Only five years into the recreational era in Oregon, the cannabis industry has evolved so fast it seems there's nothing anyone can do that hasn't been seen before.
Aaron Feiger wants to challenge that notion. The Seattle-based art director and owner of Pinball Creative, an award-winning marketing agency operating throughout the Pacific Northwest, has something new to share in the world of cannabis. And it started with some homemade hard cider.
"I started making cider out of my basement in Woodlawn about three years ago," Feiger says. "I went to a Harvest Party at Reverend Nat's, and the local homebrew store was there selling kits and apple juice for super cheap. It sounded like an easier thing to do than making beer, so I decided I'd give it a try. I fell in love with it."
Feiger went on to produce three ciders ranging in flavor from pineapple to strawberry to elderberry, all of which contain local ingredients sourced from the Willamette Valley. He now sells them at farmers markets in Portland and Seattle under the moniker Pinball Cider after brewing and bottling them in his basement, at times with a helping hand from his 4-year-old daughter.
"I'm a pinball fan and my daughter also loves pinball, so that name kind of came from the bond we have," he says. "I think it's also a fun name. There's something so synonymous with pinball and the Pacific Northwest too, especially here in Portland."
But the most eye-catching cider Feiger concocts is the one he can't legally sell—it's his THC-infused strawberry cider, named Strawberry Avenue.
His process when creating the cider came from simple trial and error until he got the recipe right. "I made some tincture and just experimented putting it in some cider," he said. "I'd never made tincture, never used it, but just realized, 'Holy shit, this works.' So for each bottle I'll put a 10 mg amount of tincture, fill it with cider, and call it a day. And you can feel it."
Strawberry Avenue has a rich, dry taste that ensures the sweetness of the local strawberries doesn't overstimulate the palate. When combined with locally sourced Honeycrisp apples, the hard cider alone makes for a thirst-quenching alcoholic drink. When Feiger adds THC, notes of cannabis are detected only after opening the bottle. The combination of aromas is tantalizing for both the avid cider fan and the cannabis enthusiast.
"Cannabis and hops are like cousins, they're related," Feiger says. "So when I'm mixing cannabis with cider, typically it'll be a cider that has hops so they can complement each other."
But while Feiger can't sell the infused cider, due to laws prohibiting the mix of THC and alcohol, he can still use it as a jumping-off point for the blend of weed and his design work. He personally creates the artwork and copy that encases each bottle and can, and it all boasts a sleek, sophisticated look you still don't find in many cannabis products. As a designer, Feiger understands that the seemingly granular details are often what matter most.
"I think as much as people are looking for great-tasting beverages, they're also looking for stories," Feiger says. "It becomes almost an added element to what they're consuming."
In an industry being transformed by an influx of money, Feiger's enthusiasm to create something new, despite the obvious lack of profit, remains refreshingly unconventional. Yet it's because of his other endeavours that Feiger can produce something new in the first place.
"Because Pinball Cider isn't the sole thing that's supporting me and my family, I'm able to do things that other people can't," he says. "But that's also by design too."
MORE: See pinballcreative.co/cidery.