What you're drinking: Poor Farmer Classic cider or Poor Farmer Hopped, the two varieties recently released in cans. If you're accustomed to Angry Orchard, expect something quite different. The Poor Farmer Classic is dry, crisp and tangy enough to make your mouth pucker just a smidgen. The Hopped version features a nice floral aroma and flavor, sans any IPA-style bitterness, courtesy of hops grown in Whitefish. Co-owner Matthew LaRubbio says cider can be just as versatile as beer: "You stop drinking beer with pizza and you start drinking cider with pizza and you go, of course! Why do I want to drink a loaf of bread and eat a loaf of bread?"
Where you're drinking it: Not the Western Cider taproom on California Street—not yet, anyway. In coming weeks (the owners say later this month, hopefully) the taproom will open with the capacity to seat 100 people inside. Charcuterie and other fancy snacks will be available alongside your cider.
Know your farmer: The Western Cider guys are pretty serious about cider. Co-owner Mike Billingsley bought a small acreage in the Bitterroot and planted apple trees more than six years ago with the express intent of launching a cidery. (His distinctively mustachioed visage inspired the artwork for the Poor Farmer logo.) Billingsley teamed up with his buddies LaRubbio and Jon Clarenbach two years ago to launch the cidery, and brought on Oregon winemaker Erik Brasher back in November to oversee the fermentation.
How 'bout them apples: Western Cider's canned ciders are made with juice from the Pacific Northwest. But in coming months, the cidery plans to release "estate" vintages made with the Bitterroot-grown varietals.
Varieties on the way: Besides the Poor Farmer mainstays, look for more special short-run styles such Champagne bubblies and whiskey-barrel-aged peach. We tried the Aronia Rose cider, made with sour aronia berries that lend a wine-like tannic finish.
Where to find it: Purchase Poor Farmer sixers for $11 at locally owned grocery stores including Orange Street Food Farm, Good Food Store and Missoula Fresh Markets, as well as Worden's and Missoula Wine Market downtown. Check out the Dram Shop and the Rhino for ciders on tap.