33930 SE Eastgate Circle, Corvallis, 541-207-3915, 2townsciderhouse.com. Noon-6 Tuesday-Wednesday, noon-8 Thursday-Saturday, noon-5 Sunday.
Three friends from two towns launched this cider house in 2010, just before the great cider boom. They're energized; you can see cider master Dave Takush's bright pink hat and dreadlocks pop around the tasting room to talk about various experiments. And there are a lot of experiments. On this day, 20 different beverages are available—only four not made here. Dry ciders made like wines bear the Traditions Ciderworks label. Exotic offerings, like ginger and marionberry, are branded 2 Towns. They also pour bottled meads from neighboring Nectar Creek Honeywine. 2 Towns says the Outcider, an unfiltered cider only available here, is the closest thing to pure apples—to me, it tastes like watery apple juice. The cidery even owns an orchard and has a three-year plan to plant 700 new trees. LYLA ROWEN
Drink this: The bourbon barrel-aged Nice and Naughty, only available in its tasting room. The bourbon-aged cider mellows out the tart bite in bottled Nice and Naughty.
Bull Run Cider
7940 NW Kansas City Road, Forest Grove, 509-336-9181, bullruncider.com. By appointment only.
The accomplishments of cider makers and orchardists Pete Mulligan and Galen Williams are even more astonishing when you consider they both have demanding full-time jobs—Williams as a research assistant in ophthalmology, Mulligan as a global business development manager. During their nights and weekends, they found the time to study cider making, cultivate nearly 60 varieties of apple and 10 varieties of pear on their eight leased acres, and start a thriving business that tripled in sales in one year. In early 2014, they will be opening a new tasting room in downtown Forest Grove. While they are justly proud of their flagship Powerhouse Dry cider—made from a blend of English bittersweet and American heirloom apples—their more daring experiments are more interesting, from using local blackberries, marionberries and boysenberries, to freezing pears to concentrate the sugars and alcohol. Their longtime mentor and business partner, Shawn Shepherd, must be bursting with pride. ADRIENNE SO.
Drink this: The Creekside Cranberry Perry, made from fermented pears and sweetened with cranberry juice. The pear's subtle backdrop makes the cranberry flavors sparkle.
1212 SE Powell Blvd., Suite D, 445-0577, bushwhackercider.com. Noon-11 pm Sunday-Thursday, noon-midnight Friday-Saturday.
Today, the idea of opening a cider-only bar seems almost old hat, thanks to the recent boom in craft versions of the apple-based libation. But when Bushwhacker opened in the Brooklyn neighborhood in 2010, it was the country's only cider pub. That mission hasn't muddied: There are now eight ciders and not a single beer on tap, and the coolers hold hundreds of bottled ciders from around the world. It's an unassuming and homey place, with dartboards on one wall and a mural on the other, and a golden-tinged painting of two girls in an orchard that looks like it belongs in a children's book. Bushwhacker only makes a few of its own libations—the caged-off area in the back can't support much more. Honestly, you're better off skipping the cidery's meager attempts, which are often flavorless (the house dry is little more than alcoholic water) or flat-out offensive. There's an annual smoked cider, too: The 2013 batch, made from a blend of apple varieties hand-smoked over applewood, tasted like liquefied campfire and was peatier than most scotch. REBECCA JACOBSON.
Drink this: A taster tray—five samples for $7—is the best bet, as Bushwhacker always has a range of ciders on tap, from candy-sweet to toe-curlingly tart.
320 SE Booth Bend Road, McMinnville, 474-8845, carltoncyderworks.com.
When walking down the beer aisle in a grocery store, your eyes may have noticed a bottle with two Colonial-era men duking it out. That label—along with use of the olde-tymey word "Cyderworks"—is an homage to cider's Colonial roots. The venerable, gluten-free concoction is in the midst of a renaissance. It's more than the saccharine alcoholic apple juice you'll encounter at bars; cider can come in a wide range of styles. There's the Citizen, an English-styled cider made with traditional cider apples. Spices meld wonderfully with the apples to produce the liquid apple pie that is Auld Lang Spice. Carlton will also be bottling a second batch of the purple blueberry-flavored Duke this year. "The goal is to make every one of our ciders taste distinct," Carlton Cyderworks president Mark Bailey says. "Not everyone may like every cider, and that's OK." JOHN LOCANTHI
Drink this: Auld Lang Spice, our No. 5 Cider of the Year. Some spiced ciders are overpowered by the spices. Some taste almost imperceptibly different from regular cider. Like a slice of apple pie in a bottle, Auld Lang Spice finds the sweet spot in between.
