Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bushwhacker Cider

In a town with hundreds of taverns and dozens of beer bloggers, I guess it was inevitable that a beer blogger would open a pub. Bushwhacker Cider was opened recently at SE 12th and Powell by Bulls & Brew author Jeff Smith and his wife Erin. As suggested by the name, it's a cider place, not a beer place, though they intend to keep a keg of good Oregon beer on one of their seven taps, and they have a selection of lighter European beers for use in cider-beer drinks.

With five or six ciders on tap -- most about $4 a pint -- and a large selection of bottled cider for either on-premise consumption or to go, Bushwhacker wants to be Portland's cider headquarters. They will also start making their own cider soon, while maintaining the guest taps and bottles for sale. Erin said that the feds at the TTB had to scratch their heads for a while over that business model -- apparently there is no other cidery in the country that also sells cider from other producers. Look for Bushwhacker's first house-made offerings around the first of the year.

Dave and I popped by to throw some darts last week, and we were impressed with the dart setup -- plenty of light and plenty of room at the two dartboards. We did have to impose ourselves between the regulars that were already sitting at the tables by the dartboards, but they were amiable and didn't seem too bored by our questionable dart skills.

It was a little distressing that there wasn't a beer on tap that night, which was the only way I dragged Dave down there. They had most recently served Ft. George's Cavatica Stout, and were waiting for another keg of something special from Ft. George, but there were only 7 ciders on tap, so we bravely plunged into cider world. Erin suggested the Magner's cider from Ireland for someone who was used to drinking beer, and it suited me pretty well. Dave went for the Ace Joker, about twice as strong as the Magner's, crisp and dry, pretty good. Neither would win me over from being a beer guy, though.

The bottle selection is really reasonably priced, and Bushwhacker doesn't charge a corkage fee. There were some interesting bottles, both domestic and imported, most in the $6 to $8 range. Since a 750 ml bottle is about a pint and a half, that's basically the same price as the ciders on tap. I found the Basque-country cider from Petritegi to be the most interesting thing in the house -- yeasty and a little tart, it seemed a little more special than most of the other things I tried. If you can go for something sweeter, I like Blue Mountain's Cherry cider, but you'd have to be in the mood for it.

Bushwhacker took the fiscally responsible move of opening without a kitchen. That means you can bring in your own food, but you can't bring your children. There's a nice patio out front, and a variety of casual seating inside. One issue that Jeff and Erin are working on is lighting -- when they got the space it was outfitted with about 100 bright fluorescent lights ranged along the ceiling. After one night in the place gave them all a bad headache, they turned off all of them but the one over the dartboard. Even that one fluorescent is kind of a buzz-killer, but they're working on some replacement lighting.

If you're planning on biking to Bushwhacker from the north, its location on Powell west of the 17th Avenue vortex limits your choices. Dave and I thought we could avoid a rush-hour trip down 11th by crossing Powell at 21st, but that just leads you into heavy-rail no-man's land. 11th/Milwaukee isn't all that terrible, but if you want to avoid the traffic and the stoplight, there is a funky bike-ped cloverleaf over Powell at 9th. Turn left on Franklin and it will get you over to 12th Avenue.


  1. We went on foot and were pleasantly surprised by cutting through Ladd's Addition and taking the SE 13th Place pedestrian walkway.

    On bike, I guess you would take SE 11th south, turn left onto Gideon after the railroad tracks and then right at 13th. Puts you outside their door.

  2. Lighting is so incredibly important to establishing the proper atmosphere in a place, and it's one of the last things that a lot of people think about.

    When I opened my business, I wanted to go cheap on lights, and tried doing an "industrial chic" thing by suspending a bunch of T8 fixtures off my 16' ceilings. No matter what bulbs I tried, I couldn't get the right light. I ended up returning everything before I opened, and although I hate to admit it (as a guy that designed and built EVERYTHING in my business custom, from scratch), the best option I found for affordable lighting was Ikea. After I returned the super-cheap industrial T8 fixtures and went to Ikea to buy cheaply made (yet attractive) fixtures, I was amazed to find that nice looking lights from Ikea where significantly cheaper than the cheapest fluorescent shop-lights at home depot, and while they were nicer looking (or at least a better match for the design of my space), ultimately what mattered most was the quality of the light.

    One of the things that was really important to me was opening an energy-efficient, "green" type store, so I still went with fluorescent bulbs (in the form of CFL's), but I found that the range of color and quality of light that I could get out of CFL's was significantly more attractive than what I was getting out of T8's, and buying them in bulk at Ikea, they were CHEAP too. I've spent most of my life there for the past 4 years, and the light has yet to offend.

    Seems like something maybe bushwacker should look into.

    The last place I went that was suffering from terrible lighting choices was Cascade on the unofficial opening night. Since then, they've turned off almost every light in the house on every subsequent visit I've made. It improved the light level, but the design is off big-time now with 90% of the lights hanging from the ceiling appearing to have dead bulbs.

  3. @Lindsey: OK, you're talking about the crosswalk at 13th and Powell. I wasn't aware of that, but I think if I was on a bike I would either wait for the light at 11th or take the cloverleaf at 9th. On foot, you could take 16th out of Ladd's, and get to your crosswalk via the Pedestrian Bridge to Nowhere at 16th and Brooklyn, if you wanted the scenic route.

    @pedXer: Interesting point you make. In fairness to Jeff and Erin, they got this thing rolling on practically zero investment; when I asked them when they expected to be in the black they looked at me blankly and said "we already are". But you're right, it seems like such a simple thing, but should be an early priority. One place that nailed that is Bar Avignon -- I'm not a regular there, but I love their lighting.

  4. I love me a good cider--I'll check it out. To confirm, it's on the north side of Powell, a block west of Milwaukie Ave, right?

  5. @Jeff: off by 180 degrees. It's on the South side of Powell, 1 block East of Milwaukee. Behind the Subway. In this streetview, it's the space at the end with the open garage door.

  6. I have a legendarily bad sense of direction. I should do the George Costanza thing and decide which direction I think something is in and then turn around and go the other way.