Local Treasures with Pia: Apple cider history and Trailbreaker in Liberty Lake

Liberty Lake, Washington – Over the last decade cideries have popped up all over Washington. Most of them make a variety of hard ciders – some flavored with lavender, or mint or berries and other fruits – but they all start with simple, non-alcoholic plain cider aka apple juice.

American apple cider can chase its roots back to early European immigrants, who brought with them saplings and seeds of favorite apple trees to plant in the new world. That’s right, the only apple trees native to North America are what we know as crab apples. By the early 1700s old European apple varietals were being cultivated here by the immigrants who brought them.

In Europe, people have made hard apple cider since Roman times, and in Colonial America hard cider quickly became just as popular as it was in the old world. Fermenting apple juice was tasty but also a way of preserving apples for the long, dark winter months when no fresh fruit or vegetables were available.

Today, apple cider is having a revival of sorts and at Trailbreaker Cider and Eatery in Liberty Lake, owner Trent Maier said all ciders begin with Washington-grown apples.

“We don’t use concentrate and we don’t buy juice from anyone else, we press all the right apples here,” Maier said. He’s from Michigan where he said he grew up with fresh, clear cider that was made around harvest time. “Washington is really different because there are all these apple storage facilities which make it possible for us to get apples year-round.”

The apples arrive at Trailbreaker’s facility in large fruit bins – just like the ones used for wine grapes – and they are first washed and sorted before they hit the press.

“We can process about five or six bins an hour so that’s about 3,000 pounds of apples, which turns into 3-400 gallons of juice,” Maier said. The juice is ready to drink right away, and Trailbreaker sells a golden-color, fresh tasting virgin cider from its tasting room.

Hard cider spends three to four months in a steel fermentation tank, before it’s mixed with other apple or fruit juices and filled into kegs or cans for sale.

The virgin cider at Trailbreaker is golden and light – a little sweet but crisp, and it’s completely clear. That makes it perfect for a warm apple cider toddy: just add a cinnamon stick, a little honey and a slice of lemon to your favorite mug of apple cider and heat it in the microwave. Sprinkle with a dash of ground cloves and you are ready to serve a great fall toddy anyone can enjoy.

Check out a list Washington cideries online.

Photo credit: Trailbreaker Cider and Eatery, Liberty Lake, Washington.

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