There is nothing quite like visiting the cidery to get a sense of where your cider comes from and how it gets into the bottle. However, if you want to get a sense of the true breadth and depth of the hard cider world, there is really only one place to go: Bushwhacker Cider Pub and Bottle Shop in Portland, Oregon.
Opened in 2010 in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Portland by Jeff and Erin Smith, Bushwhacker offered no more than 30 ciders, all produced in Oregon. Today, the cider mecca sports more than 350 bottled ciders from around the globe. It has become a source of pilgrimage for cider lovers across the country.
On my first visit recently, I walked into the pub and bottle shop sometime just after noon. It was dimly lit with two sturdy refrigeration cases providing the most prominent source of light. And in those cases I found cider after cider after cider, lined up like little soldiers each representing their country on a series of shelves.
For those you who are accustomed to buying your cider from the best local retail source where you find perhaps ten to 20 different ciders, this kind of experience you will find a happy shock to your cider soul. It is at first completely overwhelming to see more French or more Spanish ciders on one shelf than all the ciders you’ll find at the best cider source you have in your own neck of the woods.
There to soothe the surprised cider travel was Erin Smith who stood behind the bar. Within minutes of entering I had a flight of ciders in front of me, including a number of Bushwhacker’s own creations. Bushwhacker is not only the finest cider retailer in America, but also a cider pub and a cider producer.
I chose about 30 bottles of cider to purchase. Some I’d known of but never tasted, others were completely new to me. Erin boxed them up and out I went. And this leads to the only part of the Bushwhacker business model that needs improvement: Bushwhacker does not ship cider. Those of use that live outside the Northern Oregon region can’t call and order a box of new ciders. We cannot order the cider over the internet.
In this respect Bushwhacker is much like most cideries across the country. Very few will ship wine if you are in the same state, let alone outside the state. The process of interstate shipping is indeed complicated, but not impossible to navigate. While sipping the flight of ciders at Bushwhacker, I did a fairly thorough job of begging Erin Smith to get into the shipping business. Until she consents, I’ll simply be making more frequent trips up to Oregon with an empty trunk.