By guest NABC contributor Carolyn Goodrich Luke
The Northwest Agriculture Business Center, in partnership with Washington State University – Mount Vernon Research and Extension Center and Mitchell F&D, recently hosted a fun and informative six-day hard cider production course funded in part by a WSDA Specialty Crop Block Grant.
The course began with a daylong workshop on Orchard Management and Cider Fruit Production led by Gary Moulton, WSU orchardist and cider production expert. Topics included soil quality, orchard layout, rootstock and variety selection, irrigation, pruning and thinning methods, pest management, grafting techniques, and harvesting.
After lunch, students ventured over to Red Barn Cider for a tour and hands-on demonstration of pruning, thinning, and grafting. Those who braved the chilly temperatures for this informative and interactive session were rewarded with a fantastic cider tasting facilitated by Red Barn owner/operator Drew Zimmerman.
The second part of the course shifted the focus to Cider Making: Principles & Practices taught by renowned cider production expert Peter Mitchell. The first two days provided students with a broad overview of hard cider. Topics included cider history, terminology, sensory analysis, and cider market trends. Students also participated in cider tastings to better understand flavor and aroma profiles. Who says learning can’t be fun?
At the end of day two, students had the option to take the exam for the NACM Certificate in Cider & Perry Appreciation. This is the only formal cider industry specific qualification available in the world and many students took advantage of the opportunity.
Days three and four were spent in the WSU lab where students practiced producing and fermenting cider. They also learned techniques to analyze the chemical properties of cider in order to produce a high quality product.
The final day of the course took place at La Conner Flats. Processing and production methods were discussed, a delicious lunch was served, and cider samples made by students were critiqued by the class and instructors. Not a bad way to end the week!
For those who missed this amazing workshop, don’t despair! The course will be repeated in June 2012 followed by an advanced course in December 2012. More details will be posted on the NABC website as they become available. Cheers!
Carolyn is NABC’s Special Projects & Research Coordinator