Washington state is known for its wine and craft beer, but a lot of folks are still discovering cider. For many, it begins with a visit...to a garage in Seattle's Phinney Ridge neighborhood.
"To this day we still have people walk by and say, 'I walk this street every day and I had no idea this was here', which is so amazing to me. That means people are still discovering us which makes me happy," said Caitlin Braam, founder of Yonder Cider.
Started in January, 2020, Yonder Cider is a cidery based in Wenatchee with two Seattle locations, including the small but mighty Yonder Bar.
"We [initially] had plans for big taproom," explained Braam. "In March, 2020 the dreams of a taproom we realized probably weren't going to [come] true. then, they shut down the street in front of my house as a stay healthy street. My father-in-law was like, 'Look at all these people. You should just sell the cider out of your garage'. We did a little digging and after a lot of calls to the liquor control board and the city we opened Yonder Bar."
Yes, Yonder Bar is really located in Braam's garage. While the space itself certainly garnered plenty of attention, it's the cider that's truly unique and it's all made in the heart of Washington apple country.
"It's a special region because 65% of the country's apples come from Washington State and a lot of them from Wenatchee. Not only do you have culinary apples, but you have this beautiful cider fruit that doesn't grow a lot of other places," said Braam.
At Yonder's production facility in Wenatchee, head cider maker Tim Larsen and his talented team blend speciality cider apples and culinary apples, like Granny Smiths, to create a cider that's affordable, aromatic and, of course, delicious.
"What we really want is for you to sit down with friends and enjoy this (cider) from start to finish, so much so that you're going to be talking about it with your friends," said Larsen.
The cider making process is extremely complex. In a lot of ways it's similar to winemaking. At it's most basic level, apples are first washed then grinder, before being juiced in a massive bladder press. From there, the juice moves into tanks for fermentation, aging, then blending.
"It's directly from here, after we carbonate, that (the cider) goes into the finished cans, kegs or whatever format we're selling it," said Larsen as we checked out the tanks. "This is where all the various pieces we've worked on all year long come together in the final product."
It's not just cans. The cider making team is also experimenting with barrel-aged, single varietal ciders. Many of the single varietals end up at Yonder's sparkling new taproom in Ballard. Dog and family friendly, and boasting an expansive outdoor area, the space is a collaboration between Yonder and Yakima's Bale Breaker Brewing Company.
"One of the most beautiful things about the new taproom is it doesn't just have beer or just cider. It has both. It also has seltzer. It's going to have wine from us soon," explained Braam. "I think that's the beautiful thing you can't get a lot of places in a taproom setting. We're finding a lot of people excited to explore.
Whether folks choose to enjoy Yonder cider at the taproom or in the comfort of their own home, each can, each glass, is a product of careful craftsmanship and a celebration of Washington apples.
"It's all thoughtful, it's all our team and we're all very passionate about it," said Braam. "I hope they feel that passion and excitement when they're enjoying our ciders."