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Slightly Furry Brewing brings bold cider to Seattle

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Photo courtesy of Slightly Furry
Photo courtesy of Slightly Furry

Since hitting the cider scene in 2020, the Queer-owned Slightly Furry Beverage Company has had a wildly successful start. Whether at events for furries, the general public, or industry professionals, the company's boldly flavored ciders have sold so fast that the staff have had to hustle to keep up with demand.

Currently, Slightly Furry has a core team of three people, who asked to go by their fandom names. Martini makes up the fox half of the logo, and has a family history in the bar and restaurant industry. He and Spork, the rabbit half, came up with the idea for a cidery over drinks on a back porch.

While they're hardly the first openly furry company to operate in the greater Seattle area, they are one of few, and certainly one of the most brazen about it. Each of their cider flavors has its own anthropomorphic mascot; the cherry has a deer with classy clothes and a lute, and the ginger features the notoriously long-legged maned wolf.

That wasn't part of their initial plan, though.

"It was always meant to be subtle," Martini said. "It was never meant to be really out in your face. We just wanted it to look and feel like any other sort of edgier company."

That decision would have put them in line with businesses like the Vulpine Taproom in Lake Forest Park, which is furry-friendly but keeps its anthropomorphic marketing fairly agnostic.

With the help of Compy, the company's third member and director of product, Martini and Spork first went with the name "Slightly Fuzzy," a reference to the fuzzy feeling one gets after a few drinks.

Plans changed when they were hit with a trademark dispute over the use of the word "fuzzy." Rather than spending valuable cider-making time in court and risking further lawsuits, they rebranded.

"Let's just lean into furry," Martini said of the decision. "Just put it right on the tin and just be openly Queer and obnoxious. It's too late now to be subtle, so let's just go for it." Now they attend events in their "fursuits," which are essentially elaborate, customized cartoon animal costumes.

With Martini being a self-proclaimed "lettering nerd," they settled on an edgy, graffiti style for their visuals, and hired the likewise Queer-owned Fly Media Productions to further develop the company's brand.

"We were being really rather deliberate and specific about only working with either Queer, furry, or BIPOC firms," Martini said.

Photo courtesy of Slightly Furry  

Good problems
At this point, readers who know about the fraught history of public opinion about furry fandom might be concerned about the company's marketing strategy. Nobody is more aware of that tension than furries themselves, and in response to how they've been panned in the past, some have grown accustomed to keeping their spaces to themselves and "masking" in public (pun not intended).

It's possible, however, that leaning into the "furry thing" is part of the key to Slightly Furry's success. It makes the team stand out wherever they go, and the cider industry has been uniquely accepting of their apparent quirks.

"Fursuits are a fun trick, because you'll go to these [events] and it'll be Schilling, Two Towns, us, and somebody else — but 'us' is a six-foot purple hyena standing there," Compy said. "So everybody's like, 'Oh, I wanna go over there.'"

"I never in my life would've thought I'm gonna be wearing my mask... sitting there with my movable jaw, talking to people," Spork said of the events. "I forget I'm wearing it as I'm shaking hands and exchanging cards and talking about the product. Business mode kicks in."

The cider industry in Seattle especially, the trio agreed, is more of a "cider family." Its members are eager to share tips, welcome newcomers, and help each other. That could be why they have been happy to shake paws with these "animal people" (as Schilling staff members have called them).

"We haven't had to edit ourselves that much," Martini said.

Shattering records
It also helps, of course, that the quality of Slightly Furry's product seems to speak for itself. During a launch event, it shattered sales records at the Vulpine Taproom, with one of the ciders being the first drink to "kill the keg" the day it was tapped.

"Fast-forward to now: we had a dude who came out here from Nebraska," Spork said. "And he's like, 'Hey, can I get a pallet?'"

They couldn't legally give the man a full pallet of cider at once, "so instead, he went to three of our accounts, including Vulpine Taproom, and cleaned them out," Martini said. "He bought a case at each place... He was prepared to spend $500 just to buy our cider.

"We're actively trying to slow down our sales, because we're selling too fast."

Production should pick up soon, however; the team said they're on the verge of landing a lease agreement for a dedicated cidery and taproom, which would give them the space and the business they need to expand.

"But we don't want it to just be furries," Spork said of the taproom's patrons. "It's furry, Queer, everything. And we want it to be inviting for non-furries."

"In our taproom, that's what we wanna always have: a place you can go and be yourself," Martini said. "And then for others who are curious about it, they can go and see, like, we're not that weird, we're not that scary. We're actually really fun and cool if you hang out with us."

The trio said they'll be launching a crowdfunding campaign to get the community involved with the taproom itself. Donors would get to name some of the equipment, design "fursonas" for it, and participate in other ways.

You can learn more about Slightly Furry Brewing at https://www.slightlyfurry.com. Follow it on Twitter @slightlyfurry and Instagram @slightly_furry for updates on upcoming locations and new products.