The hard cider industry is white hot right now and no one knows that better than Bruce Nissen who founded both Fox Barrel and Crispin Hard Cider only to sell them to Miller-Coors for what only could have been a hefty paycheck. But Bruce did not just sell-out, he bought back in, building a 60K capacity production facility in Stevenson, Washington that will soon jump to 90K and launched his own new Jester & Judge cider brand. From his impressive new facility in the Oregon/Washington gorge, Bruce will eventually be able to produce beer too, though he has no intention of making his own, and open his own ambitious cider pub and restaurant. Until now, Oregon especially has not had a serious contract production facility as our neighbors do, this could allow smaller brewers out of capacity to make more beer through Jester & Judge or perhaps even out of state breweries to make their beers or ciders here and widen their distribution footprint without the costs of trucking.
Bruce Nissen has demonstrated his true love of ciders by getting back in with the recently launched Jester & Judge Cider, using fresh apple juice and no concentrates. Their two flavors American Apple and Sharp Cherry also have a unique flavor twist for such straight-forward styles, the the American Apple is fermented with Wyeast Laboratories 1056 American Ale Yeast, famous for it’s use as Sierra Nevada Brewing’s strain and the Sharp Cherry is fermented with a Trappist Ale Yeast strain adding extra rich fruity and phenolic qualities. They are also relatively dry, ranging in 1-1 1/4 Brix. Jester & Judge sources all their fruit, even non-apple fruit like the cherries in Sharp Cherry or Marionberries for their upcoming Marion Perry are whole not concentrated or flavored and later down the line they want to have an extensive cider barrel-aging program and mosaic and citra hopped ciders. On standing out in the increasingly crowded but still relatively small cider market, Bruce says ” I think quality always has a place in the market. If you want to be the next angry orchard volume wise, I think you’ve a pretty tough row to hoe. If however you stand for something, have quality on your side and actually care about the craft, I think there are people out there willing to care with you. If you light yourself on fire, people will still come to see you burn.”