As a kid growing up on her family’s farm about 35 miles southwest of Portland, Oregon, Christine Walter never expected to go back to working there. “As you can imagine, at the time, you have very little appreciation for the fact that all your city friends are playing all day and going to the city pool, and you are picking berries,” she says. But that is exactly where she wants to be now. This time, instead of picking berries, she’s fermenting cider.
Bauman’s Farm and Garden in Gervais, Oregon, is known for many things — its produce, the bakery, the garden center, the petting zoo and now a cidery, Bauman’s Cider. Each member of this multigenerational farming family has explored their own niche to contribute to the farm’s livelihood and the greater community; Walter found her place in cidermaking and set up the operation on the very soil she grew up on.
Like many cidermakers, the idea was spurred by a first sip of cider and then executed by fermenting the first batch on the laundry room floor. But cidermaking also seemed to make sense for Walter, with a degree in biochemistry and fond memories of a childhood among apple trees, she had no fear when offering to take on the feat.
She’s been making cider for over two years now, with taps pouring her product all over the Portland and Salem areas. And if you stop by the farm you might find some exclusive tastes of Walter’s experimental flavors. As of just a month ago, the most popular flavors, Clyde’s Dry and Loganberry, were filled into fresh bottles. While the next step lies in getting more flavors bottled, Walter hopes to start canning as well, for those upcoming summer hikes.
Bauman’s touts flavors such as the Obsidian blackberry, the Summer Thyme hopped cider and the Loganberry, the very berry that Walter picked as a kid. The maker has the advantage of her family farm for any flavoring inspiration — a stroll through the property on any day can quickly get the wheels turning on a brand new cider recipe after getting a whiff of rhubarb or blackberry. She tries to use as much of the farm as she can in her cider, exhausting the apples from their orchard and farm-grown fruit as her main source of additional ingredients. If she can’t get the ingredients from her own farm, she says she keeps her sourcing close to home.
Stephen’s Subtly Sweet, one of Bauman’s flagships, is named after Walter’s great-grandfather. It wasn’t until after she started making cider and many conversations with her father that she found out her great-grandfather was a cidermaker himself. Family lore says it wasn’t uncommon to find him filling up his neighbors jugs with hard cider in his barn full of barrels.
While she’d love to go back to great-grandpa Stephen’s traditional ways of hot-fermentation cidermaking, Walters says she is not quite ready for the risk it carries. However, the family’s cidermaking ways are not disregarded — they instilled a greater excitement and appreciation. As Walter listened to the stories her family told, she not only had the chance to learn about cidermaking but about her heritage. “It meant so much to me, and I enjoyed every bit of that kind of exploration of my history, my family,” she adds.
For the cidermaking farm girl at heart, returning to the farm was the best part of this new journey. “It really feels like a return to my roots in so many ways,” she says. “I get to see my cousins, my aunts and uncles and my grandma, all the time. And I’m just so grateful for that. What a cool serendipity to have found a way to reconnect.”