News from Reverend Nat: Early Spring Update 2012

Spring update! In the last few months, the new cider business has gotten very real in a hurry. My licensing is complete, I’ve got 1000 gallons of cider aging in the cellar, some early-release cider is on sale now, I’m printing bottle labels this week, I’m pressing apples for another 1000 gallons of cider, and my bottle debut is April 4th. Read all about it below.

Fully Licensed

A few weeks ago, I got my final approval from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and the Taxation & Trade Bureau (Federal) so now I’m fully licensed to produce, blend, bottle and sell cider (and wine) in Oregon. I submitted my paperwork back in December, so it was a bit of a wait, but not too bad. The licensing process was pretty easy. It seems that all the various governmental agencies are happy to get more taxes. And as far as I can tell, I’m the first licensed & bonded cidery located in a residential basement in the country! I’ve started a series on the licensing and start-up process on my blog: How to open a commercial cidery in your basement, part 1.

Big Apple Pressing Underway

Last week I transferred about 1000 gallons of finished cider into some aging tanks in the cellar to free up room for another 1000 gallons of cider. As of this writing, I have sixteen 800 pound bins of apples in my driveway and we’re pressing them this week. We got some great varieties from cold storage including Newtown Pippin, Winesap, Lady (not Pink Lady), Elstar, Sonata, Rome, Granny Smith and Braeburn. From this juice, I’m planning three different blends for sale. The first blend is codenamed “Genesis”, a semi-sweet yet tart, light and bubbly number. It will be easy to drink, especially with food and on a hot summer day. I plan to have this blend available year-round henceforth. The second blend is codenamed “Yankee Doodle” and follows the tradional New England Style cider recipe. I say “recipe” because it includes other ingredients like raisins (150 pounds), brown sugar (132 pounds) and cinnamon & nutmeg. After fermentation it gets lightly oaked on Bourbon-soaked American oak, then bottle conditioned to dryness with honey. This blend will be high alcohol (over 9%), vinous, spicy and complex. The third blend is codenamed “Belgian Trinity” and is the craziest of the bunch. My esteemed colleague, the noted Professor of Cider Research, Mr. Travis Scrivner, has developed three batches we’ll hopefully blend together. One has lambic yeast with 168 lbs of tart cherry puree and lactobacillus (sour!) culture. The second has a Belgian farmhouse yeast, and is chock full of spices like grains of paradise, bitter orange peel and coriander seed. The last uses a simple ale yeast from the Chimay brewery in Belgium. If nothing else, it’ll be an exciting blend!

If you want any fresh juice or fresh apples, or just want a quick tour of the cider cellar, stop on by early this week before the apples are all gone.

Cider On Tap

With final licensing comes the first sales of cider. I just dropped off a keg of early-release Revival atBushwhacker Cider located at 1212 SE Powell, one block down from the Aladdin theater. It should sell out quickly so get in there as soon as you can! There are over 150 different bottled ciders available for purchase too. They’ll be carrying all of my blends in bottles once they’re available. Speaking of which…

Bottling Update

June 1 is my target date for bottle sales at Portland-area bottle shops. Bushwhacker will be carrying bottles and I’m hoping to be at Beermongers, Belmont Station and other fine shops. Occasionally, cider will be available on tap. This week I’m sending my finalized label to the printer, which is prominently displayed above. Check out the new tagline: “The Apple’s Deepest Purpose Realized.” In order to do the first bottling run, I’m waiting on a 275 gallon “brite tank” which is a large pressure-rated stainless steel tank. The finished cider goes in it, a CO2 tank is hooked up and within a few hours, the cider is carbonated and ready to bottle. In the meantime, I’ll be doing a very small run of bottles to be enjoyed at the upcoming Cidermaker’s Dinner at clarklewis restaurant.

Cidermaker’s Dinner

The Northwest Cider Association (which includes 18 cideries in Oregon, Washington and Montana) is hosting a Cidermaker’s Dinner at clarklewis in Portland on April 4th. All the details are available here: Two of my early-release ciders will be there, Revival and Deliverance Ginger. Chef Dolan Lane has tasted ciders from NWCA members and is crafting a cider-soaked dinner to complement the drinks. Cider infusions, marinades, sauces and reductions should be expected along with two ciders paired with each of the four courses. Cidermakers will be pouring from bottles to start the evening, and available to talk cider throughout. This will be the first public release of my cider in bottles. I hope the labels will be done in time and I hope to see you there!

How to open a commercial cidery in your basement, part 1

A few weeks ago, I received my final licensing from the City of Portland, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) and the Taxation & Trade Bureau (TTB, Federal) as a new bonded winery. The cidery is in the basement of my house, and as far as I can tell, I have the first such basement cidery in the country. (UPDATE 6/27/12: It has come to my attention that the Maloney family of West County Cider began their operation decades ago in their basement.)

To get to this point required a lot of construction, a lot of research and a lot of help from others who have been licensed in garages. For the most part, figuring out what to do and who to talk to and all the steps needed was the hardest part of the job. The actual licensing paperwork wasn’t too bad, nor too costly.

Over the course of the next few blog posts, I’ll run through each of the major aspects of the licensing: construction and building requirements, licensing procedures (and costs), and micro-sizing common commercial winery practices to fit in a basement.

Now Hiring

I am hiring for a temporary full-time worker in the coming weeks. The job includes running a high-throughput apple grinder for long periods of time. We work 10 hour days with no weekend breaks. Must be able to repeatedly lift 50+ pounds and stand all day. I have approximately 7 days of work.

Pay is negotiable and includes all the fresh apple juice you can drink. Email me nat at revnats dot com with your qualifications.

Hard Cider For Sale!

Soon, anyway. I have final approval from the TTB (Tax & Trade Bureau, an arm of the ATF, US Dept of Treasury) and the OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission) and the City of Portland. Did I miss any? The hardest part of the licensing is figuring it all out, not doing the paperwork, not getting approved. The investigators I’ve dealt with at the OLCC and TTB have been great people. I’m sure they’re happy to see more cider being made and taxes being paid. As far as I can discover, I am the nation’s first commercial winery in a residential basement.

Next week I’ll be pressing apples for cider. I will keep you all posted for when and where my cider will be available. I’m aiming for June 1st in bottles. In the meantime, you can try some at the Cidermaker’s Dinner here in Portland. I’ll have some pre-commercial cider available for diners to enjoy, although I can’t sell you any of it. Here’s the link for that: