Finnriver Farm & Cidery Journal

... This is a love story! Between trees and bees, people and the land, and folks and their fermentations.

A Love Story

Feb 1, 2020

Chimacum WA— February 3rd, 2020, 

This is a love story! Between trees and bees, people and the land, and folks and their fermentations. This month, we are highlighting the story of Finnriver’s Orchard Series ciders and the many relationships that make them come to life. To begin the story of any cider, we need to start with the trees...

Finnriver‘s ten acre cider orchard has its roots in the relationship we formed early on in our cidermaking journey with one of Washington cider industry’s early champions, Drew Zimmerman. Drew ran a cidery called Red Barn Cider in Mt. Vernon, Washington for many years, and kindly became our mentor as we founded our own operation in 2009. Finnriver co-founder and early cidermaker Keith Kisler recalls, “Drew was extremely generous in offering his advice and would answer the phone at all hours when I had questions for him about pitching yeast, selecting equipment and guiding unruly batches of cider.” When he retired, Finnriver had an opportunity to purchase the 1,000 traditional cider variety trees growing in his Skagit Valley fields. This transplanting adventure resulted in the first block of trees in Finnriver’s organic orchard in the Chimacum Valley. Drew continued to offer guidance and advice as those trees made a new home in the rich loamy soils of the Olympic Peninsula. Thanks to his mentorship and the ongoing care of our crew, we now grow over 6,000 trees with 20+ different varieties of heirloom apples and pears, and feature these unique and diverse fruits in the Orchard Series ciders.

The Orchard Series offers Finnriver partner and cidermaker Andrew Byers an opportunity to showcase the depth and diversity of traditional cider variety fruits and to tantalize the palates of cider enthusiasts. This part of the love story celebrates the senses! These apples and pears, cultivated for generations for their versatility and character, are classified according to levels of acidity, tannin and sugar content into the categories of sweets, sharps, bittersweets or bittersharps. The resulting ciders are a fermented feast of complex harvest aromas, flavors and finishes.

The Orchard Series ciders from the 2018 harvest include the Fire Barrel, Black Oak, Golden Russet, Perry, and Blue Hewe. “The tannins in these apples create structure and substance that you can feel with your tongue, your cheeks and your lips,” according to Andrew. “Each bottle is written in the trees so to speak. The orchard has been planted with these ciders in mind. Each year the land and elements expresses themselves as apples and pears, and my task and my passion is to ferment that expression and share it with the community.” Each of these releases offers a unique blend of beloved fruits, finishing technique and/or aging process. From the whiskey-barrel aged Fire Barrel to the blending of our home-grown organic berries into the complex crab apples of the Blue Hewe, these bottles all express our love for this land and community. 

Cameron Denning, Finnriver’s orchard manager and ‘guardian of the trees’ adds, “There are only a small number of orchards in the Northwest currently growing out these cider varieties (such as Kingston Black, Brown Snout, Frequin Rouge and Yarlington Mill)) compared to the more commonly grown dessert varieties like Honey Crisp and Pink Lady.” We continue to learn how best to support these trees to flourish here. Growing the fruit organically requires high levels of care and attention to the soil vitality and ecosystem health. Along with promoting biodiversity in fruit production, the Finnriver orchard is Certified Organic, Certified Salmon-Safe and is committed to conscientious farm practices such as rotational grazing of geese, water-efficient irrigation, habitat restoration and on-farm composting. 

Since our own orchard production varies year to year with climate conditions, we have also nurtured a series of connections with other regional orchards who can supply this unique fruit as well. In order to create one bottle of cider, many relationships and connections must be made — among both our wild and human neighbors! 

You can find the Finnriver Orchard Series ciders at our Chimacum Cider Garden & Taproom, and are distributed by request into Washington, Oregon and California territories. They are also available for purchase on our website Cider Store, where we can ship to most states.  

We wish you full cups and full hearts!