Recently the Washington State University Northwest Washington Research Center hosted what is being touted as “the world’s largest (by variety) hard cider tasting” at the Center’s research facility in Mount Vernon, Washington. The WSU-affiliated research facility and orchard has allowed for the preservation of dozens of apple varieties from growing regions in France, England and the Northeast and has provided a hands-on classroom for farmers interested in apple production.

According to an article in this morning’s Seattle Times, originally published in the Skagit Valley Herald by Mark Stayton, the event attracted local hard cider makers, researchers and enthusiasts and offered tastings of 300 ciders from 16 distinct growing regions of the world. As Stayton points out, the event “help[ed] to signify the growing importance of the WSU research center within the hard cider industry, as well as offer a global perspective to a budding Northwest market.”

Although hard cider remains a relatively small, niche market in the United States, it has seen a surge in popularity in the past decade. It has become one of the fastest growing sectors within the beverage industry. The growth of the hard cider industry is particularly evident here in the Northwestern United States. In just two years since its formation, the Northwest Cider Association, a trade organization founded by cider producers throughout the Pacific Northwest to promote awareness of regional artisanal ciders, boasts 19 member cideries. Experts expect that demand for hard cider will continue to increase in the coming years.