The USA cider scene particularly is 'on fire' at the moment, its booming. Its a microcosm (albeit a bloody large one) for the cider renaissance phenomenon thats washing over the globe and its a really exciting place to be. They're a great bunch of people, super passionate and friendly - some of whom you will have seen vicariously via the blog (so if you recognise their faces when you get there, either buy them a drink or buy one off them!) I can guarantee you'll drink some cider the likes of which you'll have had nowhere else on the planet, if only because no-one else experiments as widely as people tend to in the US. I see there are also UK, French and Spanish ciders represented too - so theres definitely something for everyone. This year in Seattle they're hoping to get 3000 people through the door. The Chicago event has the added bonus of being run back to back with 'Cider Con' -the annual US cider industry conference - so it'll offer punters a double whammy of schmoozing and boozing. As for Portland.. well its Portland and its worth checking out for that reason alone!
We do alot of cider festivals here all over UK, but with regards to large cider specific events there isn't anything (although there was the as yet one off International Craft Cider Festival in 2011.) Our events tend to be tagged onto something else like the Bath & West Show or the Great British Beer Festival. I wish we did something like that here in UK, I'd relish the chance to get producers, importers and distributors together - I think our market is so ripe for import/export relations and its something I mention to people a lot - but there is never any uptake of interest. It'll refresh our attitudes towards tasting, exploring and comparing ciders from inside and outside UK. Its is the kind of thing America is more open minded about and I know it will continue to grow. I hope to go to some (or all) of these at some stage in the future but until I can, I want to do my bit by promoting the idea and the three events happening in 2013. I'd recommend any fellow cider dorks from UK, Europe and beyond to think seriously about going if you want to understand whats happening in the cider world right now and get some ideas about where its headed.