SaloonBox Behind The Scenes: Schilling Cider
The November SaloonBox featured Schilling Ascender Ginger Hard Cider.
Tell us about the creation of Schilling Cider?
The founder, Colin Schilling, is the great-great-grandson of August Schilling, founder of the Schilling Spice Company (now McCormick Spices). Essentially Colin has been surrounded by food and entrepreneurism his whole life. He grew up on a small family farm in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho where he started making hard cider at the age of 14. He attended college at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon where he met co-founder, Mark Kornei.
After Colin and Mark finished their MBA’s they did what most freshly minted MBA’s do, and that is go work for corporate America. They soon discovered they hated it, and decided to pair their new business acumen with their love of hard cider, and thus Schilling Cider was born.
What was your first product? Has it changed at all since you first created it?
Schilling Cider is a company made up of self-starting individuals who are continually growing, learning, and evolving. As a result, the company and its ciders are evolving as well. The ciders made today are not the same ciders the company started with. Each year, we learn more, experiment more, but more importantly, we make ciders we want to drink.
What has been your experience introducing your cider into the market? What are your biggest challenges and some surprises, good or bad?
We introduce new products into the market first through our Schilling Cider House. We bring our creations to the cider house for our patrons to try and provide feedback. If a cider is well received at the cider house, we release it in our seasonal 22 oz. bomber lineup.
The ciders that take off become year round offers and the ones that are maybe a bit too bold fall off or become experimental projects.
*The Schilling Cider House is our bar located in the heart of Seattle’s historical Fremont District. The cider house has the largest selection in the nation of rotating draft, craft only hard ciders. For a cider company to have their ciders poured at the Schilling Cider House, they must follow our ethos of being vegan, gluten free, and free of any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
How do most people find out about Schilling? Who's the typical buyer/user of your product?
People find out about us in various ways. They may just see our packaging at the store and pick us up, they may stop by the cider house, or follow us on social media. We have also been covered in Seattle Times, SIP Northwest Magazine, Sunset Magazine, Cider News, CRAFT Magazine, and various other print and digital media sources.
Tell us more about the Ascender Ginger Hard Cider in this month's kit - how do you source the ingredients, how is it made, how long does it take?
Ascender is made like the rest of our ciders, using 100% fresh pressed apples and nothing artificial. We source fresh ginger from central California and allow that to ferment with a special yeast strain that allows the ginger flavor to shine. One 200-barrel batch takes about a month to produce.
Washington State is big on apples and big on cider - we're curious to understand how geography has played into the flavor of your cider and your company’s success/competition.
We are located in the heart of apple country. We get all of our apples from the Yakima and Wenatchee Valley’s. We have a unique partnership with our suppliers in that from the time the apples are pressed to the time the juice hits our fermentations tanks is less than a 12-hour window. This makes our cider some of the freshest cider on the market.
What is the difference between a craft cider, like Schilling, and some of the large cider producers on the market?
This is a great question and one that we LOVE people to ask.
One of the big differences between craft hard cider and commercial hard cider is back sweetening. Commercial cider producers ferment a base cider to the desired ABV then add artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives to achieve the sweetness level and flavor profile (the addition of artificial sweetners after fermentation is referred to in the industry as ‘back-sweetening’). They also use apple juice from concentrate. Craft cider makers ferment their cider to the point of sweetness and add nothing artificial. Craft cider makers also use fresh ingredients and 100% fresh pressed apples (nothing from concentrate).
What are some details consumers can pay attention to when selecting a cider to ensure it's quality?
We recommend reading ingredients just like any other food product. If it says concentrate, or lists anything that doesn’t sound like real food, it isn’t craft.
Do you have any plans for new flavors or products in the pipeline that you can talk about right now?
This year’s seasonal line-up…
Reboot: Blood-Orange (January release)
Emerald City: Blackberry-Pear (April release)
Road Trip: Peach-Citra (July release)
Chaider: Chai-Spice (October release)
What's your goal with the business?
Our goal is to continue to produce bold, interesting hard ciders using only quality ingredients and offering them to the public at a fair price. We also want to continue to support the craft cider industry and other cider makers through our Schilling Cider Houses (second location with over 50 draft handles opening in Oregon spring of 2017).
The Schilling Cider Houses are designed to revive hard cider (hard cider was the most popular alcoholic beverage in America until it was wiped out during prohibition) and bring awareness to the various styles and flavors. By educating drinkers and supporting other craft cider makers, we are supporting small businesses and their suppliers which helps the economy and our industry. In short, our goal is that everyone grows!
What was one of the most exciting moments for your brand?
One of the most exciting moments was when we opened the Schilling Cider House and there was a line around the block.
In terms of using cider in cocktails, what's your favorite recipe?
Colin’s favorite recipe is simple. Ascender and bourbon.
Photo credit: Lindsey Wasson/The Seattle Times