Josh Hail, a landscape architect by training and cider maker by heart, made the major career change to become a full-time orchardist and cider maker last year. From that decision, 3 Dog Cider & Brewstillery in Ethel was born.

3 Dog Cider & Brewstillery Ethel
Josh Hail with two of the business’ namesakes. The third dog just wouldn’t hold still for the original photo. Photo courtesy: 3 Dog Cider & Brewstillery

Meet Josh Hail of 3 Dog Cider & Brewstillery

Apples, cider and Josh—they naturally go together. Josh grew up in Lewis County, where his family had apple trees. And since he was a kid, they always made apple cider. He still owns his family’s first cider press, which is on display in 3 Dogs’ tasting-room barn. “My parents bought it in 1983 or 84,” he recalls, adding, “They actually traded a pig for it.”

Ahhh, it was an excellent trade for the cider press—we can’t necessarily say the same for the pig.

Josh got to where he’s at in a roundabout way. He moved to New York in 2015 to begin his landscape architect career, having earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in the field from the University of Idaho—that education, as well as his studying viticulture and winemaking at Washington State University, is serving him well today.

Back in 2015, though, he was living in New York, where his surroundings only deepened his respect for cider making. “The East Coast has a really large apple culture,” he explains. “There are a lot of you-pick farms and a lot of festivals. There’s just a lot of culture around cider.”

Seeing others raise apple trees for cider stood out to him. Even in college, he remembers thinking, “When I go home, that’s what I’m going to do.”

3 Dog Cider & Brewstillery Ethel
3 Dog Cider & Brewstillery is your destination for hard apple cider on tap. Photo courtesy: 3 Dog Cider & Brewstillery

It took him a while to “get home,” though. He lived in New York for five years. Then, he was in Texas for a year. Then, he was off to the Phoenix, Arizona, area to continue his career. Last year, though, he’d had enough of trying to appease clients who purchased property in the Arizona desert, where water is naturally restricted, but were still determined to have a lush, green, landscaped yard. He still had the family property in Silver Creek, which included a couple of acres planted with apple trees—so he decided to pursue his orchardist and cider-making dream full-time.

“Plus, there’s the fact that I really love apple cider,” Josh says. “There’s nothing like fresh cider.”

3 Dog Cider & Brewstillery was at first just a part-time operation. Then he purchased the five acres that remain from the original Hadaller homestead on U.S. Hwy 12 in Ethel, which includes a house and barn, to move the business full time. Five acres is enough, though, for an orchard—especially one designed by a landscape architect. “I should be able to fit 832 trees here, including a parking lot and events area,” he says.

Josh has long been what you might call a “tree collector.” He searches out rare apple trees. “There used to be 14,000 varieties of native apples,” he says. “Now we’re down to 2,500.” He adds that when a lost variety is rediscovered and verified, he generally buys about five trees. He estimates he has around 40 rare apple trees in total today between his two properties.

3 Dog Cider & Brewstillery Ethel
3 Dog Cider & Brewstillery offers several ciders sold by the flight onsite or bottles and growlers to go. Photo courtesy: 3 Dog Cider & Brewstillery

Less Sugar, Please, With 3 Dog Cider & Brewstillery

Josh always enjoyed cider—making it and drinking it. A diabetes diagnosis in 2018, though, ended his drinking of any kind of juice. However, hard cider has far less sugar. Josh fully acknowledges that alcohol consumption is not recommended for diabetics, either, but a glass of hard cider with the sugar stripped out is a whole lot better on his blood sugar than a glass of regular cider.

“I can strip out the sugar down to one gram per bottle,” Josh says. “Then I can make it sweeter with sugar or fresh apple juice. Or, I can let it sit until it ferments. That’s how you get a dryer cider.”

Most people who come through 3 Dog’s tasting room prefer a sweeter cider, so that is what he has on tap. For those who prefer a drier version, though, he can pull that from the back room.

3 Dog Cider & Brewstillery Ethel
This historic barn-turned-tasting room was initially built via a barn raising by the local grange. Photo courtesy: 3 Dog Cider & Brewstillery

One Dog, Two Dogs, Three at 3 Dog Cider & Brewstillery

While the name is “3 Dog Cider & Brewstillery,” only two pooches are in the business logo. That wasn’t the plan, but sometimes dogs just don’t cooperate. The dogs in the logo are Rizzo and Wolfie. There was also a Yorkie named Beemer, who belonged to his dad’s girlfriend and was supposed to be the third dog. Josh says Beemer was elderly, blind and pretty much deaf, and would not sit still for the photo. Thus, 3 Dog Cider & Brewstillery has just two dogs in the logo.

3 Dog Cider & Brewstillery is located at 2040 U.S. Hwy 12 in Ethel. They sell flights of cider onsite and bottles and growlers to go.

Summer hours are Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from noon until 6 p.m., with closing extended to 7 p.m. on Friday and 8 p.m. on Saturday. They are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

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