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Profile: Portland Cider Co.

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Just south of Portland, Oregon City has recently gained taprooms, growler bars and breweries—and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. We’ll profile a few of the places popping up, why they think Oregon City is a strategic location, and what the plans are for the future. First up is Portland Cider Co.

Oregon City is a city of firsts. It had the first newspaper to be published west of the Rockies; it was the last spot settlers on the Oregon Trail landed before heading out to their homesteads; and it was at one time battling for supremacy with Portland (we all know how that turned out). Oregon City has all the elements of a typical U.S. city built in the mid-1800s: western boom town, growth, streetcars, paper mill, and a healthy Main Street that supported its citizens. It came upon rough times like many U.S. cities, but is slowly gaining steam with a walkable downtown area that is seeing new life—and new shops.

Up the hill from Main Street, Jeff Parrish and his wife Lynda opened the Portland Cider Co. taproom last February after successfully selling their ciders at farmers markets across the Portland metro area.

“The whole taproom came about because we realized that we had no place to put a face to the brand,” says Parrish. After reading article after article on Portland ciders and seeing no mention of his own, he decided to open the taproom.

“We had a storage room, if you will, and spent Christmas break remodeling it and opened the taproom on Valentine’s Day. I wish we had done the taproom coming out of the gate, as opposed to a more reactionary move,” he adds.

This strategy didn’t seem to slow things down for the cider company. Two-thirds of its taproom business comes from the locals in Oregon City, while the other third comes from around the Portland metro area. Their two best sellers are Kinda Dry, a traditional English cider, and Sorta Sweet, which isn’t as sweet as many of the national brands. Half of the sales come from growlers, the business in total is growing 5% a month, and the cidery is producing a little under 100 barrels of cider a month. By the end of the year, Parrish says they’ll be at 150 barrels a month.

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So, why isn’t the cider company called Oregon City Cider Co.?

“One of out ten customers ask me that same question,” says Parrish. “The name came out of the fact that we were thinking broader than just our local market, and the brand resonates far away from Portland.” On the other hand, Oregon City and Clackamas County have also been easy to work with; the tax and business fees are lower and there’s less bureaucratic hassle than Portland.

“The folks who work in Oregon City and the county want to do everything they can to help you, as opposed to doing everything they can to ensure you’re in full compliance with the law. They want you to comply, but they also want you to be successful. That’s the difference from Portland,” says Parrish.

That being said, the company has its eyes on expanding its facilities or opening a retail spot in Portland at some point. “From a business perspective, it makes a lot of sense.”

“Right now we’re kind of outside the center of Portland and we’re kind of doing what we do. I can’t believe how successful our taproom has been considering it’s about the worst location you can possibly imagine putting a taproom in. We’re in back of a light industrial park. When you drive by, you see dumpsters and loading doors,” says Parrish.

“But it’s got a nice warm environment inside,” he adds.

Portland Cider Co. is located at 275 S Beavercreek Rd #149, Oregon City. Bottles are available across the Portland Metro area.

John Chilson writes about Portland history and architecture at Lost Oregon. He's also written for Neighborhood Notes, Travel Oregon, Portland Architecture, Askmen.org, San Diego Reader, and Portland Food and Drink. Follow him on twitter at @LostOregon for local history nerdism; for beer tweets he's at @Hopfrenzy. Shoot him an email at [email protected] if you want to get in touch.

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