Cascadia Ciderworkers United
1813 NE 2nd Ave., 567-2221. 5-10 pm Thursday-Saturday, noon-5 pm Sunday.
There's the blue can and the green can. You know what's in them: cheap and reasonably delicious hooch. You know what's not: gluten. "Rev" Nat West of Cascadia Ciderworkers United isn't overthinking his canned entry-level offering, which is produced with its own label. There's one ingredient: apples. The blue can is a dry varietal blend, green is straight-up Granny Smith. Unlike the Reverend Nat's high-end bottles, the CCU aluminum line, launched in August 2013, moves with workmanlike purpose through West's Northeast Portland facility. In fact, it only goes on draft in the house taproom when specialty ciders run out. West dreams of a day when PBR fans happily plunk down 10 bucks for a four-pack at Plaid Pantry. Till then, find CCU's 16-ounce tall boys raising the bar on supermarket cider without leaving New Season's bottom shelf. RAMONA DeNIES.
Drink this: Lest you believe Rev Nat is a one-fruit wonder, look in spring 2014 for the return of Tepache—a Mexican pineapple wine made with piloncillo sugar and spices.
As a teenager, Abram Goldman-Armstrong worked as a farmhand at White Oak Cider in Yamhill County, picking and sorting apples. In 1995, he went away to Macalester College in Minnesota, where, at age 17, he made his own batch. "I got some Red Delicious apples from the dining hall, a cheese grater and two plates—that was my press. I borrowed a carboy from a homebrewer in my dorm," he says. The rest is history. Well, almost. The mutton-chopped Goldman-Armstrong also developed interest in beer, punk zines and soccer, which is why he's known around town as the thoughtful editor of Northwest Brewing News, organizer of the organic beer festival, and capo in the Timbers Army. Now, for the first time, he's got his own boozy business. Cider Riot's first kegs won't be out until the end of February (keep an eye on Apex, Cheesebar, Sasquatch Brewing and Saraveza), but we're stoked on samples from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission-approved cidery inside the detached garage at his Mount Tabor home. Beer guys are safe starting with Everybody Pogo, a hopped New World cider designed for "the Cascadian palate," but we're more excited for his English-style 1763, a nuanced but heavily tannic drop in the tradition of South West England. MARTIN CIZMAR.
DRINK THIS: 1763, named for the year of the English Cider Riots (what, you thought this was a punk-rock thing?), it's a big signpost pointing the direction Oregon cider should go in the years to come.
5504 Hazel Green Road NE, Salem, 393-1506, ezorchards.com. 9 am-6 pm Monday-Friday, 9 am-5 pm Saturday.
E.Z. Orchards makes cider that's more like fruit wine. The champagne of Oregon ciders, this all-apple beverage is pressed mainly from traditional French cider apples. You first taste the sparkle, then a dryness, then, finally, the apple. It's a well-balanced, celebratory drink to share with friends. Because this Salem cidery bottles before fermentation is complete, the cider goes through a second bottled fermentation thad adds effervescence. At $14 or more per bottle, it's not cheap, but it's very good. LYLA ROWEN.
Drink this: Willamette Valley Cidre.
How serious is Finnegan about its contribution to the ever-growing cider boom? So serious that founder Josh Johnson planted 2,000 cider trees on his own orchard in Sherwood. He tends to them on his off days, when he's not working as a neurologist at Providence Hospital. And, eventually, the good doctor would like to make operating Finnegan his full-time job. First, though, is that pesky five-year waiting period for the trees to bear fruit. In the meantime, Finnegan has gotten its apples since 2010 from a nearby orchard that delivers cider apples that constitute its three crisp varieties—the creatively named Dry, Semi-Dry and Semi-Sweet. All three clock in at 8.5 percent ABV and are showing up at places like Whole Foods, Bushwhacker and Beer Mongers. While there are currently few reasons to visit the Finnegan orchard (unless you really like looking at rows and rows of saplings and mounds of dirt), Johnson does soon plan to open a tasting room on the property, which his lazy ass will man in between being a farmer, family man and doctor. AP KRYZA.
Drink this: Semi-Sweet.
