Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider Signs with Columbia Distributing

Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider
Contact: Nat West Phone:
Phone: 503-567-2221

Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider Signs with Columbia Distributing

Portland, OR 07/10/12 – Just a few months into its first sales, and effective immediately, Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider has signed a deal with Columbia Distributing to distribute all products in the Oregon and Washington markets.

The quickly-growing cidery began as a hobby six years ago and is located in the Reverend’s basement in the historic Woodlawn neighborhood of NE Portland. Current market offerings include the flagship Revival Dry and the popular Deliverance Ginger. The first new offering under Columbia Distributing will be the celebrated Hallelujah Hopricot, followed closely by Sacrilege Sour Cherry, Providence Traditional New England and the limited-release Revelation single-variety series.

Columbia Distributing boasts the longest history of cider distributorship in the Pacific Northwest with many well-known cider brands. The large distributor also plays well with the locals, recently adding Portland beer scene favorite Hopworks Urban Brewery to its lineup. Reverend Nat’s will produce almost 4,000 gallons this year and expects to expand significantly under partnership with Columbia Distributing. The Reverend says, “I can drink my cider. Portland can drink my cider. Now more people can drink my cider.”

News from Reverend Nat: Update & Launch Party Plans

Bottles Now Available

I’ve been telling everyone that I’ll have bottles in stores on June 1st, but secretly I was hoping to get it out a month earlier. Everything came together like clockwork in these last few weeks so you can find my bottles on store shelves now. Two weeks ago, I delivered cider to eight fine establishments and this week, I added another one. Many more retailers have expressed interest so I’ve dropped off sample bottles to forty-one of them all around the Portland metro area. That should certainly result in some more retailers carrying my bottles. I have many more places to hit, and orders for cases are coming in regularly. I am self-distributing so it takes some work introducing publicans, owners and managers to my cider, but it’s been great to meet so many people and visit some neighborhoods that I don’t know very well. You can check out the full list of updated retailers carrying my cider here.

Because I’m self-distributing, I need your help finding the right places to carry my cider. Hooters? Probably not. McMenamins? No, they make their own cider. Your favorite foodie restaurant down the street specializing in regional fare? Absolutely yes! Let me know where you’d like to see my cider and I’ll work my hardest to get it there. Thank you for your help!

New Varieties Soon

Right now, the only cider available in bottles is Revival, my flagship cider. This is the cider that I launched Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider to make, but since then I’ve had so many amazing ideas for new cider blends. I’m also getting recipe help from Travis Scrivner, a neighbor and brewer who is an innovation genius. I call him my Director of Cider Research. We have experimental batches bubbling away in the basement with such crazy additions as hibiscus, saffron, lemon extract, black tea, smoked salt… not to mention all the yeast trials we’re doing like Czech pilsner, French farmhouse, Roselare… the list goes on! Most of these batches won’t see a store shelf, but some of them might be available in limited amounts from my upcoming planned tasting room. (See below!)

Starting around June 1, I’ll have my second cider available in bottles and in store coolers, Deliverance Ginger. I am very excited about this batch because it combines my favorite booze with my favorite soda! I use squeezed ginger root for a powerful ginger tang, but carefully balance it with cider so the apples really shine through. I have a double-batch of this cider ready for bottling which should last a good while. I’m thinking it’s going to be really popular, especially as the warm summer weather hits.

After Deliverance, I’ll release two single-varietal ciders in my Revelation lineup. The first one is Revelation Winesap, followed by Revelation Newtown Pippin. I have three more for release throughout the year. The idea with the Revelations is to find good apples that make good cider and teach people what a wide range of ciders can be made just by varying the apples. For each Revelation, I am using the same cultured yeast, not backsweetening at all, never pasteurizing, never adulterating with chemicals, and always finishing with an in-bottle fermentation. After Winesap and Newtown Pippin, I have Revelation Api-Lady, an ancient apple eaten by both Pliny the Elder and Julius Caesar; Revelation Granny Smith, which we all know and love as a great cooking apple but it also makes a great hard cider; and a special micro-batch of Revelation Kingston Black, arguably the world’s finest cider apple, available around Christmas. I’ll be offering four-packs of Revelation ciders for the holidays.

