Epic! This was my fourth year attending (see here for previous posts), but was the ninth annual Cider Summit in Seattle Washington. It took place on Friday & Saturday September 7th & 8th. This is post 1/2, covering the event. Post 2/2 will cover tasting notes on the dozens of ciders I tried [update – post 2/2 is now up – see here].
See my preview here. I attended Friday afternoon, which is awesome as it isn’t too crowded yet, especially the VIP hour (2pm-3pm). See here for the full event info and here for the full list of cideries (~50?) and ciders (~150-200?). There were some substitutions and even some cidery cancellations / no-shows, but there were plenty of options, even for someone like me who had tried most of the lineup from most of the cideries. There was even ice cider, Pommeau, non-apple fruit wines, mead, cyser, and cider cocktails.
Although most ciders were from the PNW, there were a good number of national and international ones as well. Also, the selections were primarily on the craft (vs. commercial) end. Angry Orchard made its first appearance at the event, although they mostly brought their fancy ciders. The biggest changes this year were that the pour size was cut from 4oz to 2oz (and they used plastic not glass), and the number of tickets was doubled. I really liked that change, as it was easier to try more ciders, and I didn’t have to request small pours. I wonder if it created longer lines on Saturday though (as folks would be trying more ciders), so it’ll be interesting to see if they repeat it next year.
Entry included a tasting glass, tickets (16 for regular and 24 for VIP, each one good for a 2oz pour of most ciders, less for Pommeau and such though), and wristband. A cool feature of this event is that in addition to in & out privileges, one entry fee gets you in both days (and you can even skip the line on the second day). This event is very well organized, by far the best I have gone to. It is also very consistent year-to-year.
Everything from detailed pre-event information online (even a full cider list) to signage at the event to thinking of the little things like having rinse water available and standing tables in addition to seating. It is crazy to think about how much work goes into an event of this magnitude…renting a space, tables, canopies, and even fencing…finding volunteers, hiring staff for liquor enforcement and safety (at emergency exits), having extra ice and cider available, etc.
Another thing about this event that I really like is that the folks pouring the cider are associated with the cidery (cidery employees, sometimes even the cidermakers, or the distributor), so you can ask about the cidery and cider. The crowd was really varied, from cider enthusiasts like myself to people who just wanted to drink. There were also lots of vendors trying ciders (as it was common for a cidery to bring 2-3 people and swap out). A number of people brought their dogs.
Besides the main attraction of cider booths, they had an event store (with t-shirts and such), an audio booth where they did interviews with some of the cidery reps, food for sale from Capitol Cider, Nutflours Bakery, and a german-style pretzel place (my hubby and I shared a giant pretzel and it really hit the spot, although they were festival priced), some other vendors (jerky, bottled water, Amazon Restaurants, Imperfect Produce, Bark Thins, Drink Cider towels), a dog lounge, and info from the Northwest Cider Association. The amenities were also above average for an outdoor event, with multiple food options for sale, standing tables, tables & chairs (some covered), port-a-potties (and outdoor sinks), and free water.
<my haul from the event store, combined with what I got from Schilling Cider House the night before>
Friday is typically much less busy than Saturday, especially earlier in the afternoon. My game plan this year involved sleeping in, having a big lunch, visiting all the cidery booths in order, taking breaks to sit & snack, and getting through all the ciders I wanted to try before dinner time.
I recommend good walking shoes, as you are on your feet for most of these types of events, and there was uneven dirt and patches of grass at this site. Also, pants with pockets, to put your tasting tickets and cell phone and such in. I also like bringing my own snacks, especially something starchy, like crackers. Other must-haves for me are a water bottle, hat & sunblock & sunglasses, notebook & pencil, and some baggies to put the tasting glasses in afterwards when they are sticky. Its nice having a bag to put all that stuff in, as well as any free swag you want to collect (handouts, stickers, bottle opener keychains). ID is required to get in, and cash never hurts, although some places (like the Summit store) take cards.
There are also a number of restaurants (and Whole Foods) within walking distance, so another food option is leaving, then coming back after a bit. I have done that before, but this year we were done by dinnertime on Friday when we left. Then my husband and I dropped stuff at the car (we parked under the Whole Foods, which is the most convenient and secure, but pricey, $15 after getting $6 off for a validation after buying stuff at Whole Foods), and walked to Rocco’s pizza (mmmm).
A great way to get free admission is to volunteer; they had several shift options each day, and I heard that if you work closing on Saturday you may even get leftover bottled cider. For the best ticket price, buy them in advance, although there are taxes & fees for online sales. Although VIP tickets are online sales only, if you want the best price on a regular ticket, you can go to Capitol Cider to avoid the fees. The event didn’t sell out as far as I know, but the ticket price was higher at the door. Designated driver tickets ($5) were only available at the door.
In addition to Seattle, there are Cider Summits in Chicago IL (February), San Francisco CA (April), and Portland OR (June).