Apple Drunk: My Portland Cider Journey
There’s nothing like sipping a frosty cold beverage on the patio of your favorite neighborhood Brew Pub. Somewhere in SE Portland a budding film project is currently being created over a few pints of artisanal brew. An artist sketches a suspendered, man bunned hipster wearing suspenders, while happily sipping the seasonal special. Wandering a few blocks in the drizzle to catch up with good friends or watch the Trailblazers game is part of our culture. It’s what offsets paying outrageous Portland rents; or perhaps the cause of them.
Though known for its vast number of artisanal breweries, not all of us who reside in Portland are beer fans. Believe it or not, many of us enjoy a frosty cold beverage that isn’t bitter, chewy, or looks like it has a yeast infection. Portland folks aren’t afraid to speak up about their tastes. Ever heard the old joke, “If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy?” Betchya Momma was from Portland. We are a demandingly vocal crowd. Thankfully, the Brew Masters paid attention to the hops haters, and hard cider has become a common option in local tap rooms and brew pubs alike. We now can be Apple Drunk.
Just as not all beers taste alike, local ciders vary in sweetness vs. tartness based on the Brewer’s recipe. Of course, this is also affected by seasonal varieties that include blackberry, marionberry, pear, strawberry, pineapple, and apple pie (a personal favorite), but the gold standard is basic apple. It’s fermented apples, it’s just about the sugar content, right?
After all, apples are apples. Green is tart. Red is sweet. Right? Apple Drunk is apple drunk.
The Pacific Northwest knows all about the many, many varieties of apples available; nine of which are grown in nearby Washington State. You’ve got your Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji, and Golden Delicious, to name a few. All adding their individual properties of tartness vs. sweetness. One must be at one with their preference in apples to know how to choose the right cider for their tastes.
I remember a time at the grocery store with my mom (who grew up on 48th & Hawthorne) when I was a child. We’d picked out some beautiful Granny Smith apples for a healthy snack, excited to soon devour them with caramel dip. In line at the check stand, a kind elderly woman let my mom know that she’d bought some of those apples just a few days before. They were horribly tart, so sour she couldn’t eat them. The Golden Delicious were much sweeter. That’s how we liked them; my mom explained. Granny Smiths were supposed to make you pucker.
It’s probably not a shock to hear that I prefer my ciders on the tarter side. One might call me a green apple gal. After all, it was a red apple that poisoned Snow White. As red as I get is a Honeycrisp. With that in mind, I set out to try all the artisanal ciders I could get my hands on, finding all too many were overly sweet for me.
Another thing I discovered was a vast difference in the bottled/canned vs. on tap effects. A great many ciders gave me heart burn. Interestingly, some of them I was able to enjoy on tap without having to later down antacids; while others were an acid reflux experience regardless. Perhaps the Millennials can down them with no concern, but this Gen Xer was quite shocked to find the same brand cider purchased at the grocery store was a night of pain. Yet, the same cider at the pub was fine. Most of these ciders were made by breweries whose primary focus was beer. And then I discovered Portland Cider Company.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I can’t remember the name of the pub. I’d just moved back home after eight years living on Kauai. It was one of those dives in the 60th & Foster in SE Portland. The band was horrid. The bushy bearded, tattooed bartender half my age scoffed at me for ordering a Pabst Blue Ribbon. Apparently, PBR was OVER! He offered me Rainier.
My grandfather drank generic beer. A white can that said BEER in black letters. He called it his “Bird Beer,” because it was cheap. He said it tasted like PBR. He would have never allowed a Rainier to pass his lips. There’s a reason for that. It’s friggin’ horrible.
“So that’s the new hipster beer?” I eye rolled at him. “How very Longmire.”
I saw Portland Cider on the drink list and ordered a pint. It was glorious. Tart. Sweet. But not too much of either. Went down easy. I drank four more. I wasn’t driving. I had my Damsel in Defense stun gun, which was necessary for a woman walking alone at night in this neighborhood. It was my first apple drunk. I loved it.
This was the beginning of my cider journey. Silly me, island life had made me forget about the level of information geek that is Portland. My bad. I should have googled them. I hadn’t yet fully reintegrated to the current here. Shrugs.
I came back full circle a good two years later. I’ve always been a late bloomer. This was after buying various canned/bottled cider brands at the store after trying them on tap. Not that great of an Apple Drunk, either. Few compared Portland Cider in the bottle. It was literally the only one that did not give me heart burn in both situations.
Looking up their website, I found that their year round cider contained Granny Smiths, Golden Delicious, and Honeycrisp, as well as those other red apples less thrilled about. It’s crisp, tart, with a hint of sweetness that makes it refreshing and fun. Not the highest alcohol content, but high enough to give a properly fuzzy Apple Drunk.
With a 5.5% alcohol content, it’s an Apple Drunk that won’t leave you stumbling and fumbling for your Tum’s. The bit of red apples lends a sweetness that isn’t all sugar, while the green apples still give a gently tart bite. Price points can be high depending on your neighborhood (I’m looking at you, Pearl District), but if your taste in ciders tends toward the tart side, it’s worth it.