Downtown Tacoma just got a little sweeter. The folks at Incline Cider just opened their brand new taproom on South C Street. Led by father and son, Chris and Jordan Zehner respectively, Incline Cider is looking to do two things: keep it craft and keep it quality.
For cider enthusiasts out there, the name Incline Cider may already be a familiar one. “Chris and Jordan started Incline Cider back in 2015,” says Lesley Zehner, wife of Jordan and Taproom Manager. “They went into this venture to create quality craft cider. We did things differently. The early focus was distribution and we didn’t dive into opening a taproom. It became clear in 2017 that opening our first taproom is the direction the business needed to go, and the direction we as a family wanted to go. We wanted Incline to have a home where we could curate a fun experience around cider, and have that be indicative of our brand. I still remember having a conversation in my backyard with Jordan, Chris and [mother-in-law] Teresa confirming that opening a taproom meant we’ve all got to be all in. We’ve always known that we wanted to be super active in running the taproom, and keep it family operated.”
To achieve this end, the family buckled down, and learned as they went. “We have never opened a bar, and never even worked in a bar,” recalls Lesley. “Everything from working with the city to our contractor to knowing what we need to make this place run smoothly was brand new territory. We asked so many questions of fellow business owners, spent hours of time doing online research on anything and everything, and simply remained hands-on. Chris, Teresa and I have put in a lot of time and effort in every aspect of this business. But my husband, Jordan, specifically deserves an award for his dedication to getting this place open. He has a strong ability to just ‘figure it out,’ and his diligence is why we are open now. He’s been the leader of this project, and we’ve all leaned on him for direction at times. The three of us are very proud of him.”
The result ended up being a unique taproom in the Brewery Blocks along South C Street. “We want everyone to feel welcome at our place,” says Lesley. “We’re here to greet you with a smile, make sure the music is good, answer any questions and have a good time. We really just want our bar to have that comfy, cozy feel that makes feeling at-home pretty easy.”
Incline Cider opened their taproom via a soft open back in September 2019, a strategy that paid off immensely. “A soft opening period was great for us because this is the first Incline Cider House, and not one of our owners have actually worked at a bar, including myself,” laughs Lesley. “We had plans for how we thought things should work, and we’ve since changed some of those plans, and we have to put our training to practice. It’s been a learning curve for us, but we all went into this knowing that we don’t know it all, and we were going to learn a lot once this business started rolling.”
Yet despite their lack of actual bar experience, the Zehners pulled it off without a hitch. “It’s been great,” says Lesley. “Having a grand opening party was important to us. We wanted to have a big party to bring in more people from the community and show them what we were all about, so that’s exactly we did.”
Incline Cider’s dedication to the craft meant starting out small, with an emphasis on quality over everything else. “We started with just our Hopped Cider,” explains Lesley. “We use an apple base and lightly dry hop it to pull out citrus aromas. It’s our flagship cider, and has been the base to some of the other varietals we’ve added to our line-up. Even as we’ve expanded our portfolio, keeping it craft and producing a cider that we want to drink has remained the priority. We use 100% fresh pressed apples, no added sugar, no carbonated water, and the result are ciders that are balanced, not too sweet and super flavorful. Jordan specifically is a huge fan of craft beers, as am I, and he set out to make ‘crushable ciders,’ a cider you can easily drink multiple pints of. By keeping a strong focus on quality, we believe that’s exactly what we have, crushable ciders that anyone can enjoy, including self-identified non-cider drinkers.”
With a successful product and now a conveniently located taproom, Incline Cider plans to be a major player in the industry, provided they stick to their original mantra. “We continue to make it our goal to stand out based on our quality,” Lesley says, “and releasing new flavors that haven’t been explored in the craft cider community. We keep it craft and keep it quality. That’s our unwavering commitment to our brand.”
Incline Cider is located at 2115 S C Street, Tacoma, WA 98402.