NW ingredients make 2 Towns Ciderhouse a fruitful business

While 2 Towns Ciderhouse sources many of its cider apples from the Yakima area, some varieties are grown at Dave Takush’s family orchard. (Mackenzie Madriaga)

Four million empty cans tower over Dave Takush. Easy Squeezy, Pacific Pineapple, Made Marion: the fruits of his labor from the past nine years.

2 Towns Ciderhouse entered the cider industry at just the right time, launching in a two-car garage in 2010 and growing into Oregon’s largest producer of craft cider. The Corvallis cidery’s ascension comes amid a nationwide explosion of interest in craft cider.

How stark is 2 Towns’ rise?

In its first year, the burgeoning business produced roughly 25,000 gallons of cider. In 2018, it sold just more than 1 million gallons.

“This has kind of gone far beyond our wildest dreams,” Takush said.

Co-founders Lee Larsen and Aaron Sarnoff-Wood started 2 Towns after they traveled abroad independently and came to a common conclusion: The United States needed to put a modern spin on Europe’s robust cider culture.

U.S. cider culture nearly disappeared after prohibition in the early 20th century, industry observers say, and few Northwest cideries were operating when 2 Towns started up.

Takush, who joined the team early on as a co-owner and the head cidermaker, said he and his colleagues considered themselves cider pioneers. They worked to create ciders that were light, approachable and bursting with flavors unique to the Northwest.

One of the co-founders served 2 Towns’ first test batch at his brother’s wedding shortly after the company launched. By the attendees’ reaction, they knew they had something special.

“We were just waiting to see what the responses would be, and they were overwhelmingly positive,” Takush said.

With three, 3,000-gallon tanks, a homemade walk-in cooler and a single computer, 2 Towns quickly reached its capacity and decided to expand.

“Our whole goal was to bring craft cider back to the people,” Takush said. “Real craft cider.”

The boom

Cider still commands less space on store shelves than beer and wine. But its popularity has skyrocketed since 2 Towns’ inception.

The growth tracked by the Northwest Cider Association shows just how much. The group oversaw about 10 cideries in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho and British Columbia in 2010.

Today, close to 200 cideries operate in that same area. About 60 of those are in Oregon.

“We definitely welcome competition because it makes the industry better overall,” Takush said.

The cider industry continues to grow nationwide.

Retail sales of regional brands like 2 Towns grew much more in 2018 than national brands such as Angry Orchardaccording to figures provided to the United States Association of Cider Makers by Nielsen.

2 Towns tapped a ripe market in Oregonians, who drink more cider per capita than citizens of any other state in the nation. The cidery also distributes its products throughout the American West, in select markets elsewhere in the U.S. and sparingly in Asia.

“2 Towns is showing consumers cider can be really fun and accessible,” said Emily Ritchie, executive director of the Northwest Cider Association.

The setup

2 Towns now operates south of Corvallis, in a cavernous production facility and an office space and warehouse next door.

Millions of empty cans are stacked skyward in the warehouse. In the production facility, 30-plus enormous tanks hold 2 Towns’ latest ciders.

Fresh-pressed juice ferments and carbonates inside the huge tanks. Some batches are barrel-aged, while others are quickly canned and packaged for distribution. The company recently entered the hard seltzer market, launching a natural-ingredient alternative to the popular White Claw Hard Seltzer.

Takush said 2 Towns doesn’t strive to infiltrate stores nationwide with a single, blockbuster product. Instead, he said, he hopes the company keeps growing and creating unique products.

“We want to let the intrinsic nature of the fruit shine through,” Takush said.

— Alyson Johnston and Mackenzie Madriaga