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Schilling Cider

Craft cider plus a coffee foray

With two cider houses, one tasting room, a production facility, and a partnership with Street Bean, Colin Schilling (photo) and Mark Kornei are business partners with plans.

In November of 2012, they were hiking and discussing careers that weren't giving them the challenges they needed. Colin had been making cider independently for 15 years and had been watching the industry take off. Deciding this was their moment, they created Schilling Cider. "I remember being in a training session in Chicago in December of 2012 and getting an 'emergency' phone call," Colin recalls. "I stepped out of the room to work out final pricing on a juice deal." Mark quit his job in January 2013. They had their first product on the shelf by April. "We had a sense of urgency."

They wanted to move into a warehouse quickly. "We were in our early 20s with no experience, and landlords said 'no way.' It took weeks to find someone who would rent to us. A guy in Auburn who put himself through college selling wine understood us. We rented a 1,200-square-foot facility and did all the concrete work, plumbing, electrical; custom built our tanks, and custom fabricated our stainless-steel cooling coils. We created a facility to produce 5,000 barrels per year for 1/10th of the cost. We wanted to see where the business would go; it just blew up. We found two other warehouse spaces down the street. We needed investment money, but did it carefully. It isn't our intent to sell. We're now in a 30,000-square-foot warehouse. The cleaning and processing unit (CIP Skid) is fully automated and FDA-compliant."

In 2015, they opened the Fremont cider house with 32 handles. They sell their cider, but also other craft ciders. "We believe in educating new cider drinkers and we need lots of other great craft cideries to help us do that." In May 2016, they opened a cider house in Portland, Oregon, with 50 handles of craft cider. "We're the largest indie cider company in Washington, and the first craft cider company producing in multiple states. At 32 handles, we were the largest cider house in the world; at 50, we're still there. We also have a female cidermaker, Jenny Dorsey, making cider in Portland. She's not the only female cidermaker, but one of the few."

They believe in the triple bottom line: profitability, environmental sustainability, and social sustainability, creating greater business value and incorporating social change within the business model. "To create real change, business has the biggest impact. If Costco makes one little change, it's huge. We want our business to set the standard. We're the first craft cider company on the West Coast to put cider in cans. Aluminum is light, valuable, and has a 95% recycle rate; it can be turned six times a year. Our cans come from Olympia from 100% recycled material. Cans are lighter weight, so transportation costs less, and they keep product fresher: no light penetrates the can and the seal allows no oxidation. We have almost no waste: pressings are used for apple fiber or other things."

They're profitable and environmentally sustainable. How about the social aspect? "Homeless youth is a huge problem. We became aware of Street Bean, whose parent company is New Horizons. They run coffee shops and roast coffee. Their six-month internship program takes street influence youth off the street, gives them stable housing, and on-the-job training. They learn all areas of the business. We partnered on a coffee-infused cider, but wanted to make a bigger impact. They source and roast beans, single origin from Brazil, very high quality, and we make a cold brew sold in cans. We custom-built equipment and have a product that is shelf stable without preservatives; it's coffee and water. We have two more products in the works, one a mocha version." In May, Safeway put it on their shelves, Bartell's carries it, and more outlets are coming. Every can sold provides 10 minutes of job training, plus Schilling helps place Street Bean grads in the workforce.

Colin's great-great grandfather started Schilling Coffee (full circle, right?), which became Schilling Spice Company. He worked for Folgers and wanted to change the packaging; they disagreed. He went out on his own and vacuum packed the product. Same coffee, but fresh. He expanded into spices; three generations later too many different family opinions caused it to fall apart. The company was sold to McCormick in the 1940s. Despite a contract agreement to phase out the Schilling name, it took until the mid-2000s.

Colin grew up in northern Idaho on 160 acres with hippie parents. "It was borderline off-the-grid living. By the time I came along, we had running water and ate meat. One of the games we played was 'smell a spice and tell what it is;' we developed palates. The first dish I cooked at 6 years old was Cornish game hens. There were 100-year-old apple trees along with ones we planted. My parents took apples to town to be pressed and made cider in our root cellar. I had a big interest in cider growing up and made my first batch at 14. My parents weren't scientific about it, but I was curious and studied, and made it my hobby."

A natural leader ("a bossy kid"), Colin wanted to run his own company. He got his MBA in sustainable enterprise and became a Microsoft consultant. "I found that the projects were too narrow to give me the broad experience I wanted. That's when Mark and I connected about cider." Their branding started with the original Schilling look, which has now been modernized. The Fremont cider house has a Schilling Coffee clock and other family business mementos.

"It's important to us to educate people about cider. It doesn't expire quickly like beer due to its chemical structure. It can degrade, but can also improve; some people cellar it and keep verticals." Watch for cider houses in more states and seasonal ciders, and check out cider making classes in Fremont.

Schilling Cider House Fremont
708 N 34th St
Seattle, WA 98103

Schilling Tasting Room/Production Facility
4402 D St NW, Ste 101
Auburn, WA 98001

Schilling Cider House Goat Blocks
975 SE 11th Ave
Portland, OR 97214

Connie Adams/July 2017

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