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Originally published September 5, 2013 at 11:04 AM | Page modified September 5, 2013 at 11:07 AM

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Fun with fermentation during Cider Week

Cider is more popular than ever, and Seattle is third in the country in percentage of its drinkers. During Washington Cider Week, restaurants and bars around the city are highlighting the recently hip libation.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Pop into any craft-beer bar in Seattle these days and you’ll find, between the IPAs and Manny’s, a few hard ciders. They’ve become a staple of every pub’s lineup.

Seattle has the nation’s third-largest number of hard-cider drinkers, behind Portland and Syracuse, according to Scarborough Research.

It has become so popular that the Cider Summit Seattle, in its third year, is arguably the largest festival of its kind in the United States, with 110 ciders from around the world featured. Held at South Lake Union, the festival expanded to two days (Sept. 6 and 7) this year. The event is expected to draw 3,000 visitors.

There is now Washington Cider Week (Sept. 5 to 15) with Tom Douglas, Ethan Stowell and other big name chefs hosting food pairings.

“In the last three to five years, there’s been a huge leap forward in both quality and consistency,” said cider importer and Summit organizer Alan Shapiro.

In the apple state, hard ciders have been around for decades, though they weren’t very good.

Shapiro called it the “wine cooler phase.”

At this point, I think the quality of ciders is on par with those in Vancouver Island, the gold standard in the region. Local cider makers are putting out some ambitious products — ciders that are barrel aged, hoppy or taste like expensive Champagne.

Here are some highlights from the upcoming fermented festivities:

Cider Summit Seattle is the kickoff event for Washington Cider Week, a 10-day affair that lets newbies and connoisseurs delve into what may be the biggest bar trend since the cocktail renaissance of the 2000s. The Summit, $25 for eight tasting tickets, features ciders from around Europe that are so dry it will pucker your lips. Others have what oenophiles call “barnyard” aromas.

Those less adventurous can sample the dozens of local ciders. Two good introductory products to check out: Tieton Cider Works’s barrel-aged Cidermaker’s Reserve and the semisweet cider from the Seattle Cider Co. Both ciders have some depth and character but are sweet enough that they will go down easy.

Held Friday (3-8 p.m.), Saturday (noon-6 p.m.) at South Lake Union Discovery Center, near Westlake and Denny Way (www.cidersummit.com).

Over the next 10 days, at least 50 bars and restaurants will host special pairings and tastings. For updated list, check http://www.nwcider.com/

Capitol Cider, 818 E. Pike St. will host special events daily. It’s one of the most ambitious projects to debut this year, a two-story bar with a collection of 100 different ciders as well as 16 ciders on tap.

Douglas, Stowell, Tamara Murphy Brian McCracken and Dana Tough will host special food pairings. Check their restaurants for details.

The Spanish Table, 1426 Western Ave., will feature three Basque and four Asturian ciders with cheese pairings.

The Sixgill in Fremont, 3417 Evanston Ave N., will offer six ciders on tap.

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @tanvinhseattle

Researcher Gene Balk contributed to this report.

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