Son of Man cidery in Cascade Locks, Oregon, just asked the cider powerhouses of the world, “How do you like them Oregon apples?”
In a series of blind tastings held recently at the Sagardo Forum in San Sebastián, Spain, three natural Basque-style Son of Man ciders clinched medals. Beti, an everyday table cider, brought home the gold, the oak-aged Sagardo took silver, and Handi, an heirloom gold cider, earned bronze.
The Son of Man ciders were the only entries in their category from a producer not located in Basque Country or Asturias, where this tangy style of cider has reigned supreme for generations. Son of Man held their own at the Sagardo Forum tastings against perennial Basque Country favorites Oiharte and Zapiain and famed Asturian producers Llagar Castañon and Trabanco.
This was the fifth year for the international competition, with producers from 19 countries entering more than 260 ciders.
Made more like wine than beer, Son of Man co-founders Ella McCallion and Jasper Smith press fresh Oregon cider apples during the fall harvest, followed by a wild yeast fermentation. They refuse to add sulfites or anything else as the cider ferments and ages for six months in either stainless steel or oak vessels.
The resulting Son of Man ciders are a refreshing 6% alcohol by volume, driven by crisp acidity and a healthy dose of tart fruit and funk.
Energized by their recent victories in San Sebastián, McCallion said she and Smith were “excited to redouble our efforts to push the cider category forward and away from the sweet alco-pop ciders that taint many Americans’ perceptions of the drink.”
American cider fans must be coming around to the Son of Man way, as the Oregon cidery has quadrupled its annual production from 20,000 to 80,000 liters in just six years.
I’ve long been a fan of how McCallion and Smith’s ciders work with many different foods. While the Son of Man website recommends serving their ciders with “funky cheese, salty oysters on the half-shell or rare meat off the grill,” I like pairing the Beti with lightly salted popcorn for a perfect movie night snack.
The following three medal winners are available in Portland at Providore Fine Foods and Belmont Station. Or you can order them through the Son of Man website, which offers local pick-up options and shipping to 39 states and the District of Columbia.
2022 Sagardo ($16 for 750 milliliters)
Sagardo, which means “cider” in Eurskara, the Basque language, is the only Son of Man cider fermented and aged in large oak barrels known as foeders.
This classic Basque-style cider features aromas and flavors of Mirabelle plums and mangos, along with side notes of cinnamon and a bouquet of orange blossoms, rosemary, thyme and sage. Bright acidity meets bodacious flavor in this bottle.
Beti ($6 for 12 fluid ounces)
The “everyday table cider” description is accurate, as you will be tempted to keep a bevy of Beti cans in your refrigerator at all times.
Beti is nice and dry, with lemon, ginger and fresh straw aromas leading to flavors like peaches, pine needles and a trace of saline. Try the popcorn pairing suggested earlier with “The Good Boss” starring Javier Bardem.
Handi ($6 for 12 fluid ounces)
Handi means “big” in Euskara, and in this case, it describes this golden-hued heirloom cider’s weighty mouthfeel and tannic structure.
A nifty lemon verbena tea aroma is flanked by crunchy dry oak leaves and grilled portobello mushrooms. The tart citrus flavor tastes like a broiled grapefruit laced with sea salt. This is the cider I’d serve with rare meat just off of the grill.