If anyone ever asked Abe Currin if he ever thought he would end up back in his hometown of Milton-Freewater pressing apples and making hard cider, he would have responded, "Cider? What's that?"
Currin attended McLoughlin High School and went on to the University of Oregon for a degree in political science. Later he attended Eastern Oregon University for his masters in elementary education.
"I'm a proud Duck so I don't usually report that side of the story," Currin joked.
He said cider was never really on his radar until he came home and was reminded of his time with the Brown family, who had been commercially growing apples in the Valley since the 1950s. They inevitably became interested in the fermentation process of creating alcohol with fruit.
While seemingly everyone else in the Walla Walla Valley was planting vineyards, the Brown family decided to put in 60 acres of cider apples in 2008 and 2009 with a pledge to grow only the highest quality fruit using sustainable and wildlife-friendly farming practices and eventually make the best craft cider in the country.
"I became a part of Blue Mountain Cider because I wanted to do something unique," Currin said. "It's the best job in the world."
What do you love about the Valley?
We are so blessed in the Walla Walla Valley to be surrounded by a diverse amount of agriculture. Growing up around here, I think I used to take that for granted. I never thought 30 years ago that this Valley would become the scene it is today.
What I love about Blue Mountain Cider is the fact that the majority of our apples come from the Valley here. Believe it or not, the majority of cideries in the country do not grow their own apples.
We are very fortunate here at Blue Mountain Cider in that not only do we have our own apples in our backyard, but our company’s cold storages allow us to crush apples practically year-round. This is an advantage that most cideries do not have.
What are some of the challenges you face as a cidermaker?
Blue Mountain Cider has been one of the longest running cideries in the Northwest. We have seen many cideries come and go through the years.
One of the hardest challenges we have at times is staying fresh and relevant. There are so many options out there, and in the craft industry everyone is always looking for the hot new thing. Trying not to be the old man on the block while still maintaining your history is a balancing act.
What has been your favorite batch of cider you have created?
My favorite batch of cider that I created was our peach hopped cider. I used a base of our apples and blended with a small amount of peach juice for sweetness.
I then added a proprietary blend of Hopzoil called citrus fruitbomb. The hops give it a tropical citrus flavor that complements the acid of the apple base along with the sweetness of the peach.
Hopzoil is a company that takes only fresh hops at harvest time and steam-distilling them on the farm to capture all of those essential oils found in fresh hops out in the field. It’s an amazing product, and a little goes a long way.
What is your cidermaking philosophy?
As a cidermaker, my philosophy is to make consistent, clean, and approachable cider with very little intervention.
I like to achieve my pH and Brix levels through a blend of different apples rather than additions of acid and sugar. I am lucky through Earl Brown and Sons, that I get quality well grown apples just a few blocks away.
For me, the best thing about producing cider is getting to play with lots of different apple varieties from culinary to heirloom. It’s amazing how many different flavors can be achieved through different varieties of apples.
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