After 9 years and a pandemic, Portland Cider Co.’s success continues with more expansion
“Must like cider.”
With those three words, two people found each other, the future took on more meaning, and finally, Portland Cider Co. was born.
“Only one came up,” Lynda Parrish said of her match.com search requirement in 2006. “It was easy for me.”
That one was Jeff Parrish. Today, 16 years later, the Parrishes are husbands, parents and co-founders of the Cider house based in Clackamas. And while the cider might not have been the main attraction, it certainly didn’t hurt.
“I started making cider in my closet before I met Lynda. Actually doing it badly,” Jeff says. “That’s how it spread initially. And then after we met and got married , we were still doing it at home Probably doing 40 or 50 gallons a year.
What 40 or 50? Try more than 300,000 gallons now, the amount of Portland cider produced in 2021. From a literal family store that opened in a small rented space in Oregon City in 2013, Portland Cider Co. has become the second largest cider seller. in Oregon, behind only 2 cider towns of Corvallis.
And it does not stagnate. In 2015 they moved into the current Clackamas cider house and production hall, a large Portland cider sign and red apple logo attracting the attention of passengers speeding down Interstate 205. A second food hall was added. followed in southeast Portland on Hawthorne Boulevard, and now a third is set to open next month just west of downtown Beaverton.
Distribution has also exploded. The company’s ciders can now be found throughout Oregon and Washington, northern Idaho, northern California, and last month relaunched in Colorado after an initial foray few years ago.
The 10,000 barrels of Portland cider produced in 2021 has maxed out its current canning capacity, the Parrishes say, but their fermentation and storage capacity still has room to grow, and they’re hiring to try to keep up. . The cider house offers a wide range of styles from dry to fruity to appeal to varied palates, with standouts like Kinda Dry and Imperial Peach Tea, seasonal favorites like Strawberry Ciderade, and small-batch offerings like Holy Habanero and sangria.
“We’re going to produce about 40,000 gallons this month,” the equivalent of about 1,300 barrels, Jeff said during an interview with The Oregonian/OregonLive in late April. “If we were to do that, we could probably produce about 60,000 gallons before the bottleneck, which would be our canning line. We have enough tanks and fermenters to make about 100,000 gallons a month, but the canning line couldn’t keep up.
From sales to ciders
Those are impressive numbers and good issues to have for a company started less than a decade ago by a couple seeking to escape their previous careers – her as titleholder and receiver, he as supplier to Freightliner Trucks.
“When we started Portland Cider Co., our goal was just to make a living because we wanted to quit our corporate jobs,” says Jeff. “We just wanted to pay the bills. And we did after about three years, which was way ahead of the schedule we had.
The parishes came to cider – and to each other – by very different routes. For Lynda, now 54, cider has become her favorite drink in her native England, where she was born 13 miles south of London and then immigrated to the United States in 1991.
Jeff, now 53, was born and raised in Eugene, then attended the Oregon Institute of Technology before moving to Portland. Not a fan of beer, his cider journey began at his brother’s bachelor party in the mid-90s.
Cider making became a hobby that grew more serious for him over the years with educational stints at Portland Community College, Washington State University in Vancouver and, of course, travels from “research” in Lynda’s family home in England, where the cider flows.
“It was a hobby until I guess we both reached a point in our lives where, professionally, we wanted a change,” Jeff says. The couple knew they wanted to start a business together and narrowed it down to a cider house – or a hardware store.
“It would have been a bad decision,” says Lynda, as dry as English Pub Dry Cider.
It was a cider house.
“We decided, you know what, let’s do this,” Jeff says. “We had a large amount of money that if we lost it all we wouldn’t be homeless, and we knew we could probably get things done without quitting our day jobs.”
But growth came quickly, and Lynda first quit her day job when the couple opened their location in Oregon City, with service behind the dining room counter. Jeff continued making cider while working in sales for a few more years.
Demand increased, and then came the biggest expansion of all, the move into the production cider house and tasting room in Clackamas. With it came the reality of no longer being a small start-up.
“2015 was a great year,” says Jeff. “But that’s when the business got tough, when we moved into this giant building, took on a lot of overhead, triple-digit category growth slowed down to double-digit growth. .
“I mean we didn’t have a business plan when we started. It was a wing and a prayer, but it was the right place at the right time. But it’s hard, it’s really hard. You need to have great cash and great branding. »
Quality, no compromise
The large liquid portion was key, as seen in a spin through Portland Cider Rewards Page, which rolls again and again. And key to that, the Parrishes say, was head cider maker Deron Davenport. The former Great Harvest Bread Co. baker quickly transitioned from working in Portland Cider’s tasting room to running the cider house.
“Deron is a purist, he has an incredible palate and he doesn’t want to compromise when it comes to the integrity of this label,” says Jeff. “It’s all to our advantage, and sometimes to my dismay, because often I’m willing to compromise because we have to get the product out, and there’s no escaping Deron. This is a good thing. It’s the passion he has for it. »
Quality also results from Portland Cider’s commitment to using only pure juice, with truckloads of apple juice delivered to the cider house within 24 hours of pressing in eastern Washington. One of their upcoming products is a prickly pear cider which, like all apple ciders in their line, will not include any supplements.
“There’s a market for that,” he says. “It’s just not how we make cider.”
The business is still recovering from the pandemic – it credits government aid programs for helping them through, but dining room sales are still lagging. And they face soaring juice prices, among other economic forces. They recently rebranded the packaging to keep it fresh – it’s all part of building a business they’re proud of and will continue to learn from as they grow.
“We wanted to start a business because we wanted to create an environment that we always wanted to be able to work in, and that’s how we approached it from day one,” says Jeff. “When I say we’re serious and we care about what we do here, that’s why this rebranding. It’s trying to reflect the quality and the seriousness that we take in the liquid that comes in here.
“For the most part, we’re just a small family business that continues to learn as we go and do our best,” he says. “That’s why people should buy Portland cider, because they should expect more from the cider they drink, as we say on every package.”
Pitches (to see website for hours and details)
- Clackamas Pub + Cider House: 8925 SE Jannsen Road, Bldg. F, Clackamas; 503-744-4213
- Portland Cider Mill: 3638 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland; 971-888-5054
- Westside Pub: 4005 SW Orbit St., Beaverton. The open-air European brasserie-style pub should open at the end of June at the latest, with a capacity of 80 people. It will feature 24 taps, with eight to 10 guest beer taps as well. Food offerings will range between the full Clackamas Pub menu and the small Hawthorne Tasting Room menu, but without a full kitchen this will allow outdoor food from nearby restaurants.
Portland Cider Co.’s Year-Round Highlights
- a bit dry
- Strawberry Pineapple
- Imperial Peach Tea
- Fishing Bay
- True Gross
- Perfect 10
- Just released: True Brut, Strawberry Pineapple, Holy Habanero
- Coming soon: a new season, Passion Orange Goyave, which will be introduced this month, replacing Blueberry Bourbon Basil
- On the horizon: Imperial Dry, which will be a new six-pack, and Prickly Punch
For a complete list of ciders, go to ciders page of the site.