Nancy and Steve “Bear” Bishop were first introduced to hard cider in the 1970s on a trip to Canada. After making cider as hobbyists for many years, in 2001 they took a trip to the cider making regions of Spain, France, and England to observe commercial operations. When they returned home, Steve and Nancy took a class at WSU from an English cider master, and ordered 900 French and English cider trees which started their journey into commercial cider making and the founding of Alpenfire Cider (previously named Wildfire Cider).
After becoming certified as an organic orchard in 2005 and organic processors in 2009, Alpenfire Cider holds the distinction of being the first organic cidery in Washington state. Alpenfire Cider now produces seven organic flavored vinegars, and eight different ciders.
Located in Port Townsend, Nancy and Steve love to show people around their orchard, where they grow three French and five English cider apple varieties as well as many heritage and dessert apples. The orchard is also visited by a vibrant community of wildlife including ducks, herons, cougars, bobcats, and coyotes. Organic production is deeply ingrained as a value in their cidery and production.
Alpenfire’s orchard is open by appointment for tours and special events. Visit their tasting room open Friday-Sunday 12:00 – 5:00 pm starting March 13th.
Alpenfire Ciders at 2015 City Fruit Cider Taste:
Taste these ciders and more at City Fruit’s 5th Annual Cider Taste Fundraiser on November 12th at the Pike Place Atrium! Buy tickets here.
When they were young, Nancy and Steve “Bear” Bishop used to head up to Canada to take advantage of the lower drinking age. It was there that they first discovered hard cider. “We’ve been cider enthusiasts for so long, we’ve been learning about it since the 70s,” Nancy recalls. “We started making it as a hobby back then.”
The hobby turned into full-blown obsession after a fateful trip to Europe in 2001. While there, they visited the cider regions of England, France, and Spain, and realized they would have to plant cider apples to produce the kind of cider they tasted. Upon returning home, they enrolled in a Peter Mitchell class at WSU (naturally) and bought 900 French and English cider variety trees. They planted the trees on their land in Port Townsend, WA, in 2003 and saw their first harvest in 2008.
Their orchard was certified organic in 2005, and in 2009 Alpenfire Cider became Washington’s first organic cidery. The state requires two separate certifications to be considered an organic cidery, one for the fruit and one for the cider production process. This presented certain challenges, but the Bishops were up to it. “We didn’t have a real background in fermentation at first, and then we started to learn about the things involved with producing cider organically,” she says. “But we’ve learned to work around the challenges. We didn’t even stop to consider that we might do it differently. We were in the organic farming program way back when at Evergreen State, so that might have something to do with it.”
The additional work with organic production, coupled with the fact that the Bishops largely operate the cidery themselves, means they have to get creative when they need help. They have found success engaging the surrounding community through education. “Our favorite thing is bringing the local 4th graders out to help pollinate the trees,” Nancy says. “We gave the kids paintbrushes and pollen and had them go up and down the rows. Teachers had already covered bees and the pollination process in class.” The kids were so enthusiastic and such a big help that the Bishops plan to welcome them back every year.
City Fruit is excited to welcome Alpenfire to the 4th Annual Hard Cider Taste fundraiser on November 6th. Alpenfire will be pouring three of their terrific ciders: Pirate’s Plank, a bone dry English style cider and 2014 GLINTCAP Gold medal winner; Glow, is a single varietal rosé cider made from the bright red flesh of the Hidden Rose apple (reminiscent of a watermelon inside); and Spark!, a customer favorite made with traditional cider apples and Lazy J’s heirloom varieties and a 2014 GLINTCAP Bronze medal winner in the common cider division.