October 26, 2018
Customer Spotlight: 1859 Cider Co.
When Patricia and Dan met, they were environmental scientists. Then they went back to school for winemaking. Then they fell in love with cider.
“We were making cider at home, out of our garage,” Dan said. “It was fun. It was a new industry, and we thought we could do it better by taking a winemaker’s approach to it.”
So what exactly is a winemaker’s approach?
It’s fruit-focused, for starters. “We just want to showcase the fruit,” Patricia said. “We used to go to cider events and ask, what sort of apples are you using? The boilerplate answer was ‘northwest fresh-pressed’ or ‘northwest apples.’ If you were working in wine, that answer would get you fired! So we saw there’s a niche here for premium ciders in this market.”
That’s what inspired them to start 1859 Cider Co. Today, Patricia and Dan Fox produce about 80 varietals on their own land while also researching rootstock for Oregon State University. Beyond their own acreage, they source fruit from local orchards from Salem to Hillsboro.
While a typical cidery might turn around a blend within 48 hours, 1859 ages its offerings from four months to two years. This devotion to process yields regional treasures such as the single-source Winesap from Yakima, the Chemeketan Pear blend from Salem, a Cranberry cider hand-picked from a sweet bog in Bandon, and the limited release Mt. Hood Strawberry.
“It’s a passion,” Patricia said. “We care. We’re doing local, seasonal fruit, protecting local farms. We would never release something unless we believed it was just right. I feel like Kevin understood that.”
Kevin Thomas at Willamette Community Bank was instrumental in helping 1859 get off the ground. “We had a pretty robust business plan,” Dan said, “but usually with a startup, banks don’t give you the time of day. Then someone told us about Willamette Community Bank.”
“I remember this like it was yesterday,” Patricia said. “Kevin loved that we’re environmental scientists, that we care about the fruit, about how we’re treating the land. He said, ‘I have grandchildren. That’s where the future is.’”
Kevin helped the Foxes through the process of getting their loan and connected them with the economic development agency Business Oregon. From there, 1859 took off.
During its first year, the cidery was named “Best Newcomer in the Nation” by Sip Magazine, “Best Cider in the State” by Willamette Week, and “Top Five Ciders in North America” (the only U.S. cidery recognized) by Cider Craft Magazine. This year, it was awarded “Number One Cidery in the Western United States” by Sunset Magazine.
As for the future, 1859 will not be sitting still. “In addition to our tap room in Salem, we have a couple hundred accounts from Astoria to Eugene,” Patricia said. “We’d like to continue that growth.”
And we’d like to help them. Willamette Community Bank is proud to support the local businesses that give our region flavor.