Cider House Rules
An attraction to apples
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
When my coworker and I were dropped off in front of Herb’s Cider’s production facility on Mercer Avenue late Sunday afternoon, we weren’t sure what to expect.
As part of Washington Cider Week, we’d been invited to a traditional Basque Txotx dinner being prepared by Chef Christy Fox and Shannon Fox of Evolve Chocolate + Cafe, and had been told the seven-course feast would be paired with liquid libations chosen and crafted by head cider wizard Chris Weir.
It was clear upon our arrival this wasn’t going to be a typical evening out on the town. Gleaming silver tanks and an assemblage of machinery dominated the warehouse space off of Marine Drive—as did a mile-high tower of canned hard cider—but a long, artfully decorated table set for approximately 24 people had been seamlessly integrated into the middle of the facility for the unique event.
After being introduced to owners Shama and Tim “Herb” Alexander and Weir, revelers were told the Txotx (pronounced “Choch”) would hew to the typical Spanish traditions. After each course, there’d be a “Choch!” call-and-response, and we’d bring our empty glasses to be refilled with the next featured cider out of one of the casks, bottles, or tanks. Before the next course was served, we were encouraged to mix and mingle.
In between revelatory courses of egg custard, roasted cod with green peppers, pork sausage with Malbec-soaked apples and cider-infused blueberry mustard, grilled tri-tip steak, aged sheep’s milk cheese from Northern Spain, and caramel apple cake, we learned more about our hosts, and about the cider renaissance currently occurring in Bellingham and beyond.
Shama told us she and Tim hadn’t been setting out to open a cider-making business when they fermented their first batch of cider in their garage in the fall of 2016. The apples and pears left over from their garden after a bumper crop prompted Tim to rent an apple press, and the delicious hard cider that was the end result of the experiment paved the way for Herb’s Cider to come into being.
A few years later, Weir and the Alexanders are committed to the craft of cider making. They use only traditional methods, don’t add sugar to flavor their products, and procure organic fruit from around the Pacific Northwest.
In addition to running a tasting room on Bay Street in downtown Bellingham that will celebrate its second anniversary with a block party dubbed “Herbsstock” Sat., Sept. 14—read more about it in our music section on page 16—the cider that is coming out of the ever-evolving production facility is being sold at a growing number of area grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, bars, theaters, and even other cider-focused establishments.
In fact, Bellingham Cider Company co-owner Bryce Hamilton was on hand at the Txotx event to lend his support, and discussions with other guests led me to believe the number of people who love making cider and tasting cider—a pastime I could get used to after sampling Weir’s amazing concoctions—are growing by the day.
Washington Cider Week will go out with a bang on Saturday, but that doesn’t mean celebrating cider has to come to an end. With a growing number of cider houses in Bellingham—including the new Thousand Acres Cider House, Lost Giants Cider Company, Bellingham Cider Company, and Honey Moon Mead and Cider—the party can go on and on.
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