What is it? It's hard cider, obviously. Better questions: Who is this Reverend Nat guy, and why is a minister brewing the devil's juice?
Who's Rev. Nat? Nat West, a real guy from Portland, Oregon. He's lanky with a long beard. I know this because West was floating between tables March 13 at the Dram Shop. West came over to everyone who had a flight of his six exotic ciders, spreading the good word about his strange brews with the fervor of an evangelist.
Is he ordained? He claims to be, but I didn't do a full check. West says he got his license to officiate weddings around the same time he started brewing hard cider at home. His friends turned the irony into a nickname, and eventually West turned it into a brand. Rev. Nat operates a taproom in a former Portland warehouse and has been distributing bottles of the stuff for the past five years.
Why was he here? Two weeks ago, Rev. Nat's bottles arrived in Montana. Rev. Nat is preaching his gospel of the "apple's deepest purpose" during a tour across the state.
- photo by Derek Brouwer
What's his gospel? Rev. Nat's ciders are weird (his word). After I ask what makes them weird, he pops the top off a 16.9 oz. bottle of Wooden Hellfire 18-hour Boiled Fire Cider. The fire cider is only available to people who join his small-batch "Tent Show" club, but Nat's just pouring this one to make a point. It tastes syrupy and a bit like whiskey and not much like cider. West achieves this by boiling apple juice for the already-indicated duration, then fermenting it for six months before aging it in bourbon barrels for a year. "Does beer taste like bread?" he asks me. "Does wine taste like grapes? Why does cider have to taste like apples?"
Doesn't he know we have our own local cider? Yes. West went to cider school with Western Cider founder Michael Billingsley. He sees Western Cider as introducing cider to the region and shaping the local palette. West needs them to be successful, he says, if his peach- and mandarin-infused ciders have a prayer of selling in the local market. "I've got no hope of pawning off weird ciders unless there's a basic understanding of cider here," he says.
Where to find it: Find 16.9-oz. single bottles of Revival Hard Apple, Sacrilege Sour Cherry and New Moon Mandarin at Worden's or the Good Food Store. Bottles cost $5.99-$6.99. Nat's cider will be at the Dram Shop until the kegs kick.