How to pair Northwest ciders at the holiday table

Northwest Cider Association Executive Director Emily Ritchie shares some pairing tips to make your feast the pick of the bunch.

An above the table shot shows two people reaching to have their glass filled with cider. On the table is a feast of colorful and diverse produce and bread

We’re here to help you de-cider.

Photo via Northwest Cider Association

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Cider has long been a staple for holiday gatherings and in recent years it has found its way back onto people’s tables. In fact, cider was the only craft beverage industry in the Northwest to grow in 2021.

Similar to how beer styles can range from an IPA to a stout, ciders vary from tannic heritage ciders to sweet and distilled pommeaus (a mix of distilled apple brandy with apple juice).

Northwest Cider Association Executive Director Emily Ritchie and her team of “pommeliers” have put together tips for how to pair ciders for the holidays, with a focus on those that can be found at local bottle shops and grocery stores. You know, ciders that don’t fall far from the tree.

NWCA is a trade non-profit that represents the industry for Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, and British Columbia.

🧀 Apps: Cheese or charcuterie platter

Pair with: Traditional method sparkling cider
The idea: Think bubbles and ease when grabbing a shareable bottle of cider that is made with the same sophistication as sparkling wine, but crafted from uber-local Oregon-grown apples.
The pick: RAW Cider | Semi-Dry | 7.6% ABV | 750ml | McMinnville, OR

RAW Cider Company was awarded best new cidery of the year at NW Cider Cup (formerly Portland International Cider Cup) in 2022 and honored with a gold medal in the French category for this semi-dry traditional method sparkling cider. Crafted from Airlie Red and Karmijn de Sonneville apples, sourced from family farms in Oregon’s Willamette and Kings valleys, this beautifully complex cider has just the right touch of sweetness.

🥔 First course: Creamy whipped garlic potatoes or other rich dishes

Pair with: A dry, single-varietal cider
The idea: The acid in cider helps refresh the palate and adds a lightness to the pairing. We recommend sipping one from Montana’s famed McIntosh between bites of comfort.
The pick: Western Cider | McIntosh Single Variety | 6.8% ABV | 500 ml | Missoula, MT

Western Cider brings you a balanced, single-varietal cider using heirloom McIntosh apples that are renowned for their vivid aromatics and tannic finish. These quintessential Montana apples are grown on gnarled 80-year-old trees from one of the last plantings of the historic Bitterroot Valley apple era. This cider took best in show and was a gold medal winner at NW Cider Cup.

A variety of bottled and canned apple ciders sit on a table with apples

With the Northwest Cider Club, you let the experts do the picking.

Photo via Northwest Cider Association

🐟 Second course: Pesto crusted salmon

Pair with: Dry rosé-style cider
The idea: Move over, rosé wine. Pink ciders made using red-fleshed apples are all the craze right now and for good reason. Their brilliant pink-to-red hues are visually stunning when cut open and have darker fruit notes like you may expect from berries or currants. The structure of red-fleshed ciders offers a backbone that can pair with a flavorful main, like salmon and pesto, without overpowering the pairing.
The pick: Nashi Orchards | Airlies Redflesh Cider | 7.6% ABV | 750ml | Vashon, WA

This single varietal from Nashi Orchards features organically grown Airlies Red apples from Luckiamute River Farm in Kings Valley, Oregon. The Airlies Red Flesh apple was rediscovered in Oregon in 1960 as an indigenous seedling. The yellow-green skin conceals a beautiful rose-colored flesh, producing a red-colored, cheerful juice. The resulting cider has just the right amount of dryness and acidity, perfectly paired for festive occasions.

🍰 Dessert: Caramel nut tart with old-fashioned vanilla ice cream

Pair with: Spiced cider (served warm or cold)
The idea: Think dense and rich sweet notes that show off a bouquet of tea spices, gently steeped with bright apple. It’s complex but drinks clean and easy for a warm finish to the meal.
The pick: Schilling Hard Cider | Chaider | 6.5% ABV | 12 oz | Seattle, WA

Schilling’s Chaider brings you cozy cheer from Seattle, WA. This spiced cider begins with fresh-pressed Northwest apples, adding a chai tea blend created in collaboration with Kinglet Tea of Portland. A balanced infusion of warming spices marries with fresh fruit to create something semi-sweet and special. A crowd favorite, this unique, seasonal cider is perfect for sweater weather and fireside imbibing, crafting cocktails, or served hot with a cinnamon stick.

🎁 “Northwest Cider Club” gift box or subscription

Want to share the cider? This season’s Discover Winter Cheer box can be shipped right to your door and includes six hard-to-find ciders from Northwest producers. Each box is themed and curated by a certified pommelier and supports NWCA’s work to build and promote the region’s cider industry. It can be ordered as a one-time gift or as an ongoing quarterly subscription.

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