In a gleaming, Columbia River-hugging warehouse near Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks, Jasper Smith is sampling from barrels of cider blends with his Basque business partner, Guillermo Castaños.
"In Basque country this time of year, there’s a tasting—they’ll have some problems they’re trying to figure out," Smith says. "But [Guillermo] was like, 'We have no issues here.' Everything is good, clean, basically the perfect building block as we go into spring for the product to be ready for sale."
Founded by Smith and Castaños in the summer of 2018, Son of Man is, according to Smith, the Pacific Northwest's first Basque-style cidery. While a prototype "Madre" cider—pressed, fermented, and bottled in Spain last summer—is currently available at Portland bottle shop Belmont Station, actually visiting the cidery (it has no regular tasting room hours) or trying its local product (it's still in tanks, after all) has been largely impossible. That changes in February, when Son of Man releases its first true Oregon wild cider. (And, we hope, begins official tasting hours.) But you won't have to go to Cascade Locks to try this inaugural quaff: Smith says the cidery plans to self-distribute to local restaurants like Urdaneta, Bar Casa Vale, and Ava Gene's.
Smith's fascination with Basque cider dates to a 2015 encounter at Marla Bakery Restaurant in San Francisco's Richmond neighborhood. "It was an epiphany," Smith remembers. He'd expected something more along the lines of a traditional full-bodied, often sweet American cider, usually relying on just a few apple varieties. But the Basque cider—coming from a centuries-old tradition based on blending a wide range of heritage apples, native yeast, and spontaneous fermentation—was wildly different: acidic, a bit salty, very food-friendly. Immediately, Smith was hooked, trying every Basque cider he could find, eventually moving back to Portland in 2016 to begin launching Son of Man.
Smith says Son of Man will launch its first stateside ciders with an honest-to-god txotx; that's Basque country's traditional early spring tapping of cider tanks that have been resting and developing all winter. (Paired, traditionally, with an opulent meal of cider-baked chorizo, salt cod omelets, a huge, dry-aged rib eye, and mountains of manchego and fried green peppers.)
At Son of Man's txotx, scheduled for February 23, Smith plans to tap the tanks for friends and guests at his Cascade Locks facility as bottles of his first all-Oregon pressings start trickling into Portland. (The menu's still in development, but Smith promises a giant rib eye, fresh off the outdoor grill, as the main centerpiece.) An occasion worth an extra long pour, we'd say.
6–10 p.m. Sat, Feb 23, 160 NE Herman Creek Lane, Cascade Locks, $15