Ahead of this weekend’s Cider Summit Portland, we interviewed the festival’s founder Alan Shapiro. The Seattle resident has spent many years in the beer, cider and spirits industry and founded Cider Summit in September 2010 in the Emerald City. Most recently he is one of the three founders of a beautiful new gin that recently hit store shelves called Rendle’s Original Gin.
What made you decide to put together and host Cider Summit?
Alan: I began importing Aspall Cyder from Suffolk, England in the spring of 2003 and was looking for ways to help build the artisanal cider segment. Around 2007/2008, I was having lunch with an old craft beer industry friend, Mark Bronder, from my days at Pete’s Brewing Company. He was unfamiliar with the cider category – especially artisanal cider and began quizzing me about the origins and evolution of the category. After several questions, he concluded that it sounded like the early days of craft beer, where there was still a tremendous amount of mystery to the consumer as to what those products were all about. He commented on the importance of sampling and producers connecting one-on-one with consumers at local festivals and fairs. He recommended creating a series of cider festivals to give consumers that same opportunity for cider.
After sitting on the idea for a couple of years I partnered with my good friends that produce Seattle Beer Week and we created the first Cider Summit in Seattle in September 2010.
If I am not mistaken it began 8 years ago in Seattle. The following year you expanded the fest and brought it to Portland. What made you decide to host a festival in Portland?
Alan: Though we only had around 400 people show up at our first Seattle event we were encouraged by the enthusiastic feedback. We really felt the timing was right to expand and Portland was the natural next stop. In those days there were not many cideries around the country and the heaviest (if not only) concentration was in WA & OR. We had similar encouraging feedback, but like Seattle attendance was in the hundreds that first year.
How did you approach Oregon Fruit Products to be a partner in the now annual Fruit Cider Challenge?
Alan: I read that an old friend from my beer days and former VP at Columbia Distributing, Chris Sarles had come on board as their new CEO. I reached out to catch up and we began discussing whether there may be a market for them with cidermakers as there had been with many craft brewers. We felt the Fruit Cider Challenge would be a fun way to engage both the cidermakers and the event attendees.
How have you seen Cider Summit grow over the years?
Alan: We were fortunate with our timing to be on the front end of the cider explosion in the region and have grown along with it. Hopefully we’ve been a good partner in helping to drive some of that growth.
What do you see the future of Cider Summit becoming? Will you be adding any additional cities beyond the four that it is hosted in currently?
Alan: I don’t see the model of the Summit changing too much. We’ve always had a local/regional orientation and are pleased to provide access to a wide audience to some of the smaller brands with limited marketing resources. We’ve evaluated a number of opportunities in several cities over the last few years but just haven’t been able to piece it together. We are very close to announcing an expansion into one other city before the end of the year. Hopefully we’ll have that finalized in the next few weeks.
The 7th annual Cider Summit Portland takes place this weekend, Friday, June 16th from 3:00-8:00pm and on Saturday, June 17th from Noon-5:00pm. Held at the relaxing Fields Neighborhood Park that’s located at NW 10th and NW Overton in Portland, Cider Summit is always a great fest to find a wide array of cider from the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
D.J. is a Portland, Oregon based writer that spent his formative years in the Midwest. With over 20 years under his belt of drinking beer at festivals across America and the world, he has developed a strong appreciation and understanding of craft beer and the industry that surrounds it. He can be found in any of the great breweries or beer bars that make Portland the best beer city in the world. His writing can also be found in Northwest Brewing News and can be followed on Twitter at @hopapalooza.