Mead, known as the libation of the gods by the Greeks, is often referred to as the first alcohol made by men. Also called honey wine, it was the choice of beverage for the mighty Vikings and their gods.
Flash forward to 1767, the average Massachusetts resident drank 35 gallons of cider, according to Slate Magazine, and back then cider wasn’t an indulgence; it was drunk for hygienic purposes since water sources were often contaminated and alcohol kills most pathogens.
On Orcas, you don’t have to live in the heavens, be a warrior or a colonist to sip on these spirits.
When the white tent is raised this weekend and the band begins to play, you’ll find a wealth of cider and mead poured, as well as people comparing notes on the flavors splashing over their taste buds as they drink various golden-colored spirits during the Second Annual Orcas Island Cider and Mead Festival. The fundraiser is on Saturday, May 12 from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. in the Eastsound Village Green.
“What I like about it is it’s on the green with the farmers’ market,” said Madie Murray, one of the organizers. “We are another draw to the farmers’ market and they draw attention to us. And cider and meads are hot new trendy things so that makes it a nice experience.”
Anyone 21 and over will be able to enter the tasting tent for a minimum $5 contribution to the Farm to Cafeteria Program which, along with co-organizers Ray’s General Store and Pharmacy and the Northwest Cider Association, helps produce the event that celebrates beverages that have been popular through the ages.
“It was successful enough last year to try it again. The enthusiasm was there and seemed a good thing to do,” said Murray, who is also chair for the Orcas Island Farm to Cafeteria committee.
The festival started when Rick Hughes, owner of Ray’s, wanted to come up with an event combining quality goods and tourism that would bring people to the islands before the summer months.
“The passion for me is stuff made locally,” Hughes said. “It’s fun to see the progression of these craft products that are not mass produced.”
More than a dozen producers will be featured at the festival, including local favorites like Wescott Bay and Lopez Vineyards as well as mainland businesses such as the Methow Valley Ciderhouse.
“I think a lot of people have an impression that ciders and meads are sweet but that is not always the case – some are more dessert-like and fruity,” Murray said. “There are huge varieties, just like wines, some are sweet and bubbly and tart and tangy – meads and ciders are the same, except made from varied fruit.”
The Lower Tavern will feature a producer or two on their wine list, and The Kitchen will cook up a lunch on Friday using ciders in several of its dishes.
Other various island restaurants like Allium and Inn at Ship Bay will feature special food pairings with ciders and meads on their menus.
And at the festival, as you take a quaff of your favorite beverage, the tunes of Matthew Helms and his band Onodrim, Bruce Harvey and the Sandfleas and JP and the OK Rhythm Boys will be playing throughout the day.
“To me, the festival is what events on Orcas are all about: community fellowship and having fun on a weekend,” Hughes said.
For more information, visit www.orcasislandciderfest.org.
– Competition: cider, mead and everything in between
Do you have that special stash of hard cider, mead, dessert wine or liqueur that was brewed with island fruit just sitting in your cellar?
Bring about a pint or so of your special elixir to the big white tent at the Orcas Farmer’s Market on May 12 by noon, and enter it into the Home Brew Contest at the Orcas Island Cider and Mead Festival.
Only Orcas residents may enter. Entries will be judged by three of the professional cider and mead producers under the tasting tent.
Crow Valley Pottery has crafted one-of-a-kind awards for brews placing first, second and third.