Elemental Cider Tasting Notes

Around the Table, a game pub in Lynnwood WA, recently hosted an Elemental Hard Cider tasting.  Although I’m not really into the game portion of their shop, its a great place to pick up a growler of cider, as they usually have a few selections on tap (plus a mead), typically from local cideries.  Elemental Cider hails from Woodinville WA, also in the greater Seattle area.  Brian and Christina Callahan, founders of Elemental, were there pouring, and it wasn’t too busy so I got to talk with Brian about cider for awhile.  Elemental has a tasting room in Woodinville WA.  They started off making wine, founding Callahan Cellars, but have since transitioned to cider, closing Callahan Cellars.

2015-12-15 18.52.45

I’ve had a number of Elemental’s selections, including past versions of the Carbon and NW Atomic Rootbeer varieties they were sampling.  I was surprised how different the recipes were from what I had previously tried, but they said they have continued to tweak them after release, although the current versions should be the permanent ones.  Even without knowingly tweaking a recipe, a cider can change significantly batch to batch, year to year.

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<Blood Orange, Rootbeer, Pom-Cherry, & Carbon
samples in 32oz growlers, all 6.5% ABV>

Blood Orange is a newer variety for them and only available at their tap room, but Carbon and NW Atomic Rootbeer are available in bottles.  I think Pom-Cherry is also a newer tap room only variety, but they have a Pomegranate variety dubbed”Oxygen” available in bottles & kegs, and I’ve had a Cherry variety from them from a keg previously.

carbon dry pom cherry root beer.jpg blood orange
<tasting order: Carbon, Pom-Cherry, Rootbeer, & Blood Orange>

I started with Carbon, which they describe as a traditional dry hard cider.  The cidermaker Brian divulged that they have a special ingredient they use, a touch of lavender, for a little something special.  I couldn’t pick up that flavor, but this was rather unique for a basic cider.  I’d call it more semi-dry than dry.  Its fairly apple-forward, moderately full flavored, and slightly rich.  Moderate acidity, mild tartness, and a hint of tannins, with no detectable bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Medium bodied.

I learned that they use colder fermenation temperatures than some other cideries to retain more apple flavor in their ciders.  I really like when a cider is apple-forward without tasting juice-like (which often happens when they overly back-sweeten a cider with unfermented juice).

This version of Carbon was quite different than the version I tried a couple months ago (which was probably bottled many months before that), which was very pale in color, drier, less flavorful, and had more bitterness & tannins.  I enjoyed this new version much better.  I’d love if they would make it available in cans, as I’ve been searching for an affordable craft cider (which usually means a multi-pack) that I enjoy, and coming up empty as most are very mildly flavored.

Next was Cherry-Pom, which had a light cherry hue, and with which I picked up more cherry than pomegranate flavor (the Pom mostly presented as tartness), but it remained mild to moderately flavored.  It was semi-dry, with mild to moderate acidity.  I’m not really a big fan of fruity ciders, but I found no faults with it.

I then tried NW Atomic Rootbeer, which is their root beer made with a cider base (in contrast to a malt base like most hard root beers).  It smells almost exactly like the soda version of root beer (moreso than the previous version), but has a hint of apple on the finish (also moreso than the previous version).  However, in between, the root beer flavor seemed to be less than the previous version.  Brian said that they ferment the apple base dry, so it shouldn’t have much apple flavor remaining, so it may be been perceived on my part (or I had some previous cider remaining in my glass).  Overall it was enjoyable, but I remembered liking the previous version better, so I was a bit disappointed.

They’ve actually got some members of the cider community in uproar on this product, saying it isn’t craft cider.  Although this is “Alcopop”, I don’t see it as much different than fruit, hopped, or spiced cider…the main difference is that they use caramel coloring.  However, its cane sugar based, non-GMO, and the closest you can get to all natural (they are currently trying to go one step further and get the organic version of it).  I personally don’t have an issue with the product as they are upfront about what it is.

The final cider was Blood Orange.  This seems to be a new fad, as Ace recently released a “Space” blood orange cider (my tasting notes here), as well as some other cideries which don’t distribute in my area (2 Rivers, Bulmers, Country Cider Co, Common Cider Co, & FoxCraft.  Thankfully I liked Elemental’s version much better than Ace’s, as it tasted real instead of fake, although rather juice-like.  It was full-flavored, but the blood orange portion of the flavor remained mild instead of overpowering.  It had a hazy orange hue with a hint of pink.  Full bodied.  This is a pretty easily likable cider, and seemed to be a hit during the tasting.  I thought it was well-done, but its just not a flavor I enjoy.

My favorite of the four ciders was oddly enough the Carbon.  I unfortunately liked the previous version of NW Atomic Rootbeer better.  I decided to get a half growler of Carbon since I liked it, it was such a good price (about the same as a bottle of their cider which is half the size), and its no fun to leave a tasting empty handed.

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<prices for pints / half growlers for the four Elemental ciders they had on tap>

They were doing a raffle for giveaways (mostly Elemental Hard Cider & NW Atomic Rootbeer branded glass growlers) for folks who bought a pint of cider.  However, I didn’t have a reason to hang out after my cider tasting and a bit of Full Tilt ice cream, so I got a growler and headed home.  They were doing the same deal they did with the last cider tasting (Finnriver) where you got the growler glass for free (instead of $5) with a fill, so now I have two 32oz cider growlers.  I was able to drink the cider a few nights that week and it actually stayed perfectly fresh and lightly carbonated the whole time.

I look forward to the next cider tasting they have at Around the Table, and trying more ciders from Elemental.  They have been commercially producing cider for just over a year, and already have a maximum capacity of 30 barrels a week.

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