I have two more ciders planned for release this summer. They are really far out there: Hallelujah Hopricot, a Belgian abbey style cider mixed with hops and apricot, and Sacrilege Sour Cherry, a sour cherry kreik lambic style cider fermented with lactobacillus. That’s cider-nerd-speak for awesome recipes! And I’ve even got a cider in the works for the cold gray of winter: Providence Traditional New England, a spiced oaked cider a bit like mulled wine. I can hardly wait!

Summer Events

The biggest cider event of my summer is Oregon Cider Week, June 23-31. It is presented by the Northwest Cider Association and showcases my own cider and many other excellent ciders at tastings, pairings and special events throughout the week. It all gets started on Saturday June 23rd with the Portland Cider Summit at the South Waterfront. At least 25 cideries will be present and I’m promising blue skies above while pouring delicious samples all day. There will be bottles available to take home if you find something you especially like. After the Summit I’m holding my Week-Long Mobile Launch Party. (See below!)

In addition to the Cider Summit, my cider can be found at these events:

Oregon Zoo Brew, June 1st, 5-10 PM
I will be pouring through 30 gallons of Revival at this benefit for the Oregon Zoo and a kickoff for summer.

Portland Fruit Beer Festival, June 9th & 10th at Burnside Brewing
One keg each of Sacrilege Sour Cherry and Hallelujah Hopricot will be pouring at the Specials/Rotating taps. I don’t know exactly when that will be, so you’ll have to stick around for both days.

Summer Cider Day in Port Townsend, July 7th
This annual event is a great chance to taste all the ciders made by members of the Northwest Cider Association under one roof.

Keep an eye on on this page for all the details including new events as they’re added throughout the summer.

Expanding Production Space

If you’ve been by my cider cellar, you’ve seen how, ahem, “cozy” it is. I have managed to cram 2000 gallons of cider into 200 square feet of space. As a result, I have to be a contortionist to take gravity readings and there are a few spots that only my 8 year old daughter can get to. (I’m not kidding.) And that’s just the basement! I grumble about the driveway being too rough to easily move bins around, and I grumble about the garage being full of empty bottle storage and I grumble about tripping over hoses. And my friends and neighbors grumble every time I ask them for help unloading apples. Enough is enough!

For the last few weeks, I’ve been working with a commercial real estate broker and we’re close to putting in a lease offer on a warehouse in Kenton, near the Paul Bunyan statue. It’s a big space with plenty of room to grow. My cidery square footage will increase by over 2000%! I’ll be able to bring bins inside during pressings, have plenty of room for tanks and bottling equipment, and room for bottled inventory storage. And a forklift! And what’s most exciting is that I’ll be able to open a tasting room to serve you. I’ll have the classic stuff you can get on store shelves but also special release batches too small to print labels and sell in stores. I’ll start off being open one or two days per week and see how it goes from there. I don’t want to say too much until it’s a sure thing, but right now I’m hoping for a July move-in. Of course I’ll have a grand opening party and a fall harvest party and a catered cider dinner party and all kinds of other parties. Speaking of parties…

Week-Long Mobile Launch Party!

And now to what you’ve been waiting for – my LAUNCH PARTY! I’ve had such great support from so many retailers that I couldn’t favor just one for my launch party. So here’s the deal. Each weeknight of Oregon Cider Week, June 25th through Jun 29th, I’ll be doing free tastings. I’ve also convinced the bar owners to pour cheap pints when I’m there doing tastings. $3 pints to be exact. And each night there will be a different keg on tap. So that’s five evenings, five chances to try my full lineup of ciders, and five different kegs of cheap cider. I know I’ll see you there! Find all the details here.

