There is no doubt the Portland cider industry is booming, with a handful of cideries becoming nationwide names rather than just local brands. But in the Rose City, where craft beverages pour like the Northwest rain, there’s always room for new makers.
Owner Jeff Jarrett of 12 Bridge Ciderworks is not intimidated by the success of his neighbors, but says he is rather inspired. “It gives me hope, like, if I can do half of what Nat [of Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider] and Jeff [of Portland Cider Co.] have done with their companies, I’ll be ecstatic,” Jarrett says of his young cidery in Oregon City, Oregon. “While they can have great growth, I can still squeeze in and have great growth. So there’s plenty of room.”
12 Bridge opened its doors to its taproom in June 2017, and at just 20 minutes south of the big city, Jarrett still considers his company a “Portland company,” even naming his brand after the famous Bridgetown.
Like many other makers, Jarrett started by cidermaking from home. After realizing his kids would be moving off to college, he took on cidermaking as a hobby to keep himself busy in their absence and this new found passion quickly grew into a business. “I love just watching people engage with it and love it,” he says. “I wanted to create something. I love breweries and going to bars… I like the idea of a taproom and I love even more of the idea of producing it and selling it.”
The brand was born and took on the name of 12 Bridge Ciderworks — an homage to the 12 bridges that cross over the Willamette River that runs through Portland. As a tribute to fond memories of growing up on the river and then raising his family there, Jarrett chose to name each of the flagship ciders after one of the city’s bridges, currently with nine bridge-themed sips.
As for additional flavors to the ciders, Jarrett has found the simpler the better, choosing to include only a few ingredients in each batch, noting the importance for drinkers to be able to taste every ingredient. One way he ensures this is by co-fermenting. For example, he’ll let the apple juice and the black cherry juice ferment together, rather than simply adding the black cherry juice to the already fermented apple juice. “It gives it more of a cohesive, integrative flavor,” Jarrett says. “People can taste the fruit in it and they can taste both the fruits. It’s not one over the other.”
At the 12 Bridge taproom, visitors will find 12 cider on draft, roughly half house ciders and the other half guest taps, plus beer, wine and kombucha for those seeking something less apple-forward. Jarrett says the guest taps are all about supporting each other locally, using the feature almost as an unspoken exchange and a gesture of encouragement within the burgeoning community. “All the cidermakers that I have met are extremely helpful,” he adds. “If I ask a question they’ll give me an answer, they’ll solve the problem. It’s very tight knit and helpful. To me, that tells me that everyone’s not focused on trying to compete with each other or take one another’s business away — they’re just externally growing.”
Right now, Jarrett’s main focus is to keep the momentum going and he’s taking the steps to enable 12 Bridge to act like a bigger company. This includes infrastructural endeavors, like buying more equipment that will make for a more efficient process, and canning the cider, a project Jarrett says he is most excited about as it will open new doors, expanding their reach to the greater Portland area rather than limiting them to local taps. He plans to have select ciders in can by September, with elegant packaging decked out in Portland bridges already designed.
12 Bridge Ciderworks is just getting started but Jarrett and his team already have big plans, and the Portland cider industry seems to be welcoming the new company with open arms.