Thirst for cider fuels 2 Towns’ growth

2013-10-31T06:00:00Z Thirst for cider fuels 2 Towns’ growthBy Bennett Hall, Corvallis Gazette-Times Corvallis Gazette Times

Corvallis company has plans to open a second production facility

Don’t look now, but 2 Towns Ciderhouse is growing again.

It’s been a little more than a year since Corvallis’ homegrown hard cider producer graduated from its 1,000-square-foot startup space in the back of the Eastgate Business Center to a 10,000-square-foot showplace at the front of the industrial park.

Turns out the region’s thirst for 2 Towns’ product is even bigger than that.

“We added a tasting room and quintupled our production capacity, as well as bringing on 13 new full-time employees in the last 12 months,” said co-founder Aaron Sarnoff-Wood, the company’s marketing manager. “Now we’ve exceeded our capacity again.”

In an attempt to keep pace with that soaring demand, 2 Towns plans to invest a cool $1 million in a second production facility. The new cidery will occupy 15,000 square feet of renovated space at 5123 S.W. Hout St., in the Corvallis Airport Industrial Park.

The plan is to move production of the company’s flagship cider lines to the new facility while retaining the tasting room at the current location, which also will be used to expand production of seasonal and barrel-aged ciders, special releases and pommeau, a brandy-infused creation that co-founder and head cidermaker Dave Takush likens to apple port.

And if the Northwest cider boom keeps on booming as expected, the airport site has some flexibility for additional expansion.

“We’re immediately doubling capacity as soon as we move in, and there’s room to do a whole lot more than that once we get rolling,” Sarnoff-Wood said.

Most of 2 Towns’ products are variations on traditional hard apple cider, lightly carbonated with an alcohol content of around 6 or 7 percent, about the same as most craft beers.

But variety is the name of the game. The company’s lineup includes a seasonal pear cider (also known as perry) and apple ciders flavored with everything from marionberries to sour cherries to rhubarb to ginger. It also bottles a line of locally sourced artisan ciders under the Traditional Ciderworks label.

“We’ve got sort of a microbrew mentality around here,” Takush said. “We try to push the boundaries of what cider can be.”

2 Towns ciders are available in bottles and cans, but most of its production is draft cider, sold in kegs to bars, restaurants and growler fill stations. The company now has hundreds of taps in Oregon and Washington and recently started selling its wares in Minnesota.

As early as next year, Sarnoff-Wood said, he and his partners hope to get a slice of the ripe and juicy California market.

Hard cider, which once was an everyday beverage in this country and has retained that status in Europe, is making a comeback in the United States. But reliable production statistics are hard to come by, in part because it doesn’t fit readily into recognizable categories.

“It’s a little complicated,” said Christie Scott, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. “You have to have a winery license to produce cider, but it’s taxed like a malt beverage, like beer.”

John Kohn, the co-owner of Salem’s Wandering Aengus Ciderworks, said the industry is just beginning to track production and sales data. A new organization that Kohn helped to launch in February, the United States Association of Cider Makers, should help with that.

“The cumulative guess right now is that cider this year is about 1 percent of the total beer market, which is a small chunk of an enormous pie, whereas craft beer is 11 or 12 percent,” Kohn said. “So we’re a segment of a segment.”

Nevertheless, it’s a segment that appears to be growing all the time.

2 Towns expects to produce about 4,500 barrels, or nearly 140,000 gallons, of cider this year. According to Kohn, that ranks the Corvallis company among the “big three” of Oregon cider makers, along with his own Wandering Aengus and Blue Mountain, a contract producer in Milton-Freewater.

The company has applied for a property tax exemption under the South Corvallis Enterprise Zone. If the request is approved by city and county officials and the company hits job creation and sustainability targets, 2 Towns would be exempt from property taxes on improvements and equipment at the airport facility for up to five years.

The company also is awaiting approval of a licensing application from the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

Reporter Bennett Hall can be contacted at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@gazettetimes.com.

Copyright 2015 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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