Sisters’ Cider House – turning a hobby into a fun family business!
For sisters, Caron Anderson and Randi Brown making cider has been a family affair dating back more than 15 years. It all started when Caron was still in college, each break she’d come home and find her father, Roger Anderson and brother-in-law, Alex Brown making beer…Caron really doesn’t like beer, so one winter break, she came home with a cider kit and the rest is history.
The Anderson/Brown family took their cider making hobby seriously, experimenting with various (all natural) flavors and recipes and spent years perfecting the smooth and flavorful beverages, which they often shared with family and friends. However, with each new batch, the aforementioned family and friends wanted more and more…that was when they realized it was time to go legit!
In 2020, Caron and Randi decided to make it a business. However, some naysayers were concerned that (siblings) working together would pose a problem. Not so, as both sisters are realtors with John L. Scott and have worked as a team for more than a decade. In addition, Roger and Alex took on the roles of Cider Masters, their mother Lee Anderson was tasked as Cider Maker and Caron’s fiancé, Patrick handles security and technology. Together, the dynamic family put a business plan together, but they also looked outside the family for assistance.
Knowing very little of the cidery business, they turned to Andrew Byers and Eric Jorgensen of Finnriver Farm & Cidery in Chimacum, Washington. Finnriver has been making cider since 2008 and were instrumental in the formation of the Northwest Cider Association in 2010, which promotes, supports and educates more than 85 commercial cidermakers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia. They also turned to the owners of Bainbridge Brewery for guidance. Both the cidery and the brewery owners jumped in with advice, told of lessons learned (and in hindsight, things they’d do differently) and assisted in sourcing materials and supplies. As Caron told me, “They were like fairy godfathers,” always available to answer questions and provide much needed information.
Deciding on a location was their next task. They didn’t necessarily want to compete with the downtown businesses, but they did want to be “downtown” accessible. The perfect spot opened up on Hildebrand Lane; it was large enough for the vision they had for the cidery, had plentiful parking and was just a short .7 miles from the downtown core. It’s also centrally located in the middle of several (walking distance) residential neighborhoods.
As they began to design the space and order the needed supplies, they found themselves in the midst of our national supply chain difficulties. They turned to a Canadian company, who was able to provide the kegs they needed and other provisions. Their fermentation tanks posed another problem as the scheduled delivery was pushed up and neither Caron or Randi were available to take delivery. The large egg-shaped tanks couldn’t be left outside, however, family and friends came to the rescue and were able to get the tanks into the fermentation room. Being a bit playful, Caron showed up later with stick-on googly eyes for the tanks, but she was too late, Randi had already named them “Mork and Mindy” after the 1978-82 sitcom starring Pam Dawber and Robin Williams.
The design for the main space is open, warm and friendly and can seat up to 66 people (not including the outdoor patio area). They’ve designed it much like an informal family game room with club chairs, couches and plenty of tables as well as a bar area and a bookshelf loaded with a variety of board games. This was deliberate, after all, the cidery itself is a family affair and Caron and Randi wanted the atmosphere to feel the same way, where you can sit with family and friends and play a board game, cards or just chat and catch up. They even have a number of clients who come to the cidery to remote-work (and they offer free wi-fi).
Although they only opened in June 2022, they’ve already garnered a regular group of patrons. One of which is a client of their real estate business and was so enamored with the project that he brought his original Nintendo NES game console and games in for use by the customers. Both Caron and Randi get a kick out of the kids who come in to play the game, its old-school and they’re often faced with funny looks and questions from our younger generation of gamers (after all, the controllers are corded, the games are cartridge cards, no downloading of new games, and of course it was made in the 1980s…decades old tech!). In the spirit of the Nintendo NES, Caron replicated a “Trapper Keeper” binder for the game cartridge menu, which can be requested at the bar.
Additional groups have found a home at Sisters’ Cider House as well, including a Bunco church group and a group of Dungeons and Dragons players. You can bring your own games too, or grab one from the bookshelf. Don’t have a games partner? Don’t worry, it’s a friendly crowd and you can often join a game in progress (whether you know the gamers or not). If board games aren’t for you, try one of the two skee ball games. As Randi explained, seeing new people, making new friends and providing a social space for everyone was always the “vision”.
Although they don’t offer food, they do provide snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. However, if you’d like to bring your own food, you’re always welcome and the location of the cider house is perfectly situated as there are several places nearby where you can order to-go food to bring with you. Bene Pizza is just steps away and down the street a bit is Island Village, which houses Plate & Pint, Westside Pizza, Subway Sandwiches, Miguelitos, Pau’s Asian Kitchen, Safeway (deli) and Jake’s Pick-Up across the street.
Have I mentioned the cider yet? Caron and Randi put out two flights for me to sample. The first tasting was the Blood Orange, it was smooth and delicious. The second tasting knocked my socks off, there’s a 99% chance it’s the best cider I’ve ever had—blended with Madagascar Vanilla, it was pure heaven. I also had a taste of the Granny’s Myth, Blackberry, Apple, Desert Flower and the Stoneman’s Strawbanero (strawberry and habanero – beware, it has a kick to it!).
The sisters explained that it takes about 10-14 days to create one batch of cider and they’re always rotating the flavors that are available, as well as experimenting with new flavors. They’re also working towards offering growlers and canned cider for retail sale in the very near future.
In keeping with the family fun atmosphere, they’ve been working on ideas for “themed” parties, such as “Area 51”, “Harry Potter”, and “Murder Mystery”. As they explained, “just because it’s a fun and random idea.”
They are also extremely excited to be participating in the Seattle Cider Summit this September. For a new cider house, this is a wonderful accomplishment and a well-deserved one!
The cider house is located at: 921 Hildebrand Lane, Suite 111 (almost to the end of Hildebrand), Bainbridge Island, WA
Hours of operation: Wednesday – Saturday: 3pm – 9pm / Sunday: 12pm – 5pm
Sisters’ Cider is also available on tap at the Bainbridge Apothecary & Tea Shop on Winslow Way.
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