Lassen Traditional Cider (Chico, California)
Lassen Traditional Cider was founded by Ben Nielsen. Ben's love of fermentation began when he started brewing beer in college. After brewing extensively for his adult life, around 2005 he began delving into cider in an effort to use the free fruit from a neighbor's backyard apples trees in Corvallis, OR. After a couple years, this morphed into an annual cider pressing party. Unused neighborhood trees, unseen apple trees in the ditch on the side of a country road, and long forgotten pioneer orchards were all sought out and utilized. A major revelation occurred when a batch of cider was produced from crab apples, and it ended up being the best he'd ever made. So, some apples that were so astringent as to be seemingly inedible actually made delicious cider. After this, an effort was undertaken to seek out varieties of apples that were good for cider instead of scavenging whatever was available. Finding an orchard in Yoncalla, OR with over 4,000 apple varieties allowed Ben to experiment with single varietal ciders made from unusual apples, from European bittersharps and bittersweets to an array of American heirlooms. Lassen Cider was born!
Ben's cider making philosophy can be boiled down to a couple simple tenets, using good apples that are sourced as locally as possible and producing an unadulterated, natural cider with minimal intervention. All the apples they use come from within 180 miles of Chico, CA from the Cascade and Sierra Nevada foothill regions along with the coast mountains. Their focus is on the American Heirloom apple varieties that have a rich history and have traditionally been used for cider, but are considered multi-purpose in that they can usually also be eaten fresh or used for cooking, including King David, Newtown Pippin, Winesap, Arkansas Black, and Jonathan.
No commodity products are used in their ciders. No mass produced bulk juice, no added sugar, and no purees, extracts, or concentrates. Just whole fruit pressed and fermented naturally. No sulfites are used so the native yeasts on the fruit are allowed to play a role in the fermentation. Lassen only makes cider seasonally, when the apples are at their peak of ripeness. After pressing, the cider is allowed to ferment for a few months in neutral red wine barrels and is then bottle conditioned for a couple more months before being released. Lassen ciders are fermented fully dry, with zero residual sugar. They also never pasteurize or filter, making the cider a truly live product.
To learn more about Lassen, visit their website.