Wild-Harvested Ciders

Greenwood Cider Co. ciders evoke nostalgia, the unpredictable, and the wild that can only come from straying from the path.

STORY BY NICOLE CAPOZZIELLO
PHOTOS BY BROOKE FITTS

Cider Makers: Marshall Petryni, Andy Short, and Ryan Short (left to right)

In a nondescript building off Lake City Way, a place that thousands of people whiz past per day, sits Greenwood Cider Co. In the same building is a guy who builds boats, while farther down, another person bags toffee. Inside Greenwood Cider’s space, tanks of cider sit fermenting while, on this particular Monday, five-gallon buckets of berries thaw at my feet.

On the shelf in front of me sit pieces of an apple press, packets of yeast, and unlabeled jars filled with a deep indigo liquid: huckleberry juice. “And what are those?” I ask, pointing to a small stack of round, perfectly smooth, cross-sections of stumps next to the jars.

“Oh, those? Those are mock-ups of tap handles,” says Marshall Petryni, cidermaker at Greenwood Cider. “I never thought we’d have to make tap handles. But I think they’re turning out pretty well.”

When Marshall moved to Seattle eight years ago, he worked at a local CSA as the only employee. Through this, he one day came into a lot of apples and, eschewing the obvious route of making Waldorf salad for all of Greenwood, made cider.

From the beginning, for Marshall, as well as for friends and Greenwood Cider co-founders Andy and Ryan Short, cidermaking has been a means of creating something out of what they’ve found or been given, for experimentation, to forage for seasonal ingredients in the mountains and lush forests of the Pacific Northwest. Since its nascency, Greenwood Cider has embraced possibility, crafting unique, small-batch, unfiltered ciders with a sense of place.

When Greenwood Cider started in 2014 (or, as Marshall puts it, five pressing seasons ago), all three lived in Greenwood, though they started making cider in South Lake Union. After losing that space, they moved to their current location, which they’re quickly outgrowing. But like good craftsmen and small business owners, they’re nimble, making the most of current conditions.

At this point, Marshall is principal cidermaker and in charge of sales; Andy manages the day-to-day operations; Ryan covers the administrative duties. All, of course, take part in the cidermaking process.

During harvest season in the fall, Greenwood Cider gets apples from friends with orchards; hunts on its own for abandoned orchards and wild apples like crabapples; and buys apples from Eastern Washington. After Andy arrives with a truckful of apples, it’s pressing day. Starting with an apple press, they press out the juice, which then goes into large tanks where it’s combined with a dry wine yeast to begin the fermentation. The cider hangs out in tanks for about 10 to 12 weeks, with the cidermakers checking on it along the way.

Unlike most cideries, Greenwood doesn’t filter any of its ciders, so the yeast isn’t filtered out and neither are any of the flavors they’ve achieved. Finally, the finished cider goes into kegs, where it’s carbonated and then either bottled or sent off to bars where it’s on draft. A 105-gallon tank yields 68 cases of 12, 16.9-ounce bottles.

A few ciders, such as the Dry Cider and Fire Roasted Pepper Cider, are made year-round, while others, like theBlush (Four Berry Cider) and Black Currant Asian Pear , are seasonal. Others still, such as the recent Hips and Tips (rose hips and Douglas fir tips), run at bars and breweries, until they sell out.

A new Barrel-Aged Three Raspberry Saison Cider is set to premiere this year, along with a Lingonberry Cider. Keeping things interesting for them — but still approachable for the average American consumer, who’s often used to cider being one-dimensional and sweet — is a constant challenge, even in a more adventurous market like Seattle.

A lot of Greenwood’s cider goes to Fremont’s Schilling Cider House, which regularly features the Fire Roasted Pepper on tap, and also to the taps at Capitol Cider, Ravenna Brewing, and Chuck’s Hop Shop Greenwood. The bottles are sold around town at places like Volunteer Park Cafe, Mammoth, Town & Country Markets, and local farmers markets.

Greenwood often gets berries for its Blush (Four Berry) Cider at local farmers markets — for a deal. “That’s one of the great things about being part of that community,” says Marshall, who also works at Patty Pan Cooperative — a fixture at the Seattle farmers market scene — for years.

“We generally can’t get the apples we like to use in August, which makes for some natural downtime. And,” Marshall says with a smile, “August also happens to be huckleberry season.” He nonchalantly mentions harvesting their own huckleberries, which can be a lot of work for a handful, much less a bucketful or several. But recollecting these times, Marshall lights up, and it’s clear that this connection to nature is what brings the guys at Greenwood Cider the most joy.

And this passion gets channeled into creating a beloved product, their popular Huckleberry Cider. “People here have such an emotional connection to huckleberries,” says Marshall. And it’s true — at the mention of the fruit, I’m transported to a Labor Day hike I did in the Cascades years ago, my fingertips stained for a day afterwards. I remember it as one of the best hikes I’ve ever been on, in no small part owing to the surprise and joy of stumbling upon a patch of wild huckleberries, the flavor of each berry exploding in my mouth, each one different from the last.

As I sip Greenwood’s Huckleberry Cider, I’m far from the traffic of Lake City Way, the cement floors, and the crate I’m perched on. Their cider, memorable and complex, evokes nostalgia and, at other times, the unpredictable, the wild that can only come from straying from the path.


Nicole Capozziello grew up in her family’s Italian restaurant in Wisconsin. She is a freelance writer and tour guide at Theo Chocolate.

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