Talk to you soon!

How to open a commercial cidery in your basement, part 2

Before you get your hopes up for a licensed cidery in your basement, there are two incontrovertible difficulties you must overcome: city zoning and an exterior door.

I’m in the City of Portland Oregon, which allows two types of home-based businesses: Type A and Type B. Which one you select should depend on your plans for the cidery. In my case, I was concerned about being denied at any stage of the game by any government entity so I stuck with the simplest, requiring no neighbor notification.

Whichever type you choose, you have to stick to its rules. Even if I had chosen a Type B, there are restrictions on customers visiting and operating hours. Part of my business plan includes a healthy retail business via a tasting room. I can’t do that at home; I need a commercially zoned building for it. So I knew from the beginning that the basement was just a way to get thing started.

So wherever you live, you have to ensure that the kind of cidery you want to run can be legally run from a zoning point of view, in your home.

The second incontrovertible difficulty is the necessity of an exterior door. This requirement isn’t unambiguous. It stems from your State and the Federal (TTB) wanting to preserve their tax money. When you go into the business of producing alcohol, you immediately pick up two business investors: the state and the feds. When you make your first gallon of booze, they are entitled to their tax cut, whether you sell it or not. And they have to be convinced that you have sufficient means and systems in place at your cidery to protect their taxable booze.

There are numerous examples (dig around online) of people getting denied for their attached garages and numerous examples (The Commons Brewery, ENSO Winery, others) getting approved for their detached garages. The takeaway consensus among homebrewers is that if there is an exterior door from the bonded space to the outside world which prevents you from siphoning off booze into your residence, then things are good.

The TTB requires a floor plan (and so did the OLCC, even though the documentation says I didn’t need to provide it to them since I’m not doing retail sales), showing the location of locked doors and windows and any other doors into the cidery. On my floor plan, (available to download here), I left off the existence of the rest of the house but I did explain it in detail to the agent once we got to talking. This was a calculated risk and I don’t recommend leaving anything out. I’ve heard bad stories of applicants being “forgotten about” when they had to update their documents.

The OLCC and TTB agents assigned to my case were extremely friendly and helpful although not very prompt nor responsive. They’re obviously just overworked but they do recognize the value of more alcohol being sold. If you are unlucky enough to have your application assigned to a cranky agent but have the same layout as me, you might not get approved. It’s all about convincing them of the security of the taxable cider.

So if you don’t have an exterior door, you might get a reeeeally friendly agent, but don’t count on it. The application fees aren’t inexpensive (and you have to have your bond before you can apply), so I would hate to hear about you going down that road and not getting approved.

Up next in the series: construction details and space planning.

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:

A sincere thanks

I am most indebted to the following folks, in no particular order, for their excellent assistance. Thank you.

Jeff Smith, Bushwhacker Cider, for everything.
Mike Wright, The Commons Brewery, for all your help with the startup.
Drew Zimmerman, Red Barn Cider, for sharing your experience at the forefront of American cidermaking.
Rich Anderson, Westcott Bay Cider, for all your contributions to the Cider Workshop.
Andrew Lea, Wittenham Hill Cider, for teaching me how to make cider.
Ryan Sharp, ENSO Winery, for all the licensing assistance and confidence.
Keith Kisler, Finnriver Farm & Cidery, for showing me around, answering questions and giving me a target to aim for.
David White, Whitewood Cider & Old Time Cider blog, for being such a great spokesman.
Steve, Nancy and Phillipe Bishop, Alpenfire, for all sorts of advice and consultation.
Travis Scrivner, Bret Winkler, Kiersten Sorenson, Liz Crain, for help grinding apples.
Mark Crowder, for the grinder.
Jeff Siri, as consiliare.
Trevor Millund, for everything.
Morgan Miller, for industry advice.
Jafer Patterson, for your “been there, done that” advice.