If you go
What: Westside Wassail: A Song & Cider Fest
When: 4:30-9 p.m. today, 2-9 p.m. Saturday, 4:30-9 p.m. Sunday
Where: Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Cafe, 1740 N.W. Pence Lane, Bend
Cost: Free admission
Bend is so much more than a beer town.
Today through Sunday, Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Cafe will host the second annual Westside Wassail, a three-day celebration of music and hard cider.
Seven cider brewers and one meadery, all from Oregon and Washington, will be on hand throughout the weekend, accompanied by three days of live music.
Headlining this year’s event — at least for local cider fans — are ATLAS Cider Company and Red Tank Cider Co., both of Bend.
“The whole country is becoming more of a cider place, not just Bend,” said Drew Wilson, the head of sales at Red Tank.
Wandering Aengus Ciderworks from Salem, 2 Towns Ciderhouse out of Corvallis and Milton-Freewater’s Blue Mountain Cider Co. will all be at the Westside Wassail, as will Washington cider houses Schilling Cider from Seattle and Tieton Cider Works of Yakima.
Nectar Creek Honeywine, a meadery located in Corvallis, will also be pouring goodness at Broken Top Bottle Shop.
“People are starting to realize there’s a lot of different cider options out there, similar to beer,” said ATLAS Cider owner and operator Dan McCoy. “Now it’s to the point where I’m really trying to educate (consumers) on the difference between mass-produced ciders using flavors versus a product like ours where we use just juice to flavor our cider. It’s a more authentic cider.”
The Pacific Northwest in particular has seen a microbrew-like explosion in cider houses in recent years. The Northwest Cider Association boasts 35 cider makers, the majority of which are located in Oregon and Washington. Bars, brewpubs and growler fill stations around Bend — GoodLife Brewing and Crux Fermentation Project, for example — now dedicate at least one tap to cider, something unheard of just two years ago.
“The craft cider drinker, they enjoy all the different craft beers and now they’re looking for something with a completely different flavor profile,” said McCoy, whose cider house offers cherry, apricot and Oregon berry ciders in addition to its flagship hard apple cider. “Cider realy fits that mold of something that is made locally and in a completely different way.
“Being in the Northwest where we have the best fruits in the world,” he added, “it makes the perfect place to showcase cider.”
For cider makers, having a cider-specific event like the Westside Wassail is the next step in bringing hard cider to the masses.
“Every time we’re doing something, whether it’s a small tasting, (the Bend) Brewfest or an event like this, it’s absolutely more exposure,” Wilson said. “But things like the Cider Summit (in Portland last summer) and the Wassail, you get more people that know and appreciate cider. You can spend less time on education (about cider) and just show that Red Tank has really good cider.”
McCoy agreed that events like the Wassail are good for the cider corner of the industry: “It’s great any time people can taste a variety of ciders from a variety of companies and fruit,” he said. “Don’t assume all ciders taste the same or are all made in the same way. An opportunity like this … people have the chance to find a cider that fits their personal preference, meet local cider makers and discover new local options.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0305, email@example.com