Editor’s Note: With the opening of a few more cideries in 2018, Tap Trail’s Passport will be open to cideries. We’re excited to welcome them to this amazing craft community.
There are a few things people associate with Bellingham right off the bat, whether they live here, have visited, or have simply heard of what our little bay town has to offer. Between outdoor adventure of every kind, scenic views, and the university, craft beer always seems to be on the agenda for visitors and locals alike.
This month, if everything goes according to plan, the brewing scene is expanding even further as we welcome Bellingham Cider Company into the microbrewed mix.
Located at 205 Prospect St. between downtown and the lettered streets, Bellingham Cider Company (BCC) is mid-construction, and co-founders Bryce Hamilton and Joshua Serface are crossing their fingers for a mid-winter opening day.
While you can typically find a tasty Pacific Northwest cider on tap at your favorite places around Bellingham, cider drinkers are becoming excited to see a growing number of cideries in Bellingham. Honey Moon has been offering its varieties of cider and mead, but the market will expand in 2018. First on the list, Bellingham Cider Company.
Bellingham Cider Company wasn’t necessarily part of the immediate plan for both Hamilton and Serface. Hamilton, a Western graduate, moved from Bellingham to Portland to become a paramedic in the early 2000’s, and met Serface on an ambulance. Don’t worry, neither were in critical condition, just in the same line of work.
Their chosen profession wasn’t the only thing they had in common. In fact, both came from backgrounds of growing and pressing fruit into cider on family farms. Hamilton had thought about opening a restaurant, brewery, or cidery in Bellingham eventually, and the idea eventually grew between the two, becoming a plan that materialized much earlier than expected.
“It was an organic start. We didn’t come at it with a plan,” Hamilton said.
Both Hamilton and Serface made beer and cider at home over the years, and decided that because of the complete lack of a cidery scene in Bellingham, they’d turn a hobby and a passion into a business.
Through batch after batch of their homemade ciders and industry expertise from North Fork brewer Eric Jorgenson, a friend to both Hamilton and Serface, the pair decided to push the cider direction and take advantage of the opportunity to open a cidery in Bellingham.
Hamilton, a board member for Sylvia Center for the Arts, was helping the organization find a space, which brings us to the building on Prospect. Sylvia Center is leasing the front of that space, conveniently leaving a restaurant-sized space in the back. Hamilton and Serface jumped at the chance to use this downtown space with a bay view to make their cidery dream a reality. Though they didn’t foresee a cidery of their own for a number of years from now, it could be exactly what the Bellingham microbrew experience needs.
The man behind the cider is Serface himself. In the basement of the Prospect Street space, lies a cidery that overtakes your sense of smell with the sweet and tart scent of cider apples for the first time.
Serface became a member of the US and Northwest Cider Associations, and met many commercial cider-makers at a conference in Portland, some of which influenced his cider-making process today.
“When we decided to make that leap and go into commercial production, there’s a huge difference in knowledge base when it comes to making five to ten gallons at a time, versus six or seven hundred gallons at a time,” Serface said.
Following a class for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bearau in Seattle a few years back, Locust Cider held an event for cider-makers attending the class. After hitting it off with the cider-makers there, Serface spent his days off at Locust learning the ropes of commercial cider-making.
“I look at it as how I feel the microbrewery scene is here. Just neighbors helping neighbors, there’s no competition. We’re here for the greater good,” Serface said, referencing a recent day where he was out of yeast, and borrowed some from a fellow cider-maker in Ferndale. “I’m hoping we can make this grow and make it a cool non-competitive, big family.”
BCC will clearly offer something different than ever before seen in town since they’re exclusively making cider. Just like beer, there are different styles and flavor palettes within the cider world too. There are two main existing categories, though cider experts are working on making a more extensive list of descriptive words to match those like “effervescent” and “hop-forward” like we describe beer.
As of now, you can typically hear cider drinkers describing a cider as dry or sweet, seemingly opposite, though that may not always be true. Serface’s style is typically dryer, though he doesn’t discriminate when he finds a well-made sweet cider.
Serface plans on sticking to classics initially, like a dry cider, a semi-sweet, and a hopped cider. Eventually though, he will dabble in the sour and barrel aged ciders, bringing a familiar sense of variety to Bellingham beer drinkers who are branching out and appreciating ciders for the first time.
Serface will be making 10 barrel batches of cider, due to the size of the cider making equipment. BCC has a 20 tapline tower, where most taps will be Serface’s ciders, accompanied by guest taps from regional cider makers and local breweries.
Bellingham craft beverage consumers can expect the food at BCC to mirror the cider, in that you can find fresh, high quality, but affordable options on their menu.
Head Chef Dirul Shamsid-Deen, is planning on taking the opportunity to play off something Bellingham seems to value, a seasonal and farm to table menu, with an open kitchen to complement that. In other words, he’s got nothing to hide. An eating bar will allow customers to be able to see how their food is being made, and the fresh food prep that goes into it.
“You’re going to really feel like you’re part of what’s going on, and it [the kitchen] isn’t going to be this other place where your food just comes out of a door and is magically just there for you,” Shamsid-Deen said.
Shamsid-Deen, from Orcas Island, has a vast amount of experience with farm to table out of necessity, since island life meant using food from island farms.
Local food doesn’t always mean it has to put the price point through the roof though, in fact affordability is something BCC is prioritizing through the process of opening their restaurant.
“Price point has been an important motivator for what we want. We don’t want to make it a place where people only come for date night. We want to make it a place where a single guy or girl could have a meal a few times a week if they want,” Shamsid-Deen said.
The food will be close to what people consider bistro-style. But as Serface and Hamilton put it, it’s “Dirul-style”, or it’s own thing.
Eventually, Shamsid-Deen and Serface will collaborate on cider and food pairings, but everything will naturally complement each other due to their similarities in fresh and local ingredients.
While Hamilton, Serface and Shamsid-Deen are all crossing their fingers for a January open, it’s always hard to say when exactly any restaurant will open.
When it does, customers can expect a rustic but modern space with community tables and lights made from refurbished apple boxes. The open kitchen and high ceilings make the room feel big but inviting, a comfortable place for those looking simply for a place to hang out or a place to impress your date.
The cider heads and Bellingham craft beverage connoisseurs will have to patiently wait for this exciting step in the expansion of the brew community. BCC, offering something very different to what Bellingham has seen before, can only add to our extensive craft resume.