By Marcy Stamper
Two ciders made by the Methow Valley Ciderhouse have snagged top awards at national and regional competitions.
Howling Wolf took the double-gold grand award of excellence for hopped cider at the Seattle Cider Awards, and the bronze award at the 13th-annual Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (Glint Cap) in Michigan. Glint Cap is the largest cider competition in the world, with more than 1,000 entries from a dozen countries.
Sly Fox, a new offering from the ciderhouse known as a single-varietal because it’s made from just one kind of apple, a Foxwhelp, won a gold medal in the traditional cider (dry) category at Glint Cap, and the bronze award in the Seattle contest. Sly Fox is smooth and semi-sweet.
Howling Wolf, a dry-hopped cider that’s fizzy and semi-sweet, is probably their most popular cider, said Richard Wasson, owner of Methow Valley Ciderhouse. It’s fermented with Citra hops from the Yakima Valley, which gives it a quality similar to an IPA in beers, said Wasson. Unlike Sly Fox, it’s made from four types of apples.
This year was the debut for Sly Fox, made possible by the abundant crop of Foxwhelp apples harvested last year. Foxwhelp is an old English cultivar favored for cider. Sly Fox is also unusual because it’s fermented with a yeast traditionally used in beer-making, rather than a cider or champagne yeast, said Wasson.
Cidermaster Dave Thompson suggested trying the beer yeast, which is astringent and fruity and lends a drier finish to the cider, said Wasson. The ciderhouse made 600 gallons of Sly Fox — one-quarter of its total cider output last year — and has just one-and-a-half kegs left. It will be at least two years before they make Sly Fox again because apple trees typically produce in alternate years.
The Methow Valley Ciderhouse typically makes six to eight ciders a year, with seasonal offerings that include pumpkin, blueberry or spice. Because of differences in temperature, water and sun, the flavors are always slightly different, said Wasson.
Methow Valley Ciderhouse has won awards for its cider in the past, including for Howling Wolf. The ciderhouse is currently harvesting and pressing this year’s crop of apples — 16 varieties of apples from 2,500 trees — and will bottle and keg the fermented ciders in the spring. Wasson also plans to make perry — cider from pears — this year.