Oregon's craft-cider scene growing

I've always thought of ciders as the drink of the everyman. The common man.

Wine has this pedigree about it. And craft beer drinking lately has taken on the air of a Portlandia hipster. If you drink the wrong brand, you may draw a scowl.

But thankfully, you can order a glass of cider without worrying about any baggage being associated with you.

I've never had a waiter or bartender raise an eyebrow in judgment when I've ordered a cider.

I never really knew how much I loved cider, having lived most of my adult life in the Mid-West, East Coast and Texas. I just never took to those syrupy, sweet ciders that tasted like they were pumped full of high-fructose corn syrup and apple-flavor concentrate.

The Pacific Northwest is home to a burgeoning craft-cider industry. Walking down the aisle at Liquor Outlet or Capital Market, I'm amazed at the selection of ciders from Oregon and Washington. Heck, even Roth's has a big Northwest cider selection.

One of those cider makers you'll run across is 2 Towns Ciderhouse from Corvallis.

picture: bridesmaid dresses london

Founded by childhood best buds Aaron Sarnoff-Wood and Lee Larsen in 2010, the idea for 2 Towns was born from a sojourn in Europe.

Larsen spent almost four years living in Barcelona, Spain.

"In the northern region of Spain, there is a very strong Basque cider culture," he said.

Larsen also got to travel around France and the United Kingdom, which both also have a large cider industry.

"Aaron also spent a lot of time abroad, and he came to visit me once or twice. That's where we had our first experience with cider," Larsen said. Another childhood friend David Takush also traveled to Europe and later joined the company in 2011.

"We really just fell in love with cider but didn't really think that much of it at the time. We just really enjoyed hanging out and drinking cider," Larsen said.

When Larsen got back home, he really didn't notice much of a craft cider industry. It was glaring, especially since the majority of apples grown in the United States comes from Oregon and Washington.

"With the craft beer industry and craft beverage industry in particular in the Northwest, it seemed very weird that no one was making true craft cider," Larsen said.

"My wife actually bought me my first home-brew kit when I was just over the legal age limit. And I started experimenting with a lot of home brew, cider-making and wine-making. For my brother's wedding in 2009, I made a bunch of cider, and it was a big hit."

The first prototypes for what ended up being 2 Town's Bright Cider and Bad Apple actually was the cider served at Larsen's own wedding.

"We had them at our wedding," Larsen said, "and it was a huge hit. And that was the a-ha moment for Aaron and I."

That's when they decided to move forward with the idea to start a craft cider business.

Ciders made by 2 Towns fall into three styles: a dry French style, more robust British style and a wild Northwestern style. Their cider is sold on the West Coast from Alaska to California.

"Hard cider hasn't been in the limelight for a while, but now it's coming back," Larsen said.

"People are rediscovering them, and it's a very exciting time because we're all getting to shape what the future of American hard cider looks like."

One of the things that distinguishes 2 Towns is that they're growing their own apple orchard in addition to working closely with farmers who provide fruit. For their Rhubarbarian and Made Marion ciders, the fruit also is locally grown and freshly pressed for use in the ciders instead of using juice concentrates like some cider companies.

One of the companies flagship ciders, The Bad Apple, is an imperial-style cider fermented with local meadowfoam honey and aged in Oregon white oak barrels.

Ciders from 2 Towns were among the dozen ciders sampled by our tasting panel in our inaugural monthly tasting. Those included: Wandering Aengus Bloom, 2 Towns Made Marion, 2 Towns Rhubarbarian, E.Z. Orchards Cidre Dry, E.Z. Orchards Poire, E.Z. Orchards Hawk Haus Cider, Padre Nat's Tepache!, Finnegan Cider Semi-Dry, Atlas Pom-Cherry, Atlas Apricot, Blue Mountain Cranberry and Tieton Apricot.

Check out the top picks and comments from our tasting panel.

read more: bridesmaid dresses glasgow