Let’s Have an Orchard Party
Double Mountain, Hood River, Friendship:
We have always been inspired by the majestic nature and soulful culture of Hood River. We’ve been windsurfing, trail running, skiing and beer, wine and cider traveling there for as long as Zeeks has been a thing. Given its place in the world and the people behind the tanks and barrels, it comes as no surprise Double Mountain has consistently pumped out inspired beers and ciders, going on 14 years (this St. Patrick’s Day will be their 14th Anniversary).
I have been friends with the Double Mountain crew for many years, and what feels like a lifetime in beer years (things evolve fast in craft beer). We first partnered up to pour Killer Red Fresh Hop Ale back in 2016, back when fresh hop beers were even more niche than they are today. We doubled down on fresh hop and poured Killer Green at hop harvest the next year. Since then, we have poured their kolsch, Devil’s Kriek (barrel-aged Belgian sour beer with cherries), Heirloom Estate Cider, and Perry.
That friendship, history and shared stoke culminated in this collaboration that we couldn’t be more pumped about: Orchard Party Cider.
Orchard Party Cider:
Matt Siordia, friend and Double Mountain rep approached me about a collaboration cider concept in summer of 2020 and it was an easy and emphatic Hell Yes. After coordinating some logistics, we decided to launch the collab with our spring tap lists at our 18 locations across the Puget Sound. I appreciate and respect their approach to cider making, and we get the honor of being their first ever cider collab partner.
So, we had to make it special: Not only were we going to slap our names on a cider, we were going to head down to Hood River and create the thing from scratch. And not only were we going to run with it for just spring tap lists, we were going to age it in oak for our summer tap lists. And not only were we going to barrel age it for another menu run, we were going to put fresh Hood River fruit in the barrel aged version for our fall tap lists. All in all, this is the start of a 9 month / 3 season / 3 variant collaboration cider program that is crafted with passion from start to finish.
First step was to head down to Hood River to make the first batch of cider. I drove down with Matt and met up with Matt Swihart (Double Mountain founder), Mark, Tyler, and Jen from the production crew, and Andrew (longtime sales manager and friend). We sampled multiple single varietal ciders (ciders made with only one apple variety as opposed to a blend of apples) and tasted a bunch of different apple varietals raw over the course of an afternoon to pick the perfect blend of apples for our cider. I wanted a cider on the drier side that was bright, crisp, approachable yet complex. Something more akin to a dry white wine, except with apples instead of grapes. Once we picked out the apple varietals and yeast strain (yeast plays a crucial role in flavor in cider and other adult beverages), we rolled up our sleeves and sorted the apples to make sure only the best and brightest made it into our cider. Then, we did barrel tasting of cider that Double Mountain was already aging in different oak barrels for different amounts of time and dialed in what flavor profile we wanted for the barrel-aged version of the cider. We landed on a flavor that will be subtle in oak and vanilla flavors to compliment that brightness and acidity from the clean cider. We haven’t yet chosen which fruit will go in the fruited barrel-aged version, but it will definitely be fresh from harvest and be from the famous Hood River fruit loop. Rhubarb and berry is the focus of conversation at the moment, but we’ve got some time.
After all this painstaking, hard work (sarcasm), we still didn’t have a name. Naming a cider or beer can be challenging. We wanted the name to speak to the friendship and values Double Mountain and Zeeks share, and one common value we have is fun. We live in a wonderland of beer, cider, and pizza (Double Mountain makes killer pie too) – If you’re not having fun in that world, you should probably look inward. I hear a party in an orchard in Hood River is fun. In fact, Matt Swihart hosts an orchard party annually in non-pandemic times and I look forward to joining when I can. In the meantime, let Orchard Party inspire the party: With your tastebuds, at our restaurants, and wherever and with whomever you want to party with (growlers and crowlers available for delivery and takeout).
More on Orchard Party:
Style: Heritage Dry
Appearance: Pale Citron
Aroma: Pear blossom, crisp apple, mineral
Mouth: Tart raspberry, lingonberry, kiwi, pomelo pith
Finish: Honeydew melon, cantaloupe, wet mineral, dry, light acid
Apple Varietals: Cortland, Elstar, Golden Russet, Newtown Pippin, Winesap, Wickson, Arkansas Black