Northwest Cider Cup 2023 With Emily Ritchie

Show Notes

Exploring Washington State: An Inside Look at the 2023 Northwest Cider Cup

Cider the beloved drink that is growing in popularity, has a rich history that is often overlooked. In a recent episode of "Exploring Washington State," host Scott Cowan invited  Northwest Cider Association Executive Director Emily Ritchie to discuss the ins and outs of the cider industry, from competitions to varietals and everything in between.

Winning a Medal in Cider Competitions

NW Cider Cup Trophy
One of the main topics of discussion was the annual Northwest Cider Cup hosted by the Northwest Cider Association. Ritchie explained that winning a medal in this competition is an absolute honor, with only three medals given at most: gold, silver, and bronze. Emily also mentioned that the competition is getting stronger, and it's harder to win a medal, as only 19% of the entrants won medals this year, compared to 24% last year. The judges write notes for each product, giving feedback to the makers, which is helpful for them to perfect their skills, learn about the taste and expectations of their product. 

Best of Show

Alpenfire Cider (WA) I Glow-Airlie RedFlesh single varietal I Red-Fleshed Cider Dry Category

Best of Show Runner Up

Yonder Cider (WA) Barrel Aged Perry I High-Tannin Perry Category

Best New Cidery *TIE*

Empyrical Orchards (WA) and Cidery and Heartland Ciderworks (OR) 

Best Small Cidery

Puget Sound Cider Company (WA)

Best Medium Cidery

Bauman's Cider (OR)

Best Large Cidery

2 Towns Ciderhouse (OR)

Creating Categories for Cider Competition

Ritchie and the Northwest Cider Association hopes that through creating categories for a cider competition, the language around cider will become more refined and understood by the community. She emphasized the importance of having a fair competition to judge the quality of their cider and how they took over the competition a few years later. Emily also emphasized the value of friendly competition in raising the quality of all ciders each year, making the category and reputation stronger.

Judging the Quality of Ciders

 Insights into the judging process for the cider competitions we discussed. All judging in the cider competition is blind. The cider steward volunteers bring the cider samples to the judges without revealing the identity of the producer. The judges first look at the color and aroma and then taste the cider to check for exceptional qualities, balance, and to ensure it is not flawed.Ritchie noted that making cider is challenging even though it might seem simple. The judges were impressed with the overall caliber of ciders in the competition and did not find as many flaws as they were expecting.

Portland International Cider Cup Renamed Northwest Cider Cup

The history of the Portland International Cider Cup was discussed.  Originally was named by a few cider producers a decade ago. The competition was originally hosted in Portland and involved four cideries from the Pacific Northwest region. The word "international" was added to the name after a Canadian producer won the competition. The reason for creating the competition was due to disappointment with other competition systems that give out participation awards. The Portland International Cider Cup was renamed in 2023 to the Northwest Cider Cup.

Using Sweetness Level to Describe Cider Preferences

One of the challenges with talking about cider is that it can be confusing compared to wine and beer. Ritchie explained that sweetness level is a helpful way to explain cider preferences. Interestingly, the majority of people who order cider and ask for a dry cider actually don't want something bone dry.

Visiting Cideries in Seattle

For those who want to experience the world of cider beyond just tasting, visiting cideries is a must. According to Emily, cideries are usually small and family-owned. Visiting cideries allows for trying unique and unknown products. Going to cideries provides a more immersive experience and the opportunity to meet the owners and hear their stories.Ritchie suggests visiting tasting rooms for a fun experience and recommends Yonder's Tap Room in Seattle, where they tried new products not available elsewhere. She added that visiting farms, particularly in orchards during apple season, is a beautiful and fulfilling experience.

Making Perry from Pear Trees

One of the interesting things discussed was making perry from pear trees. Perry is made from fermented pears that are not suitable for consumption and produce hard and tannic fruit. Despite the small but growing number of perries available in the market, there aren't enough mature pear trees to produce a large quantity of drink. However, wild seedlings can be found and harvested for fermentation. Perry is highly regarded among enthusiasts due to its floral fruity taste.

Reviving English Cider Traditions

Emily also talked about England's cider traditions and the revival of these traditions, with a particular focus on a judge who is making cider in a non-traditional cider-making county called Kent. Unlike traditional English cider, which uses Tannic cider apples, the judge is using apples from his family orchard that were traditionally grown for eating, such as Cox's orange pippin. The resulting cider has a higher acid content and is less tannic. The speaker notes that these apple varieties are not commonly found in the US and must be sought out.

The Northwest Cider Club

The Pacific Northwest Cider Association also started the Northwest Cider Club in May 2020 during the chaos and shock of the pandemic. The Association noticed that small family businesses were struggling to sell their cider since bottle shops and bars were closed. They decided to ship multiple brands of cider together in a box since no one was doing it at the time. Each box contains six to twelve bottles. They guarantee that the cider won't be cloying or above 3% or three bricks. They pick out good quality ciders from makers in the Pacific Northwest who are part of the association and who make interesting ciders. Every quarter, they pick a different theme, and at the end of thisyear, the theme will be winners of the 2023 Northwest Cider Cup competition. 

Co-Fermentation in the Cider Industry

Ritchie announced the winner of the co-fermented category, Victoria Cider Company, who made a quince cider.
Puget Sound Cider took second place. Quinces are an old and rare fruit, similar to apples and pears, and are not commonly used in ciders. The winning quince cider has a strong flavor with floral citrusy fruity notes. Puget Sound cider is a husband-wife team who also own an antique shop.

Wrap Up

The world of cider is fascinating and vast, and there is so much to learn about it. From the competitions to the different types of ciders and the cideries themselves, Emily's insights into the industry were valuable and captivating. So, if you're a fan of cider, start exploring the rich world of cider today.

The Importance of Cider Competitions: "If we can encourage everyone to make better and better cider every year, then it's good for everyone...We want to be picking the very best."— Emily Ritchie

Additional Information

Emily Ritchie was previously a guest on the Exploring Washington State Podcast. You can listen to our earlier conversation here.


The Northwest Cider Association has an interactive map you can use to create your own custom cider tasting experience.  For more details here is a link to the cider map.


The NW Cider Club is an amazing opportunity to try ciders from around the PNW and especially Washington State. The Northwest Cider Association curates a selection of the best ciders available quarterly. If you love cider you will love the NW Cider Club.



Each episode we will have a chat with someone who has a great story to share about Washington State. From artists, to business owners.  Musicians to athletes. Exploring Washington State will showcase the beauty and creativity here in Washington State.

You can find all our podcast episodes on our Exploring Washington State Podcast Page.

If you have any suggestions for guests for a future episode, please send us an email.

Want other great ideas of places to visit, or to find out more about people who are making amazing things in Washington State  visit Explore Washington State.

If you like the podcast, please take a moment to leave us a review on iTunes. It really helps us help spread the word.



Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.