Oregon Mead & Cider Co. creates award-winning, dry sparkling meads and ciders from premium Northwest ingredients. Their offerings include Free Press Ciders — a perfect balance of dry and tart; Queen Meads — hand-crafted from single-source honeys; and Worker Meads — crisp and dry and made from honey from the Cascade Mountain range.  Try Oregon Mead & Cider Co. all February in our Cider Partner of the Month Flight at Capitol Cider.

You’ll taste three 3oz cider samples:

  • Dry – Completely Dry (6.5% ABV): Ultimately made from a recipe so easy you could make it at home, this dry is made from Northwest grown apples and fermented completely dry.
  • Hopped – Tangy and Daring (6.5% ABV): Taking the same blend as the dry, then introducing Cascade hops into the mix, this cider is tangy and a bit out-of-the-realm for the normal cider drinker.
  • Cyser – Traditional Mead/Cider Blend (6.5% ABV): Bringing a bit of old school into the mix, to make a cyser means to blend a fermented Mead and Cider; lucky for us, they make both in a very restrained way.

The man behind the beverage at Oregon Mead and Cider is Chief Fermentation Officer Brooks Cooper. He has been crafting beverages for more than 25 years and let us in on a few of his crafting secrets below.

Q&A with Chief Fermentation Officer Brooks Cooper

What made you want to start making cider and mead?

I felt that the current group of professional mead makers were not exploring everything that this beverage category can be. I wanted to make a sparkling, refreshing session mead that could go head to head with ciders and lighter beers. I saw an untapped market and wanted to serve that customer.

You used to be Stung Fermented, what spurred on the name change?

Since our launch in Oregon in May 2015, we’ve grown to the point that we have distribution agreements as far east as Georgia. “Oregon” has instant recognition in the craft beverage market and our marketing team felt that identifying ourselves as Oregon’s only company making both premium mead and premium cider would help our market penetration in states farther east of here, and so far, we were right.

What was the hardest part of starting your business?

As with most small business start-ups, balancing the ever increasing demands the company places on my time and my family life is a constant struggle. I’ve had to make big changes in how I manage my non-work time to prioritize personal relationships I value. It’s a struggle, but one that is very rewarding.

Tell me a bit about your process for making your mead and cider?

Unlike beer, apple juice wants to ferment. We don’t have to mash, sparge or boil any of our products prior to fermentation. At its simplest, mead is simply honey added to water and yeast.

As for mead, I have designed a carefully controlled process that minimizes the chance of loss of varietal flavor from the honey and ensures a clean, healthy ferment. Primarily, this involves heating the honey to make it less viscous, but only as much as necessary. We never heat our honey beyond about 102 degrees F. Further, when mixing it with water I designed a mixing vessel specifically for our process.

Finally, our sanitizing regime for equipment and very careful attention to the health and growth needs of our chosen yeasts ensures a stable, efficient ferment that produces exactly the flavors we want.

With ciders, it’s all about apple choice. With our “Free Press” line of ciders we’ve chosen quite intentionally to use only dessert apples (that’s the industry term for the eating apples you can buy at a grocery store). We then scale our recipes to homebrew sizes and make them available to our customers to try at home. For that reason, all our “Free Press” ciders do not use cider specific apples which are harder for the consumer to obtain. This doesn’t mean that we have ruled out using cider-specific apples in future recipes, though.

Finally, one other thing we do that I’m very proud of is barrel age many of our meads and ciders. In fact, our “Worker” line of session meads is transitioning to be 100% barrel aged. We predict that by the end of the second quarter of the year, this will be the only session mead style we offer. And, we won’t be raising the price because of barrel aging. I don’t know any other supplier that has chosen to do that, and I’m very excited to bring premium, barrel aged meads and ciders to the mid-price point craft customer.

Name one cider that changed your life….
Cider Riot’s Burncider. I’ve admired Abram’s craftsmanship since I first met him at the Imperial Taproom on SE Division in Portland. It’s been great to see his success and growth moving in the same direction Oregon Mead & Cider Co. is going.

His Burncider really strikes me as something you’d get on tap at the local pub in England’s West Country. It’s a great, traditional cider which stands out from the American crowd.

What are you doing when you’re not making cider?
Spending as much time as I can with my awesome partner Christine. Marveling at the antics of my two insane French Bulldogs. Riding and racing motorcycles. And every now and then I sleep a little.