By Emily Hamann
The Bellingham Business Journal
It’s going to be a hard cider that tastes like Bellingham. Honey Moon Mead and Cider is collecting extra apples from backyards throughout Bellingham and Whatcom County and is going to press them into a hard cider that will taste unlike anything else.
“The cider itself will be an expression of Bellingham in the year 2016,” said Murphy Evans, co-owner of Honey Moon. “The climate from this year, the pollination conditions, everything that went into producing these apples will go into the cider.”
This is the second year Evans is doing the Bellingham Extra CiderHead project.
“These are the apples, the extra apples,” he said. “The ones they don’t need.”
Sometimes, resident’s backyard orchards produce more apples than they can eat. Those extras are the ones Evans is after.
It was a good season for apples, Evans said, so he expects there will be lots of extras. The pollination conditions were right in spring, he said, and lots of the blossoms are turning into apples. They’re ripening about three weeks earlier, too, he said.
“The yield of apples had been unusually large,” he said.
Normally, the cider Evans sells and presses for Honey Moon contains a blend of four different varieties of apples. The Bellingham Extra project cider could end up with dozens of different varieties of apples, including wild ones that are somewhat of a mystery.
“There’s just lots of different varieties of apples that are going into this cider,” he said. “It makes for a complex product.”
Local residents are invited to drop off their extra apples at Honey Moon, which is located at 1053 North State St. Alley, the alley just south of the Depot Market Square. The Honey Moon storage area and patio is already full of donated apples. So far, the response is probably 10 times greater than it was last year, Evans estimated.
“I’m getting so many calls from people who have apples,” he said. “They’re excited.”
Anyone who donates apples gets a voucher for some of the finished product. Evans also has a team to go around and pick apples in people’s yards if they can’t do it themselves.
He’s hoping to produce 300 gallons of cider, which could require more than 2 tons of apples.
He’ll be accepting apples until the end of September. He hopes to have the cider ready to sell by mid-October.
The desire to not waste apples is part of what led Evans and his wife Anna to start Honey Moon more than a decade ago.
“This time of year there’d be all these apples on the ground, he said. “I started knocking on people’s doors, saying ‘Do you want these apples? I’ll take these apples.’”
He’d collect the extra apples and brew cider in 5-gallon buckets that were all over his yard. His wife said he had to move them someplace else, and Honey Moon was born.
“That was part of the impetus for Honey Moon getting started,” Evans.
Evans has been brewing various concoctions for more than 25 years.
“It was a hobby run amok,” he said.
He made beer, mead, fruit wines, ciders and regular wine. Any fruit he could get his hands on, basically, he would ferment into some kind of beverage. He and a group of friends were brewing it all at home, then started exploring the idea of making wine commercially.
“We realized that the world doesn’t need another winery,” he said. There are so many other people making great wine, he said, he didn’t feel like he could take it anywhere new.
Mead and cider, however, were largely unexplored territory.
“Mead was really something that had not been experimented with,” he said. “Cider had the same appeal as well.”
Today, Honey Moon sells a variety of ciders and meads, including blends that incorporate raspberries, blueberries or cranberries.
“We kind of run wild with our imagination sometimes,” he said.
He has seen the huge boom in the popularity of cider in recent years.
“I think it’s the craft movement hitting cider,” he said.
Mead, however, while it is gaining in popularity, remains an obscure beverage for many craft drinkers.
The process of making mead is similar to the process of making wine, except instead of grapes, mead is made by fermenting a mixture of water and honey.
The result is a sweet, but not too sweet, honey-flavored drink.
“As people become more familiar with it, they like it more,” he said.