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Our journey began nearly a decade ago with four friends and a small mountain of fresh apples.
Ron and Gretchen Brown, Mike Swinnerton and Robbi Ebel pressed the fruit in a garage and fermented the juice in containers.
The Browns contributed more than 40 years in apple-farming experience, while Mike mixed in his years of experience as a home hard-cider and beer brewer. Robbi maintained the books and started the marketing path.
After a few years of experimentation and convincing friends to be tasters, the group believed they were at the start of something promising. Experts from England – where cider is king — were consulted and sought out for further training.
The Blue Mountain cider makers learned vital points to improving their product, such as which apples had the right stuff.
Turned out, the older, traditional varietals –winesaps, pippens, winter banana – had the best acid content, the right zing, if you will, for award-winning cider.
And that’s what came next. The four friends began receiving accolades and awards for their efforts as they continued to operate on a small scale, although they did move things out of the garage in short order.
It was a heady time as they were recognized and lauded with awards from the 2003 Northwest Cider Competition, 2005 and 2006 Indy International Wine Competition, 2006 Long Beach Gran Cru Wine International Wine Competition, and 2005 International Eastern Wine Competition.
Down the road a bit, the Brown family business, Earl Brown and Sons, Inc., joined the adventure. That allowed the operation to be expanded and produced on a greater scale. Nancy Kezele, Ron’s sister, came aboard as assistant manager of Blue Mountain Cider Company and Watermill Winery. Andrew Brown, Ron’s son, is our in-house cider maker. He continues the tradition of looking at new ideas, such as developing peach and pomegranate ciders. He’s also taking our new specialty apples to recreate the old English styles of hard cider, featuring sharp, clean notes of bitter and sweet.
Our family business, the root of who we are, has continued to grow. Earl Brown and Sons, Inc., has grown, packed and shipped apples for more than four decades in the Walla Walla Valley. We continue to invest in state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, and we now also raise wine grapes for leading area wineries.
With a solid foundation and early cider success in place, we recently planted 30 acres of nearly two dozen varietal apples, which will be ready at next harvest season.
As well, we’ve added custom ciders to our line up – delicious and unusual rose ciders that feature real juice from cranberries, cherries and raspberries.
We encourage you to keep checking back to see what new and refreshing ciders we’ve created as one of a handful of America’s artisan cider companies.