Shortly after our first son Reuben was born, he and Grace bought me a homebrew kit. I caught the brewing bug, upgrading my homebrew system three times in the next six months and brewing many, many batches. Just a few months later, as homebrewers, Grace and I poured at the Phinney Neighborhood Association’s Winter Beer Taste and won the People’s Choice award, and so Reuben’s Brews was born!
Fast forward a few years, and Reuben had a brother - Warren! Now almost 4 years old, Warren has said how he wished Reuben’s Brews was actually Warren’s Brews. We were in a quandary of how to be equitable for our two boys. We thought about having a beer named after him - but it seemed unfair for one child to have a brewery, the other to have a single beer. Over the next few years we continued to think about it.
About the same time as Warren was born, the law changed to allow cider to be poured in brewery taprooms throughout Washington State. We brought one or two local ciders into the taproom, and it became clear that people enjoyed having a selection of gluten free options.
This got me thinking of how cider is a big part of the drinks culture in the UK. I’ve now lived in Seattle for almost 15 years, but the first two thirds of my life were in the London and Windsor areas of England. I remember going on vacation to the Southwest of England and having traditional, local scrumpy from a jug (it certainly wasn’t called a growler!). Locally made, it was a hard cider, with lumps of apples literally floating in it. It was really strong, but delicious - and was certainly a good for a headache the next day! But cider has a strong place in the general pub culture in the UK - you always have one or more ciders on tap at the pub, it’s intrinsic to the offering of any pub. My dad will always have a cider in the pub, it’s very much engrained in people’s preferences. I’d regularly have one too, of course!
So given the change in the laws allowing cider in brewery taprooms right around the time when Warren was born, as well as my long time association and recognition to the importance of cider within the culture to which I grew up, it seemed like this is a natural choice to bear Warren’s name.
That said, Reuben’s Brews was keeping me fully occupied so it took some time to direct enough time to concentrate on Warren’s Cider. As we reached wrapping up the construction at our new brewery, that gave me enough time to focus on it.
I reached out to Roger Kee, a good friend of mine, and owner of Three Kees Cider, to see if he wanted to help me brew our first batch of cider. Reuben’s Brews is only able to brew beer - not cider. I needed a cidery to help me make this a reality. I’ve known Roger for nine years, back since our homebrewing days. He was an amazing homebrewer - winning Cider Maker of the Year at the National Homebrewers Competition before he turned pro. Roger’s ciders are wonderful, and I am a firm believer that his perry is unprecedentedly amazing!
Working with Roger, we came up with a recipe that fit the flavor profile I was looking for. We wanted a drinkable, balanced cider, that you could enjoy a couple of pints of - just like those ciders available back in English pubs, but with a “new world” flair. It was the Pub Cider I wanted to drink. One that tasted of apple, had an element of tannin, and wasn’t bone dry or overpoweringly sweet. A drinkable Pub Cider.
There are a lot of parallels between brewing cider and beer, but there are also a lot of things that are different. But one thing is for sure - just like with our beer, we do not take short cuts. We’ll start with how we want this cider to taste and work backwards - brewing unconstrained.
We use all Pacific Northwest grown apples in our cider. We work with a local supplier who provides us a blend of apples. This blend includes Fuji, Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Gold Delicious, Gala, Braeburn, Pink Lady and Honeycrisp. Our juice is never from concentrate - and you can taste the benefits in our Pub Cider. While delicate, it has more depth, and complexity, and represents apple more.
I spent a day with Roger working on the acid, tannin and sweetness profile of the new pub cider. I had a flavor profile in mind, and we worked on trying different blends of sweetness, different tannin levels, and the impact on the acid profile on the flavor. After a number of (very fun!) hours we came across the profile that met my original goal.
And so the journey of Warren’s Cider begins with our Pub Cider. We are starting with a one-off batch, that will only be available in the taproom. We are starting slow, just like the beginnings of Reuben’s Brews. But expect to see a lot more from Warren’s Cider as we continue on this journey.