Oregon’s 2nd-largest cider maker is closing its Portland taproom; see what’s replacing it

A woman and man sit at a wooden table in front of a wooden wall with green and red cans of cider in front of them.

Shani and José Gonzalez co-founded La Familia Cider in Salem in 2016, and in May they will open their first location in Portland.Andre Meunier/The Oregonian

Portland Cider Co., Oregon’s second-largest producer of craft cider, is closing its Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard taproom and turning the lease over to La Familia Cider, a Salem-based ciderhouse that began in 2016.

Jeff Parrish, who co-founded Portland Cider in 2013 with his wife, Lynda Parrish, said the Clackamas-based business is moving its focus away from operating taphouses and toward distribution. Portland Cider, whose sales among Oregon cidermakers are second only to Corvallis-based 2 Towns Ciderhouse, is now distributed in Oregon, Washington, Colorado and most of California.

“The landscape has changed dramatically in the last nine years for us,” Jeff Parrish said in an interview with The Oregonian/OregonLive. “We don’t need a pub to promote our brand anymore. We’re in every grocery store in the Portland metropolitan area and southwest Washington.”

A man and a woman sit in from of a taster tray of ciders.

Portland Cider Co. co-founders Lynda and Jeff Parrish say they will be focusing less on taprooms and more on distribution.Andre Meunier/The Oregonian

Moving into the new space will be La Familia Cider, a company founded by the husband-and-wife team of José and Shani Gonzalez and run by their children. Jay Jay Gonzalez, 29, will oversee the Hawthorne taproom while Jazzelle, 26, will operate La Familia’s downtown Salem taproom, which opened in 2020.

“The new taproom is going to really be a celebration of our family,” José Gonzalez said during the interview with The Oregonian. “We call La Familia Cider the American dream in a can. If I see it at the store, I still get chills. That doesn’t go away.”

José and Shani are both first-generation Mexican Americans. José's parents initially were Willamette Valley farmworkers after immigrating, and José spent his childhood picking strawberries in the fields, he said.

“At the end of the day, this old rickety truck would take all the strawberries,” he said. “I remember I used to sit there and I’d say, man, everybody’s efforts are right on that truck, like all these people, all our efforts are right there.

“I’d always ask myself, where does that fruit go? I didn’t know,” he said. “And now we know. So for us to own a fruit beverage product picked by farmworkers, you know, these apples, it just ... that’s why I say it’s the American dream in a can.”

La Familia’s ciders are based on the traditional Mexican fresh-fruit beverage aguas frescas, which both José and Shani drank as kids. The Gonzalezes discovered the world of craft cider in 2016 via a sampler flight at Vagabond Brewing in Salem, but they both favored the one cider on the tray over the beers.

“We got invited to a networking thing, and it was the first time we ever visited a craft location,” José recalled. “We get there, and we go to the menu and I’m like, what is an ‘ippa?’ What is this?”

But the cider got their attention more than the IPA, and Shani soon had the idea of combining cider with the aguas frescas. José asked his mom to re-create the aguas frescas — water infused with various fresh fruits — she hand-made when he was a child, and soon the family came together and decided to launch their idea.

But José, whose varied professional résumé includes operating restaurants for over two decades, and Shani, who has been a paralegal for 12 years doing immigration work, weren’t cidermakers. José knew Jeff Parrish through a common business contact, and he approached the Portland Cider co-founders with the family’s idea.

The Parrishes recognized the possibilities and jumped at the chance to help the fledgling family business. The two companies are now in their eighth year of working together, as the Portland Cider team helped La Familia develop their recipes then started producing the ciders.

“From the very beginning we’ve been making La Familia Cider here for them,” Jeff Parrish said. “José's mother brought these jugs of aguas frescas in, and we sat down and thought, well, how can we make a cider in the spirit of that.”

Together they developed Manzana, Tamarindo and Jamaica flavors, plus an annual seasonal that comes out ahead of summer. The seasonal Guayaba grew so popular that it is now available year-round, as well.

La Familia Cider’s sales have grown every year. In 2023 it produced 500 barrels, and cans of best-sellers Jamaica and Guayaba can now be found in more than 500 stores throughout Oregon and Washington.

Portland Cider has operated the Southeast Portland taproom at 3638 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd. for nine years, opening it on Valentine’s Day of 2015. At that time, Jeff said, the only other cidery that had a pub in Portland was now-closed Bushwhacker Cider.

“If you loved cider, it was tough to find outside of that location,” he said. “And so we saw an opportunity to do two things: one, put Portland Cider in Portland proper. But two, open a pub that not only poured our ciders but all the other good ciders that we knew of that were always hard to find. So that’s how we got it started.”

The outside of a cider taproom with a sign that reads Portland Cider House.

La Familia Cider of Salem is taking over the Portland Cider Co. taproom (pictured) on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland.Courtesy of Portland Cider Co.

Portland Cider’s headquarters will remain in Clackamas, where it will continue to operate its production cidery and pub. The Beaverton taproom (4005 S.W. Orbit St.) will remain open, Jeff said, and the smaller retail footprint will allow the company to focus more on product development.

Portland Cider’s taprooms, like much of the industry, haven’t seen sales return to prepandemic levels. Combined with sharpening the company’s efforts on distribution, which is the source of the bulk of its sales, the Parrishes decided to not renew the Hawthorne lease, which was expiring at the end of this year.

“It has served its purpose for us,” Jeff said.

But they saw a possibility for La Familia, which was looking to expand. The Gonzalez’s seized the opportunity to take over the lease.

“I think it’s gonna work out great for both of us,” Jeff said, “They get the additional exposure they’re looking for, and it allows us to focus more on what we do best, which is, you know, make cider.”

José said that, like Salem, the Portland taproom will have 29 taps, with 15 for cider, including from three to five for La Familia ciders and the rest guest ciders. The other 14 are reserved for craft beer, and they also create cider cocktails, making cider-based versions of margaritas, mimosas and other mixed drinks.

A red and a green can of cider with a glass of red cider between them with a flowering bush in the background.

La Familia Cider's Guayaba and Jamaica flavors are available in cans in more than 500 stores in Oregon and Washington.Andre Meunier/The Oregonian

“We’re going to take the success of the Salem taproom, and we want people to have the same experience,” José said. “They’re going to feel like home. That’s the goal.”

The small kitchen space at the Hawthorne location keeps the food options limited, Shani said.

“The three main items that we’re considering are tortas, chilaquiles and quesadillas,” she said. “But one thing that we’re gonna do is support local. A lot of the things that we’re gonna get, like the tortillas, the queso, the chips, will be from local Portland and Salem companies.”

The transition between the two cideries is expected to be relatively seamless, with no closure expected before La Familia takes over May 1, in time for a planned Cinco de Mayo celebration.

The Gonzalezes said they approach their business trying to appeal to a range of cultures and lifestyles.

“Our ideal customer is someone who’s open, who’s adventurous, someone who likes to travel, someone who is health-minded,” José said. “Those are the people who are attracted to us. They might be America-raised people from Mexico, where all they have to do is see our bottle or our can and they know it. We don’t have to explain it. Like, ‘Oh wow! That’s the juice I grew up with.’

“And other groups we have to sort of explain with hibiscus is, what tamarind is,” he said. “That’s the fun part. We’re sharing part of our culture with you.”

— Andre Meunier has been writing about Northwest beer and breweries since 2016; reach him at 503-221-8488 or ameunier@oregonian.com, and sign up for his weekly newsletter, Oregon Brews and News. Instagram: @oregonianbeerguy

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