If the natural, green, trendy vibe of the Pacific Northwest can be captured and contained, it’s found in a Schilling Hard Cider can or bottle decorated with a bearded lumberjack, a mountaineer dangling from a cliff face or an owl wearing a colorful knitted hat.
Co-founded by Colin Schilling ’10, MBA’12 in the same year he graduated from Willamette’s Atkinson Graduate School of Management, the company celebrates the craftsmanship of Pacific Northwest hard cider-makers and the delicious bounty of local orchards and fields. Schilling also added another Northwest ingredient to the mix — a commitment to environmental and social sustainability.
A taste of success
Opening the company was a natural move for Schilling, who’s been making his own cider since he was 14 years old. The business and entrepreneurial knowledge he gained at Willamette, especially through experiential learning in the MBA’s Angel Investment class, proved invaluable in helping him launch and grow the company.
Schilling ciders are distinctive for being made from 100 percent fresh-pressed juice, locally sourced ingredients and hand-selected yeast strains. They contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. After starting with a cider house in Seattle’s Fremont District, the company opened another in the “Goat Blocks” on the eastside of Portland in 2017. The Portland location boasts the world’s largest number of draft craft ciders on tap. The 50 ciders include the company’s own Passport, made with pineapple and passionfruit, the rhubarb and pear-accented Lumberjack, Ascender with a tang of fresh ginger, and the spicy, chai-infused Chaider.
In addition to supporting Pacific Northwest cider makers, Schilling helps other local businesses and artists. Instead of offering food, the Seattle cider house encourages customers to bring in food from restaurants. Both the Seattle and Portland cider houses also allow artists to display their work for free, instead of having to pay a gallery fee.
Change for good
Besides its dedication to crafting good cider, Schilling is just as concerned with the container that carries the cider. That’s why it was the first cider company on the West Coast to package in cans, which are far more recyclable and lightweight for shipping than bottles.
“Other companies followed our lead,” says Schilling, “and now the industry-wide change has prevented the creation of countless tons of emissions and landfill waste.”
Not content with incorporating environmental sustainability into its core business, Schilling wanted to do more in terms of social sustainability. So, it created a cold brew coffee company, Street Bean Coffee, in collaboration with a successful Seattle nonprofit that provides training to help homeless youth find jobs and stable lives.
“I’m a strong believer in the concept of sustainable business,” says Schilling. “Business represents the largest part of our economy, so it has the most potential for positive change.”
This article was originally published in the fall 2018 issue of Willamette magazine as part of a larger article, “The GOOD food and drink guide: Alumni serve up satisfying fare — and solutions for social issues.” Erik Schmidt is a freelance writer in Denver.