GERVAIS, Ore. (KOIN) — About six years ago, Christine Walter got serious about producing cider. Her family, a multi-generational farming brood, was skeptical.
“They were like, ‘That’s a total fad. Nobody’s going to drink cider,'” Walter said, but in a family meeting, she convinced them to give her a little corner of a barn to make her cider in. Now that little corner has grown into Bauman’s Cider, sold all over Oregon and Southwest Washington.
KOIN 6 met Walter (née Bauman) the last weekend of September at Bauman’s 4th Annual Cider Festival. It’s part of Bauman’s Harvest Festival, which has been a fall staple in the Willamette Valley for more than 30 years.
The family invited 19 cider makers (plus themselves) to show off their best concoctions.
“I love the crowd that’s here, people are very interested in the cider, and it’s kind of on message to be right out here on the farm,” said Kelly McCune, co-owner of Runcible Cider in Mosier.
“It’s how you build brand loyalty,” Walter said. “They’ve seen it made. They’ve seen the apples being pressed. It just gives them a little bit of ownership of the identity of the cider.”
‘A scientist at heart’
Walter’s degree is in biochemistry, so she describes herself as “sort of a scientist at heart.” She’s dabbled in kombucha and sour krout, beer and wine. One day she had her first commercial cider at a restaurant and it got her thinking.
“We’ve been making juice my whole childhood,” she said. “It just occured to me that, it’s not that big of a leap to stick it in some tanks and ferment it, add a little yeast.”
So she took her background in science, practiced a bit, and convinced her family to give her that first corner in the barn.
Now, Bauman’s Cider continues to grow year after year. In 2018, it produced about 1,036 taxable barrels of cider, according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. This year, it has already surpassed that number, with several months to go.
‘It’s a fun time to be a cider maker, in the Northwest especially’
“Here in the Northwest we’ve gone through the craft beverage comeuppance with beer … and then with wine and pinot noir,” Walter said. “Cider’s just the baby in all of that. Cider’s the new thing.”
With that newness comes a certain camaraderie among cideries.
“We all talk, we get along, we collaborate we share ideas, we share equipment, we share experiences, what’s working, what’s not working,” she said. “It’s fostering this environment of great innovation and great experimentation among us.”
Walter has traveled all over America and Europe, observing their cider making styles. She said there’s more willingness to experiment in the Northwest.
“We’re doing whatever we feel like doing,” she said. “Like the putting of fruit in cider, that in the Northwest is being like, we’re the groundswell.”
For Bauman’s cider, Walter tries to use as many ingredients from her family’s farm as possible. Which is easy, since they grow pretty much any crop you can think of.
If there are lots of extra berries one year, expect some to be used in the cider. This year was great for peaches, she said, so some peach flavored bottles are on their way.
In another nod to the farm that started it all, there is a cider named after great-grandpa Stephen, who homesteaded Bauman Farms in 1895 and, in the 1900s, made his own hard cider in the barn with the traditional method of fermenting apples in barrels.
The cider festival may be over, but you can visit Bauman’s year round and taste their cider in the farm’s store. Meanwhile, Bauman’s Harvest Festival continues through the month of October with fun for the whole family, including hay rides, corn mazes, a pumpkin patch, and much more.
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