Saturday, October 10, 2015

Portland's NW Ciderfest Serves up Vegan Brews and Benefits MDA

It takes more than a little rain to keep Portlanders away from a good time. And this weekend's NW Ciderfest is all set up for success, with enormous tents covering almost all of Pioneer Courthouse Square. Under those tents you'll find 30 "cideries," all eager to have you sample their tasty apple beverages, and plenty of cheerful tasters enjoying our beautiful fall weather.

The event benefits the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which is another good reason to attend. The MDA does so much good work. I have to admit to feeling a bit of nostalgia for the Jerry Lewis Telethons, but this new type of fundraising event is sure a lot of fun, and I think it will do well for them.

Rick and I were there to scope it out from a vegan perspective, and we weren't disappointed. As it turns out, cider, more specifically hard cider of the adult beverage variety, is almost always vegan! I did some research before I went, both on, and by directly contacting some of the cideries. By this morning when I left the house, I was able to confirm that 21 of the 30 cideries at the event do indeed make vegan ciders. A couple of them also make non-vegan ciders, although I couldn't find anyone who could tell me what animal ingredients might be used. As always, it's best to ask before ordering if this matters to you a lot.

I have a feeling most of the companies I haven't heard back from yet will also assure me of their vegan-friendliness, but really, how many different ciders could I be expected to taste in one sitting? After a couple of hours I had reached my limit, and was glad we were walking home instead of driving.

Genuine not-leather purse by Tyler Rodan

Rick and I sampled 2 ciders each from 5 different makers, sharing sips so we could each try out all 10 (hiccup). The entire list of cider makers is on the Ciderfest website. We visited Swift (where I liked the Dank Hop), Woodchuck (the Pumpkin was subtle and good, the Fall Harvest was spicy and sweet. Mixed together they were delightful), Apple Hunter (loved the Lemon Hopper), Carlton Cyderworks (the Slake would be perfect on a hot summer day), and Apple Outlaw (who won our own Fave Of The Day Award with their Ginger Bite Cider). Everything we tasted was delicious, with lots of variety and levels of sweet, dry, fruity, spicy, hoppy, cidery goodness. And everything we tasted was vegan. Yes!

We also tried some of Ryan's Fresh Fruit Juices. These non-alcoholic apple juice blends were crisp and sweet and delicious. The Fuji Pom was a beautiful red color and tasted great. They also had a spicy seasonal blend that was warmed up. My personal favorite on a cool fall day!

There were just two food booths, one with wood fired pizza that couldn't be vegan, even without the cheese, because the crust had milk in it. Sigh... The owner was really nice though, and who knows, maybe when enough friendly vegans ask about his offerings, he might decide to make some adjustments. I know for sure that pizza crust does not need to have milk in it. Rick and I owned a very successful pizza shop in Seattle back in the day, and people were always telling us how they loved our crust so much they actually ate it all. No milk in it. That's saying something.

The other food option was Chop Chop Chicken Sundaes. I know. Long shot, right? But we were hungry, and we were drinking. We needed food. The nice man who helped us knew what we wanted, and steered us away from the gravy, cheese, and chicken, and loaded us up with extra veggies of our choice on a bed of rice. It was good! It would have been even better with some nice Gardein or Beyond Meat "chick'n," but people just don't know it yet. We need to keep asking. Nicely.

NW Ciderfest is a two day event, so you can still make it out there this evening, and again tomorrow. I'm keeping my wristband on, and my tasting cup handy. Maybe I'll see you there on Sunday!

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