Alcoholic apple cider holds a glorious position in American history. Brought over by the British and French and produced by a fermenting process that kills bacteria in poor water supplies, cider was the most popular beverage in Colonial times. With the emergence of microbreweries in the 1980s and growing interest in both heritage and unique drinkables, cider has recently begun to be more widely crafted here. The result is cider that is varied, unusual and very drinkable.
Wandering Aengus, a cider company that originated in West Salem, moved its operation to Salem proper in August of 2011. The Ciderworks presses, ferments, strains and bottles numerous varieties of Oregon and Washington apples and other fruits on-site. Many apples are grown on the firm’s own acreage in West Salem; many are heirloom and many organic. Each cider is balanced to create a spectrum of tastes from dry to sweet, from tart to spicy to hoppy. The company exports its products to seven states and sells it in Salem at Fred Meyer, Roth’s and LifeSource.
The ideal way for a curious local to both learn about the history of cider and sample an impressive array of remarkable beverages is by visiting the Wandering Aengus location itself. The Ciderworks offers tastings and hospitality on Fridays and Saturdays. A beer brewery will start in a few weeks and a restaurant will be added later this year, but until then, Salem residents can enjoy locally crafted ciders in the tasting room.
A $5 bill buys a visitor the loan of a comfy chair with one of several books on cider and eight samples of Ciderworks’ products. “Anthems” are generally sweeter drinks made from apples and champagne yeast, sometimes in combination with pears or cherries. Lilting and fruity, they go down easily. The “Wandering Aengus” types, also using champagne yeast, take three times longer to produce and are drier, sometimes citrusy, bittersweet or tart. The range of flavors created by this small local company is impressive.
Deacon Lewis, manager of the site, labels and stacks boxes of cider most days of the week in the distillery that has been called “the most energy efficient building in Oregon.” Lewis’ hands-on experience means that when he offers tastings on the weekend, he is conversant in his product and the range of flavors possible from this unique process.
Human beings prior to the time of Christ have enjoyed fermented ciders. An alternative to beer and wine, cider is historically important. Salem now has a source for enjoying it and supporting a one-of-a-kind local business in Wandering Aengus.
Wandering Aengus Ciderworks
4070 Fairview Industrial Road SE
Tasting Hours: Friday 5 – 8 p.m. Saturday 12 – 8 p.m.