15713 Highway 47, Yamhill, 730-7535, kookoolanfarms.com. 11 am-5 pm Friday-Saturday, anytime by appointment.
There's a point where, as you're weaving your way through the winding back roads of Yamhill County, you begin to wonder whether it's really worth it. I mean, you can find Kookoolan World Mead at Belmont Station. But it's not about the mead so much as the experience. The curly-haired, ebullient mead maker and self-styled "mead anthropologist" Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor guides you on a tour through the world of mead, from the crisp and dry to the syrupy sweet to some resembling liquid apple pie. The recently opened tasting room resembles a simple family kitchen and dining room, albeit with about 85 different meads, dessert wines and braggots—a concoction straddling the line between beer and mead—to choose from. You may think of mead as a simple, honey-based drink when you step up to the counter. That may be reinforced after a sip of the delicious Kookoolan Semi-Sweet Table Mead made from homegrown honey, but then Zaerpoor pours you a glass of the hoppy, liqueur-like Nordic honey wine GI Dansk Mjod (19 percent ABV). Hops can be used as a flavoring agent in mead, she says, though certain Celtic tribes used heather blossoms instead. Next, she pours a glass made with apple juice, called "melomel." This is just a fraction of the information Zaerpoor imparts while holding your hand through the tasting. You may walk in a neophyte, but you'll walk out an aficionado or, at least, less of a neophyte. JOHN LOCANTHI
Drink this: Semi-Sweet Table Mead, a delightful honey concoction that isn't too sweet and isn't too syrupy, it's simply good.
Portland Cider Co.
Opened in 2012, this Oregon City cider house already has its twin flagships, Kinda Dry and Sorta Sweet, on tap at 20 places in the metro area. The company is still waiting on an Oregon Liquor Control Commission permit for its taproom, which will serve tasting flights, pints and growlers of small batches of its recent experiments, like this spring's pear cider and a cider steeped in juniper berries. LYLA ROWEN.
Drink this: Buy a bottle of the Kinda Dry and Sorta Sweet, and mix them together for your perfect personal balance.
Reverend Nat's Hard Cider
1813 NE 2nd Ave., 567-2221, reverendnatshardcider.com. 5-10 pm Thursday-Saturday, noon-5 pm Sunday.
Nat West is out to destroy all you believe about cider. Last summer, he made the Sacrilege Sour Cherry, a cider fermented with lactobacillus and 168 pounds of sour pie cherries that I described as smelling like a basement and tasting like past-expiration yogurt. (Others had more favorable responses.) More recently, he's been at work on "Code Name: Hopland," a project inspired by Boneyard Beer's biggest, booziest beers. He tapped the first batch in December—just a single keg, clocking in at 8.2 percent ABV—which was hoppy and somewhat musty, if too light on the nose. A single sip of either offering will quash any notion that cider is the domain of sorority girls and gluten phobes: These are grown-up tipples, meant to be gently sipped rather than glugged. Same goes for the bone-dry Revival or the session-style Ciderkin, for which West re-presses spent apple mash and adds four types of citrus zest—imagine an ultra-tart, grapefruit-forward radler. They all go down easy in Reverend Nat's Kickstarter-funded taproom, a 3,500-square-foot warehouse in the Eliot neighborhood that recalls a cozy, wood-walled ski lodge, complete with a cushy brown leather sofa and indoor heat lamps glowing orange. REBECCA JACOBSON.
Drink this: The Belgian-style Hallelujah Hopricot, a yeasty quaff finished with hops and apricot juice that drinks like a buttery saison.
4070 Fairview Industrial Drive SE, Salem, anthemcider.com.
"Our tasting room sucks," says James Kohn, owner of Wandering Aengus and Anthem. The company pays more attention to the apples. Harvested from traditional European cider-apple tree clones brought to the Northwest, Wandering Aengus' apples include fruit like the rare Ashmead's Kernel. Because of apple selectivity, Wandering Aengus is tied to the harvest cycle, pressing all of its apples at one time. Wanderlust is at first dry and effervescent, the sweetness comes later. Its Anthem subsidiary presses apples year-round, taking advantage of modern growing techniques and using any apple that does the job, including the ones we eat (Braeburn, Pink Lady) and leftovers from Wandering Aengus' crop. The resulting taste in Anthem's traditional cider is full and complex. Instead of adding flavors, sugars or malic acid, Anthem adjusts flavors with other apples. "Our work really starts in the field, like wine," Kohn says. Although an Anthem hop cider and Anthem bourbon-aged cider test different techniques in the kitchen, apples are ultimately the main event. "The future of cider, at least in our perspective," he adds, "is that different varieties of apples make different ciders." LYLA ROWEN.
Drink this: Look for the Wickson Crab Apple Single Varietal or, from Anthem, the hop cider that landed in our top five of the year.