Unless you’re looking for it, you’ll probably miss the hole-in-the-wall that is The Cider Barrel. Not only is it in the middle of the block, the sign is small, and the doors are closed most days.
At only 642 square feet, its official capacity is 49 people – and only 13-15 people are allowed inside at any moment. The small size of the place belies a huge selection of regional ciders. It's not just apple or pear, but peach, apricot, cherry, blackberries, marionberry, grapefruit, blood orange and even hops. There’s a wide range of flavors; some ciders are more like sparkling wine, others are hoppy, like a beer.
But don’t ask for a beer – there isn’t any.
The Cider Barrel has six taps which dispense ciders to drink on-site or fill growlers, those half-gallon jugs draft aficionados like to carry home. “A lot of times we’re carrying unique ciders that people haven’t tasted before and that usually aren’t bottled,” said owner Troy Kirby, 44, who opened the place on June 13.
In just over four months, The Cider Barrel has received visitors from all over the world, Kirby said, referring to Facebook check-ins and the required contract tracing registry sheets.
You can order a flight of six to get a better idea of what you’d like to get in a full-size serving. That’s what I did on behalf of The JOLT.
I liked five out of the six.
This is the 10th annual Washington Cider Week, designed to raise awareness – and sales – of ciders from all over the state. The Cider Barrel carries practically every brand. The current menu shows that it is Washington state cider flowing from five of the six taps.
Kirby, a serial entrepreneur, spared no expense in remodeling the space. All of the paneling is reclaimed fence posts. Countertops are live-edged fallen-tree slabs. Wooden shutters mounted on barn-door rails keep out downtown traffic noise. There’s no television, so customers can focus on the ciders and conversation. Kirby runs the place with a staff of three, including Shannon Glenn, manager, Haley Beers and Erilynne Tafolla, who keep the taps busy.
“We attracted a couple from Cleveland, Ohio last weekend who found us on their way south from Seattle. They decided to stay in Olympia instead of traveling to Portland, partly due to the fires down there,” Kirby said. “We’ve brought out local couples who normally don’t come downtown, but are curious about cider.”
If Troy Kirby’s name is familiar, it might be because he was the 2018 Lacey South Sound Chamber Entrepreneur of the Year, based on his ownership of the Lacey Pocket Gophers semi-pro soccer team. In non-pandemic years Kirby is a sports-industry consultant and operates The Tao of Sports, LLC.
Where: The Cider Barrel, 168 W. 4th Ave., downtown Olympia
When: Fridays and Saturdays only, 4 – 8 pm