Port Townsend, WA
For the month of October, our Cider Partner of the Month is Alpenfire Cider! Alpenfire Cider is the West Coast’s first organic cidery, started by Philippe, Nancy, and Steve Bishop. Alpenfire’s website is currently under construction, but in the meantime, you can check them out on Facebook here.
We got the Alpenfire Cider scoop from Philippe Bishop, Partner of Alpenfire Cider out of Port Townsend, WA.
Alpenfire’s story begins back in the ‘70’s, when high school prom king and queen (and, later, husband/wife cider duo) Steve and Nancy Bishop found themselves sneaking up to Vancouver, BC to drink cider from plastic bottles. After years of attempting to make their own cider from Washington’s own Red and Golden Delicious apples, they decided the cider they were after needed more depth, and eventually ventured to Europe to learn more about their craft.
Upon returning from their tour through England, France, and Spain, they realized that the apples they were after were not readily available in the United States—so they began to grow these apples themselves. They cleared roughly two acres of land and spent the next few years with their son and cider partner Philippe preparing the soil and obtaining the right apple trees for their cider ambitions.
Their apple orchard was Certified Organic in 2005—and became the very first Certified Organic cidery on the West Coast. In 2006, they harvested and fermented their very first release, Extra Dry (now named Pirate’s Plank Bone Dry”).
Philippe explains that originally, Alpenfire “did not have acres and acres of well-established trees to graft on cider fruit to, or access to an orchard that could be ripped up and transplanted in our backyard…this was a labor of love, many years in the making. Our cidery was literally built from the ground up and is now producing world class, very small vintage ciders.”
First named “Wildfire Cider” as a tribute to partners Steve and Philippe’s backgrounds as Wildland Firefighters, the team soon found themselves in a trademark battle. Set on keeping “fire” in their name, they changed the name of their business to Alpenfire Cider.
A few of their most popular ciders include their Aerlie Red (AKA “Glow”), which is an 8.2% single varietal Rosé, their Pirates Plank, an estate Certified Organic old world bitter-sharp Dry Cider that comes in at 6.9% ABV, and their Heirloom Blend (AKA “Spark”)–a tasting room favorite and bottle conditioned semi-sweet cider.
For Alpenfire, “it’s all about the apple—not necessarily a recipe, but more a blend”. Philippe goes on to explain that “if the apple can stand on its own post-fermentation, [Alpenfire] does a single varietal, but if we feel it’s flabby or missing an aspect, we blend with another varietal or a couple of varieties to get [the taste] we want.” Even more interesting is what they choose to steer clear from—“things common here in the NW”, or things Philippe personally refers to as “Fruited Apple Drinks, or FADs”.
From their 2015 harvest, Alpenfire released eight cider varieties (plus a rotating draft line). Their 2016 harvest saw a total of 14 varieties, plus that rotating draft line.
As far as out-of-state distribution goes, they have a small footprint in Oregon and Vancouver, BC, as well as a few other cities in the works.
Alpenfire is working on a handful of exciting ciders, as well as revamping their branding and customer outreach tactics. Currently, they’re reworking their website, and working to start a cider club. As far as exciting ciders go, they’re bringing back their “Smoke” cider, their Estate Method Champenoise cider “Flame”, as well as a few others.
Although Alpenfire does currently have a tasting room, they’ll be closing their doors for the winter season to focus on press and fermentation. Don’t fret, however, because they’re looking to be open again and ready to rock sometime around March of next year. You can keep up with them on Facebook until their new website is finished, and be sure to sign up for their newsletter to keep up with all the exciting things Alpenfire has in the works.