Add cider to the list of Whidbey Island Grown.
And not the kind for kids, but the adult beverage that’s trending off the charts.
A 100-year-old heirloom South Whidbey orchard better known for its contributions to award-winning Spoiled Dog wine is also providing fruit and flavor for Driftwood Hard Cider.
“Our heirloom orchard includes a variety of apples and pears,” said Lindsay Krug. “Having this hand-tended source of fruit at our fingertips gives us the opportunity to produce craft cider to quench a range of tastes.”
Three years ago, Lindsay and husband Jake Krug decided to leave Denver and get into the family business — making wine. They didn’t think cider right away, but it was hard to ignore the prime ingredient falling from the family trees.
They made their first batch last fall and released it this spring. Called Whidbey Heirloom, it’s not too sweet, not too sour and smacks “local, local, local.”
The Krug family produced a moderate amount their first harvest. It’s now available at a few bars that serve it on tap — Penn Cove Taproom in Coupeville, Cozy’s Roadhouse in Clinton and Spyhop Public House in Langley.
Believed to be the first commercial cidery on Whidbey, the Krugs said it seemed a natural transition from crushing grapes to mashing apples.
“It’s similar to wine making,” said Jake. “But ultimately what the final taste will be like, you don’t know. We did a lot of tasting as we went.”
Turns out certain apple trees also favor Whidbey Island’s unique maritime climate that makes it an ideal location for growing Pinot Noir grapes.
The harvest, pressing, fermentation, filtering and kegging all takes place at a facility on the property of Spoiled Dog, the winery founded more than a decade ago by Jake’s parents, Jack and Karen Krug. Visitors to the 25-acre farm and wine-tasting barn off Maxwelton Road are sure to be greeted by two Australian shepherds, Sami and Brix, aka spoiled dogs.
Tart apples, the kind you want to immediately spit out, are best for making cider. The juice has to balance a blend of acidity, sweetness and tannins. King and Gravenstein, red and golden russet apples are in Driftwood’s mix, along with crabapples.
Bartlett pears are also popped in.
Jack and Karen Krug’s award-winning Pomo di Moro (apple of love) is an apple-pear wine made from the heritage fruit trees.
Peppering in pear with the first batch of cider seemed natural.
“We may do more backflavoring — plum, raspberry or cherry — introduce some of the other fruit that grows here,” Jake said.
Cider is basically fermented apple juice. By law, it has to have an alcohol content no greater than 7 percent, which is lower than most wine. Whidbey Heirloom is 6.5 percent alcohol by volume.
“It is a perfect bridge between beer and wine,” said Lindsay. “It’s a lower alcohol content than wine and sweeter than a hoppy beer.”
Quaffing hard cider is a tradition going back to colonial days. Founding Father John Adams is rumored to have consumed cider by the tankard every morning. For lunch, dinner, even working in the fields, cider flowed like water, often because its alcohol made it safer to drink than water.
According to recent Nielsen Data reports, local and regional cider consumption rose nearly 50 percent in 2017 over 2016.
Driftwood Cider is referred to as a sister company to the family’s Spoiled Dog Winery with Jake and Lindsay Krug the proud parents of the new enterprise (along with their two children).
“Our goal is to grow,” Jake said, “and increase volume and variety as consumption grows. Feedback has been that people love it and demand is high.”
The Apple State, naturally, leads the way in cider’s booming business. A decade ago, four or five companies produced cider in Washington. Five years ago that number had tripled. Today, 63 craft cideries dot the Evergreen State from Port Townsend to Pullman, according to cider blogger Eric West.