelming majority of apples produced in Washington State are sweet apples (commonly referred to as culinary apples or dessert apples) that are meant for eating or cooking, not for cider. Large scale apple growers have found a market in selling these ciders or their juice to modern cider makers - across the state, the country, and the world! The majority of these producers are in Central Washington - what many Washington locals consider the heart of the "Apple Capitol of the World".
The Washington cider scene however is scattered all throughout Washington State, and most of the best cider from Washington is made by cidermakers growing using apples grown nowhere near the heart of the "Apple Capitol". Here's a highlight of some of the cider regions in Washington State and some of the cideries to know.
Note: Press Then Press sells cider to customers across the U.S. but we happen to be based here in Washington State, so we have access to everything grown and made here. This collection features many great Washington State ciders and your best source for Washington cider. Nobody has nearly as many options in stock as we do.
Olympic Peninsula Cider: The western most part of Washington and home to the only rain forrest in the continental United States, three cider-makers call the Port Townsend area home. Alpenfire Cider is one of our absolute favorite cider-makers in the world, and routinely a best-seller in our store (shop | visit). Alpenfire makes traditional English style ciders, primarily featuring UK bittersharp and bittersweet cider apples grown on their certified organic farm. Finnriver Farm & Cidery (shop | visit) is a family friendly destination taproom that you can't miss on your way into Port Townsend. Finnriver makes a wide range of ciders including traditional cider, and fruit & botanical flavored cider. A visit to Eaglemount Winery and Cidery (visit) while in Port Townsend is also worthwhile. We enjoy staying at their estate bed-and-breakfast on their new orchard when we visit the area for a cider crawl.
Skagit Valley & Whatcom County: About an hour north of Seattle is Skagit Valley, one of the premier agricultural areas in the Pacific Northwest, especially for fruit and flower production. Alma Cider (shop | visit) of Mt. Vernon is one of the state's premier cideries. Head cider maker Dave Kawler manages his own orchards, and is pursuing a goal of helping plant 100,000 cider apple trees for others. Mt. Vernon is also home to an branch campus for Washington State University, and this Skagit Valley extension features a cider fruit research orchard, and hosts a world renounced professional cidermaking program that has been attended by many of the world's best cider makers. A bit further north of Skagit Valley is Bellingham and Whatcom County. Barmann Cellars (shop | visit) is a family operated, estate-based winery and cidery in the Nooksack valley. They make a variety of delicious cider, perry, co-ferment, and poubelle (what!?) products. Renaissance Orchards & Cider (shop | visit) in Blaine grows 100s of different cider apples and makes an exceptional keeved cider that is rare and worth the wait whenever it becomes available.
San Juan Islands & the Puget Sound: The entire Salish Sea (which stretches from the Washington's Strait of Juan de Fuca, through the Puget Sound, and north through the Straight of Georgia) has a deeper history for apple production and exporting than most realize. Before the development of a robust network of highways and railroads, homestead orchards and farms throughout the American and Canadian San Juans were selling apples around the world via ships that would navigate the Salish Sea. The original Apple Capitol of the World! San Juan Island itself is home to three excellent cidery and wine makers, all of which are making use of fruit grown on those original homestead era orchards. Nobody is keeping the tradition alive more than Piquenique Wines (shop | visit), who have begun to manage previously neglected orchards throughout the San Juans, picking up the harvests by boat and using the fruit to make highly sought after natural wines, ciders, and co-ferments. Madrone Cellars & Cider (shop | visit) have a beautiful tasting room in Friday Harbor. You can also schedule visits to their orchard and winery in the heart of San Juan Island. They make delicious traditional cider and perry, and release an excellent cider piquette annually. Westcott Bay Cider & San Juan Island Distillery (shop | visit) in Friday Harbor make a range of dry, English style ciders as well as an exquisite pommeau. We had Westcott Bay Cider poured at our wedding on nearby Orcas Island, the beginning of our cider sharing journey! on
Vashon Island: Just a quick 30 minute ferry ride from West Seattle, Vashon Island is home to three great cider-makers. An excellent choice for a day-trip for any cider lover that lives in or is visiting Seattle. Dragon's Head Cidery (shop | visit) is a longtime favorite, with one of the most scenic orchard based tasting rooms you can visit. Bring a picnic lunch and taste your way through some world-class traditional English style cider & perry. Just up the road is Nashi Orchards (shop | visit) who have specialized in perry products for years and have a growing reputation for excellent ciders as well. Shawnee Hill Farm may be new to market, but is no newcomer to making cider and spirts. Their pommeau is one of the best we've ever had, and we're eagerly looking forward to the release of their ciders.
Seattle Area: There are an abundance of fruit trees growing throughout Seattle's urban orchard, and there are a handful of cider makers based in Seattle who are making excellent ciders from apples grown and harvested in the greater Seattle area. Greenwood Cider (shop | link) makes the widest variety of cider styles of any cidery featured in our shop, from traditional ciders in their heritage series, to an array of flavored ciders. Using many foraged and wild-harvested ingredients, Greenwood is the only cider-maker pressing all of their fruit in the city. Empyrical Orchard & Cidery (shop) makes some of the most exceptional ciders on this entire list. Highly limited, small batch ciders that in 2023 were recognized by one of the largest international cider awards, GLINTCAP, as cider-maker of the year. Made primarily from fruit grown on their family orchard in Snohomish, just northeast of Seattle, and produced in the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle. Press Then Press - shameless plug: we're not a cider makers, but we have the best selection of cider in the city (state? world?) and you are welcome to pick ciders up from us if ever you're visiting Seattle!
- Olympia / SW Washington - Whitewood
- Central Washington - Snowdrift, Rootwood, Archibald James, Yonder
- Eastern Washington - Liberty Ciderworks