I came, I saw, I drank cider. Apparently I’m no longer a small minority either, as thousands of Seattleites joined me to do more of the same this past Friday and Saturday, September 6-7, at South Lake Union Discovery Center.
As both a volunteer and a paid attendee, I’m going to break down the event from this unique perspective.
1. There was a lot of cider
While organizers called this summit the “largest-ever”, I’m not sure if that’s based on cider vendors or attendees. What I know is this: it would be been extremely expensive to sample every cider offered at $2/ticket, and Saturday was so packed I ended up leaving early because I couldn’t talk to the cider makers without holding up the lines.
2. The cider was local
Save for Woodchuck (note: the pumpkin wasn’t that bad) and likely a couple others I didn’t recognize, all ciders in attendance were both sourced and produced locally. We had a ton of eastern Washington companies, along with Montana, BC (Canada), Oregon and California. I was looking forward to “trying” Uncle John’s again, but Virtue Cider was the only Michigan cider maker I saw in attendance.
3. The location was great
Super-easy parking at Whole Foods across the street (buy a snack and they’ll validate), along with great weather equaled a more than comfortable cider experience. There were plenty of tables, tons of card games for strangers to play — Cards Against Humanity is a great icebreaker — and lots of chairs, adding up to a far more social experience than what we had in Portland. Bigger sponsors like Whole Foods helped quite a bit here.
4. Organization was iffy at the beginning
Due to late equipment, too much responsibility on one person and some late arrivals, Seattle Cider Summit opened nearly 40 minutes late on Friday afternoon. While the people in line seemed to take it in stride, giving them extra drink tickets and a free handout was just enough to get them in without them being too pissed.
Nitpicking aside, the event seemed like a huge success. I even had a PR guy from a big California wine company — he would only say he works for the largest winery I’ve never heard of — ask me about where cider is going, what the industry needs to expand and my thoughts as to what cider was to most people. I answered with the same things everyone else seems to: cider is where craft beer was in the ’80s, more education and especially food pairings and beer for wine drinkers and wine for beer drinkers. Maybe they’ll hire me someday to talk cider, but until then, I’m happy with lots of drinking.
It was also cool to hear David White of Whitewood Cider and the Northwest Cider Association talk about cidermakers going “all in” (raising more money) to expand awareness about the cider industry. While I wasn’t able to talk to him much during the event, I hope to chat with the guy when Washington Cider Week is over and he’s done being a full-time fermented apple ambassador.
My favorites from the summit included Northland from Whitewood Cider, Sour Pomegranate from Schilling Cider, and Smoked Pumpkin, paired with some spicy chocolate, from Tieton. Until next year!