By Samantha O’Conner

A Baker City man who has been brewing his own beer for almost 30 years has started a new business fermenting hard fruit cider.

Mark Crowder, who owns Rain Barrel Ciderworks, hopes to begin production late this month after receiving a license from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

The Baker County Council endorsed Crowder’s application during its April 23 meeting.

He plans to make apple cider and an apple-cherry blend initially.

Crowder, who moved to Baker City in October 2017 with his wife, Veronica, said he will buy juice from outside sources to start — either Ryan’s Juice in Hood River or a plant in Wenatchee, Washington — but he would like to use local apples eventually.

He said there are several orchards he can work with once he has his business established.

Crowder said he will bottle some cider but most will be stored in kegs and sold to restaurants, bars and for special events.

Crowder said he and his wife, who works in orthopedics at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Baker City, moved from Portland because they had long wanted to live in a rural area.

Crowder, who started brewing beer when he was in college in 1991 and made his first batch of hard cider in 2009, said Baker City also seemed to him a logical place to start a cidery.

“It seemed like it was a good area to open one because it was kind of under served by the cider community,” he said.

Crowder said his interest in cider started in 2009 when he and several neighbors bought an apple press to make fresh, but unfermented, juice.

But Crowder started to experiment with fermenting the juice, creating hard cider, and it “kind of ballooned from there,” he said.

He progressed from producing 5 gallons of hard cider one year to 15, then 50, then 500 gallons.

“It’s grown quite a bit,” he said.

See more in the May 1, 2019, issue of the Baker City Herald.