Sweeter is not always better, as one South Whidbey cider maker is hoping to show people.
During his time spent deejaying in London, Christopher Powell learned to appreciate a drier type of cider. While adjusting to the pub culture, he started drinking English dry cider.
This type of cider, he explained, is characterized by its lower sugar content.
Back in the states — where he and his wife, Anna, currently live — Powell sought out cider that was similar to what he had drunk across the pond.
But it wasn’t a very fruitful search.
“There’s this misconception that Americans just like sweet cider,” Powell said. “I couldn’t find the cider I liked, so I decided I would just try to make it.”
And so Misfit Island Cider Company was born about two years ago, although the Powells have been fermenting cider for longer than that.
Things have really branched out within the last year when Powell, who has been working from home, found time to focus on his cider craft.
“The whole COVID thing motivated me to step up what I was doing,” he said. “I kind of had a much longer time frame to do this all.”
The couple have planted 15 different varieties of trees which produce apples used in French and English ciders. Powell hopes to have 150 trees total.
For now, he has had to settle for using “community-sourced” apples in his cider while the trees grow.
In some of his ciders, Powell uses fresh hops, which are from Perrault Farms near Yakima. He encourages beer drinkers to try his cider, because the taste of the hops isn’t muddled by other flavors.
Misfit Island Cider Company’s newest flavor, which is a coffee cider, is a collaboration between the cidery and Mukilteo Coffee Roasters.
Powell added 25 pounds of coffee beans to the cider two weeks before bottling it, and added lactose sugar — which is unfermentable and gives the cider a creamy texture — a few days before bottling. Upon first sip, it’s similar in taste to a stout beer, but after a few moments it evolves into something more acidic and similar to a cider.
If the words “dry cider” makes those with a sweet tooth out there cringe, not to worry. Misfit Island’s ciders are palatable without being overly bitter.
Powell explained that he tries to use several different yeast strains in the cider-making process. He has always admired the potential for experimentation in microbreweries, and has been doing the same with his microcidery.
A nod to his career as “CJ the DJ,” the ciders are all infused with reggae.
“There is a lot of study around live organisms and positive music helping with its overall growth,” Powell said. “During all primary fermentation of any of my batches I play loud reggae out here for the first week and a half.”
The cider is aged for three to eight months, depending on its kind, in Powell’s garage that he hopes to turn into a tasting room when COVID is not an issue anymore.
Powell is self-taught, but that hasn’t stopped him from mastering the craft.
“It’s been very scary for sure because I don’t really know what I’m doing and whether I’m doing it right,” he said, “but I read a lot and try to get as much information as possible, and practice makes perfect.”
Misfit Island’s cider is available at the Bayview Taproom, the Penn Cove Taproom, the Greenbank Farm and several restaurants. Bottles, which are 22 ounces, range in price from $10 to $12 and are available for purchase.
To get a growler filled or to schedule a private tasting, email firstname.lastname@example.org.