America’s first cider taphouse and Portland’s first cidery and cider taproom, Bushwhacker Cider, will close for good this Saturday, July 7th. It was hard to believe that when it opened in 2010 there was no such thing as an all hard cider taproom; in fact, before it there was not even an actual hard cidery in Portland. Bushwhacker preceded and then rode the wave into the big craft cider boom that’s still going today, riding the beverage into the mainstream and bars and restaurants everywhere. Bushwacker announcing it is closing for good is sad timing, as it comes on the heels of the 7th annual Oregon Cider Week wrapping up.
Bushwhacker first opened as its own tiny cidery and bottleshop and taproom in September 2010 on SE Powell Blvd. and then expanded to a much nicer second location in the Woodlawn neighborhood across the street from Breakside Brewery Dekum in spring of 2015. That move turned out to be a misstep, as the locals and cider geeks never embraced its somewhat mixed aesthetic and unsure identity, going between a full kitchen to none, no bottles to a bottle selection, etc. Bushwhacker Woodlawn closed in January of 2017, but the flagship location went on. More recently Bushwhacker stopped producing its own ciders and existed only as a bottleshop and taproom.
2 Towns Ciderhouse opened in the same year as Bushwhacker; Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider opened the next year, and tons more local cidermakers have joined the fray since. Bushwhacker now has many other cider taprooms to compete with as well; Portland Cider House is nearby on Hawthorne, Cider Bite holds it down in NW Portland, and the world’s largest cider taphouse, Schilling, is on SE Belmont, not to mention Cider Riot! and many more that are in the works. In other words, the industry has become so competitive that one of its forebears has found business unattainable. This may say something about the cider industry as a whole–it’s growing in market share, but not as fast as the cideries are opening and their production is expanding.
The note below was shared by Jeff Smith, founder of Bushwhacker, via Facebook today:
It’s hard to know where to start this post. With the help of some cheap whiskey I will do my best.
We made the tough decision to close Bushwhacker this coming Saturday, the 7th. With too many reasons to count or share, all I can say is how emotional it has been for myself, and the staff. Emily, Leslie, and Michael are more than just amazing bartenders, they have become our family…and I think to some extent part of yours. They are exceptional employees that have stuck by us and given us more than any employer deserves.
Running a small business, any small business, is very hard. Sometimes, at the end of the day, passion and hard work just aren’t enough. The years of support that you have given us means more than you will ever know, and I hope that every one of you know that all of us have absolutely done the best we know how to do to make every time you have visited a unique, and positive experience. Cider or no cider, we strived to make Bushwhacker a meeting place, a place for new businesses to get their first chance, a space encouraging lively conversation, a place where you could come on your first date, or a pub with friendly faces to console you when you’re down.
I have fond memories of buying the first case of 2 Towns from Aaron, I remember sitting with Nat going over his first label designs, every week I order from Zeb whether I need it or not just for an excuse to share a drink, Izaak and I talking complete BS over expensive German Cider, sharing cider with Tom Oliver and Kevin Zelinski, my first picking party with James and Nick from Wandering Aengus…
Regulars have become world class cider makers or gone into sales, and past bartenders have gone on to work for Schilling, Finnriver, and Apple Outlaw, and every week we get guests in excited about getting into the cider industry in some way. It’s been a pretty special spot to see careers grow from.
I can be proud of that…but really…I did nothing but get lucky to hire amazing staff throughout the years, and somehow to keep the lights on and keep welcoming our customers. So, thank you, and thanks to all of our current, and past staff that helped me out. We’ve shared drinks, cried together, laughed together, and yes…sometimes fought like family.
Join us this Saturday, from 12-8, as we serve you cider for the last day. Come to celebrate what we’ve accomplished, hang out with the best three bartenders in town, and help us empty the coolers and taps with everything marked down to sell. We will have great ciders on tap from some of our favorite producers, and we don’t want a drop left after we close the doors.
It’s been 8 years full of ups and downs for our little cider pub, but it’s time to say good-bye. We will be closed the 4th, but please come in and let us pour you another drink the rest of this week.
Monday/Tuesday/Thursday – 12-10
Wednesday – closed
Friday – 12-11
Saturday – 12-8