In the last six months, the cider scene in Bellingham has been growing rapidly, resembling the craft beer boom we saw years ago. With the recent success of Bellingham Cider Company, Lost Giants Cider Co. opening in a matter of weeks (joining Bellingham’s Honey Moon cidery), and buzz of a few more local cideries, cider-makers are striving to set themselves apart from one another.
Lucky for us, each option for a cider in Bellingham is fantastic. Joining the lineup in June is the tasting room for Herb’s Cider, opening in the heart of downtown Bellingham on Bay St.
The Herb’s Cider label is dark and sophisticated like an old school medicine bottle, and features a face that may look familiar to music lovers. Tim Alexander, the drummer for rock band Primus, is the co-founder of Herb’s Cider, also where the company gets it’s namesake.
In tours past, Alexander was always found drinking tea before going on stage, earning him the nickname “Herb” (you pronounce the H, by the way). Now, many fans and members of the music industry know him as Herb the Ginseng Drummer. Tim still tours with Primus frequently, but in his time spent locally over the past few years, him and his wife, Shama, created Herb’s Cider.
“I’ve been in music my whole life, so we were thinking of branching out,” Tim said. “
Tim has suffered from two heart attacks in recent years and as a result made a lifestyle change that has driven him and Shama towards potentially starting a line of wellness drinks. After some research and development into that industry and a discovery of their passion for and ability to make cider, they went the direction of making healthy, organic hard cider.
After an apple harvest from the small orchard on their local property, the Alexanders had more apples than they knew what to do with. They had recently been on a cider-kick, trying the rotating cider’s at Elizabeth Station on their weekly Wednesday date nights.
Tim and Shama thought, “Why don’t we try making cider?” After renting a press and a day entirely devoted to pressing their remaining apples and some experimentation with fermentation, they found their first five gallon batch impressive and just as delicious as many ciders they had recently been enjoying.
“We went out to our deck, the cider was literally just in a bowl with some saran wrap over the top to keep the air out,” Tim said. Though their first batch was not yet carbonated and had just reached the appropriate point of fermentation, Tim and Shama immediately tasted market-quality craft cider within their own recipe.
Out of curiosity on what an industrial-grade cidery looked like, the Alexanders reached out to Finnriver Farm & Cidery in Chimacum, WA. Expecting a tour of their facility and a look into the life they were signing up for by starting Herb’s Cider, they were met with Chris Weir, the original cider-maker for Finnriver. Weir has experience with primarily cider, did some brewing for Port Townsend Brewing and has dabbled in wine and champagne. He wanted to help them get their cider company up and running, and has been working with the Alexanders ever since.
“That’s what got us to where we are right now, is being able to have someone who is licensed, experienced and they [Finnriver] make really high quality cider. That’s what we want to do,” Tim said.
Finnriver also upholds similar values to those of the Alexanders.
“We wanted to work with a company that resonated with our values; organic apples, family values, they take good care of their employees, they have an organic farm. They are awesome,” Shama said of Weir and Finnriver.
After spending time perfecting their first larger batches of cider, Herb’s Cider launched officially on September 29, 2017.
As of now, Herb’s has one kind of cider sold in kegs and in bottles called the Single Stroke, a deliciously tart semi-dry cider, but with plans to expand the offerings. Herb’s plans to stick to dry cider but try a their own variations of classics, with the goal in mind of making natural, no added sugar, high quality cider.
Upon their expansion Tim, Shama and their team have been working day in and day out to integrate smoothly into the growing local cider community. Starting this summer, they will have a production facility in Bellingham, which will be located in a business park on Marine Drive. Their tasting room, however will feature all of the cider they make between now and then, with small charcuterie plates and a focus on a welcoming but true-to-brand atmosphere.
Herb’s Cider has been growing rapidly alongside the rest of Bellingham’s up and coming cider scene. Truly the definition of a grassroots company, literally starting in Alexander’s garage, they have a small, close-knit team of people who can do it all.
“When we chose people, a door would open and we would go through it,” Shama said of building the Herb’s Cider team.
The team is made up of Chris Weir and Andrew Byers who have been heavily involved in the cider-making process as well as three others who have been instrumental in many sectors of getting the business up and running locally, Ashley McRae, Deron Belt and Tyler Kennedy.
Doesn’t this sound as Bellingham as Bellingham gets – a small team making a big boom in the cider industry? Herb’s is set to open this summer and is currently under construction for the cider-making and taproom facilities. As their spaces grow, so will their tap list and customer base. Currently, you can find Herb’s Cider at Bob’s Burgers as well as Elizabeth Station, if you are as anxious as the rest of us to try some before the tasting room opens.
As we have awaited other local cideries in town, each beginning to shape up similar to the brewing scene and create their own identities through the style of ciders they offer, Herb’s Cider is sure to be an incredible addition to the Bellingham fermenting community.