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Friday, December 8, 2023
Dec. 8, 2023

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Apple-based hard ciders making their way onto Clark County’s radar

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Mav's Taphouse serves Mela Brewing's Pumpkin Spice Hard Cider.
Mav's Taphouse serves Mela Brewing's Pumpkin Spice Hard Cider. (Rachel Pinsky) Photo Gallery

Cosmic, Honeycrisp, Jazz and Jonagold apples from the Yakima Valley fill Clark County grocery stores and farmers markets every fall. Despite a rainbow bounty of fruit and a long list of taprooms, there aren’t many locally made hard ciders. That may be changing.

The granddaddy of Clark County cidery is Moulton Falls Winery & Cider House (31101 N.E. Railroad Ave., Yacolt; 360-686-4070).

In 2011, Joe Millea opened the winery a mile away from Moulton Falls Regional Park in Yacolt.

“We had a lot of women who said, ‘If you serve beer, our husbands will come,’” Millea said.

He decided to make hard cider instead.

He offers eight taps of cider made with an apple-blend base from orchards in Wenatchee. Flavors like raspberry, honey lavender, pineapple and black cherry are added to the juice before it ferments. Moulton Falls Winery is for sale, so if you want to try Millea’s cider, visit soon.

Two new cideries recently opened in Clark County. One stems from a college project, the other from an established brewery.

Mela Brewing began as Matthew Loftgren’s senior thesis for a business degree at Concordia College in Portland. Loftgren graduated in April 2020 just as the pandemic was shutting things down and jobs were scarce. Lacking other business opportunities and inspired by a passion to master cider making, he set up a small production space at his parents’ house in Vancouver and registered his business.

Within 19 months, he secured 40 accounts. Mela Brewing’s cider is on tap at spots around Clark County, including Mav’s Taphouse, Ben’s Bottle Shop, Charlie’s Sports Bar & Grill, Kiggins Theatre, Bessolo Pizzeria, Thirsty Sasquatch, and Acorn & The Oak.

Loftgren sources his specially blended semisweet apple juice base from FruitSmart, a processor in the Yakima Valley. No sugar is added. Each cider is hand mixed in stainless steel tanks imported from Italy, which goes along with the company’s name. Mela means apple in Italian. Loftgren’s father immigrated from Naples, Italy, and still has family in that sunny southern town on the sea.

Flavors include cocktail-inspired concoctions like summer citrus and piña colada. Mela also offers nitro-infused brews, like POG and Apple Pie Hard Cider with vanilla bean and cinnamon. Nitrogen gas adds a smooth, creamy texture. Mela Brewing recently released Pumpkin Spice Hard Cider with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove and allspice. Caramel Apple is in the works for Halloween.

Heathen Brewing jumped into the hard cider game about a year ago, making several styles with a specially formulated apple juice base from Yakima County. The three inaugural flavors are Dry Apple, Pineapple Dream and Apple Crisp with vanilla bean, cinnamon, allspice and ginger. Pints of these fresh brews are available at Heathen’s production brewery (2225 N.E. 119th St., Suite 109, Vancouver; 360-726-5239) and its Feral Public House (1109 Washington St., Vancouver; 360- 836-5255).

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