MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – Washington State University is helping bolster the surging hard cider industry with the hiring of Bri Ewing as a food and fermentation specialist in the School of Food Science, based at the Mount Vernon Research and Extension Center.
For half of her job, she will create workshops and other programs in an extension position to help established and novice cider makers. The other half will involve teaching classes at the new WSU campus in Everett.
“I’m really looking forward to working with both the industry side and the academic side,” said Ewing, who started at the beginning of March.
Her first big project is setting up a Cider School, which will occur April 24-28 in Mount Vernon.
“Everyone has been really helpful so far,” said the Sacramento-area native. “I think it will be worthwhile for cider makers to attend and they’ll learn some new information.”
Ewing’s background is actually in the wine industry. She worked at wineries in Sonoma and Napa, Calif., and in New Zealand after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in molecular environmental biology. She returned to academia to earn a master’s degree in food science from Virginia Tech, where she first started working with cider.
“My thesis was on how harvest maturities and post-harvest storage of apples affected the chemistry of hard cider,” she said. “The taste characteristics in cider are much more subtle than wine, so I’m still learning.”
She’ll have a true test of her palette when she serves as a judge at the Portland International Cider Cup on April 9. In addition to helping pick winners, Ewing said she thinks she’ll have a great experience meeting cider makers.
“The industry is really collaborative, probably because it’s so small and growing,” she said. “Working with an industry that’s so eager for knowledge and looking to help each other is fantastic.”
She is helping fill those knowledge holes in the traditional extension manner of taking research, often produced by WSU, and making it more accessible to industry and the public.
She hopes to add more schools and workshops on topics like cider and food pairings and fermentation programs in general. For information about apple cider workshops, go to http://treefruit.wsu.edu/news/wsu-mount-vernon-cider-workshops/.