Woodchuck Local Nectar Makes it to Washington! (Plus Inside Scoop on Upcoming Woodchuck Releases)

Wednesday was tap night at Special Brews in Lynnwood WA, and this week was a special treat, with four ciders on tap from Woodchuck.  Their NW representative, Jen, was even on hand.  She brought plenty of giveaways (my husband got a sweet Woodchuck polo).  Gumption, Fall Harvest, Pumpkin, and Hopsation were listed.

However, as the night went on, the Pumpkin came into question, as it was reported as pouring a very light color and not being very pumpkiny.  After some taste testing, it was determined it was actually Local Nectar!  Yes, the 100% Vermont apple Local Nectar cider which Woodchuck only sells in Vermont (they also have a Michigan version though).  The keg must have got mislabeled.  So, this may have been the first time that Local Nectar was sold in Washington!

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I tried Local Nectar before at Ciderbration 2014, Woodchuck’s grand opening party for their new cidery, which we were lucky enough to win a free weekend trip to!  They are having a repeat this year by the way, Ciderstock, happening this very weekend.  Too bad I didn’t win their contest again this year…  Anyway, back to Local Nectar.  It is one of Woodchuck’s drier selections, pretty middle of the road as far as sweetness.  Its not one of my favorites as it has some bitterness on the tail end, but it is a very nice cider, clean & refreshing.  I had thought I liked it more, but after re-tasting it, I think I was thinking of their special-release Ciderbration cider.  Now that stuff was awesome!  Sweet and very sparkling.  Otherwise, I would have got a growler, as Local Nectar in Washington is rare indeed.

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Before we found out the Pumpkin was actually Local Nectar, I had ordered Gumption, their newest core cider which I recently reviewed.  Its even better on tap!  Of course, I also did some bottle shopping.  It becomes very easy to buy cider while drinking a cider.

We also chatted with the Woodchuck rep Jen.  She had some great inside scoop to share with us:

(1)  Woodchuck’s next Out on a Limb release (next month) will be a spicy cider, Hot Cha Cha Cha.  Woodchuck tested this variety out in April with a “Firkin” keg, per their Twitter feed.  I’ve had a few spicy ciders but haven’t been a fan so far, as the heat seems to overwhelm the cider.  I imagine it will be more likable though if it has more sweetness and less heat.

(2)  A Washington version of Local Nectar is in work.  This will be made at an unspecified cidery in Washington for Woodchuck, using 100% Washington apples.  Should be interesting.  I wonder if it too will only be sold in the state the apples are from (Washington), because if so, it has a lot of competition here.  No release date yet.

I’ll definitely be reviewing both of those once they are out, so stay tuned!  Be sure to follow Cider Says on Facebook, through Wordpress, or by e-mail (link in sidebar on right, or at the bottom of the page on mobile devices) to get blog post notifications.

Woodchuck Gumption

Review of Woodchuck Gumption, released March 2015, the newest addition to Woodchuck’s Core lineup.  Their other core ciders are Amber, Granny Smith, 802, Pear, Raspberry, Local Nectar, & Hopsation.  Pretty sweet packaging, huh?

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I tried Gumption previously and for some reason I wasn’t impressed, but I thought it was worth a second taste since it has been very well received.  No idea why I didn’t like it last time, but this time, I did!  Maybe because it was hyped so much I was expecting something epic?  Woodchuck has even been having nationwide circus-themed release parties.

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Cider:  Gumption
CideryWoodchuck
Cidery Location: Middlebury VT
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied: 12oz bottle
Availability:  year round, wide release, six packs of 12oz bottles (and now cans)

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Cider Description:  Bold and unique.  Legendary showman P.T. Barnum once noted, “everybody drank cider-spirits called ‘gumption’.” Our Woodchuck GUMPTION™ celebrates the spirit of P.T. Barnum and those with the gumption to follow their own path. We pair the fresh juice of common eating apples with dry (European Bittersweet) cider apples to bring you a bold and unique drinking experience.

Cidery Description: Here at the Woodchuck Cidery in Vermont, we handcraft every batch of Woodchuck Hard Cider. Our Cider Makers utilize the highest quality ingredients and meticulously oversee each small batch from start to finish. We reinvigorated American cider in 1991 and continue to lead the category through our commitment to craft innovative and refreshing hard ciders.

Price:  ~$2 for a single bottle (typically $8-$10 for a full six pack)
Where Bought:  Special Brews in Lynnwood WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found: There was lots of online hype prior to release, so I had been on the lookout.  I picked up my first single bottle at Total Wine just after it was released.  This time I had been wanting to try it again, and found some at Special Brews.

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First Impression: Clear orange amber color (which appears to be true, unlike their Amber cider variety which adds color).  Light carbonation.  I only pick up one scent, of ripe sweet apples.

Opinion:  Sweet but not very sweet.  I like the sweeter start with a touch of bitterness in the (quick) finish.  I also like the lack of tartness and the balanced acidity.  This is more complex than most of their other ciders, such as Amber, but isn’t all that complex when compared to most craft ciders.  I even detect a slight woody earthiness.  Gumption is very easy to drink.  It doesn’t have all that bold of a flavor, but is unique and tasty.  I find it interesting that the bottle says less than 1% natural flavor, but Woodchuck’s website says no added flavors….I wonder which is true.

Most Similar to:  Nothing I’ve tried.  Most ciders which incorporate bittersweet cider apples are drier craft varieties.  This is a unique cider for this segment.

Closing Notes:  I quite enjoyed Woodchuck Gumption, and may have to pick up some more.  I now think I prefer it over their Amber variety (note this cider has significantly less sugar than Amber, 13 vs. 21 grams in 12 oz).  I think this is a very solid commercial cider, but I wouldn’t consider Woodchuck to be a craft cidery.  Woodchuck is undergoing a significant re-branding & marketing campaign to compete with Angry Orchard, so I’m intrigued to see what they come up with next!

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Have you tried Woodchuck Gumption?  What did you think?

Woodchuck Oopsy Daisy

This is a very unique and tasty Out on a Limb release from Woodchuck.

Cider:  Oopsy Daisy
Cidery:  Woodchuck
Cidery Location:  Middlebury, VT
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles
Availability:  limited release (flavors in Out on a Limb rotate)

Description on Bottle:  You ever screw something up? Oops. We all have. Bring on the stress mixed anxiety. Our advice? Take a moment, breathe deep and sip a Woodchuck Oopsy Daisy. This crisp cider is infused with the actual chamomile flowers after fermentation imparting the calming essence of Chamomile with notes of honey throughout. Sit back, sip, relax, and let the calm wash that stress away.

Price:  $8.99 / six pack
Where Bought:  Total Wine
How Found: Started to look for it after reading it on Facebook from Woodchuck.  Note that it can take awhile between when Woodchuck announces a flavor and it is stocked, especially if you are on the other side of the country.  Also, with Out on a Limb, stores are often waiting until they are out of the previous flavor to stock the next one.  Today I got lucky and was able to pick up both Oopsy Daisy and their newest Out on a Limb release, Lazy Hazy Lemon Crazy, which was just announced this past week!
Where Drank:  home

Opinion:  I pick up a lot more honey than chamomile flavor in this. I like it!  Very unique.  There is an appropriate amount of sweetness in my opinion, a bit less than many of their flavors (they have been releasing some drier varieties of late, I imagine to appeal to more folks as many say all Woodchuck varieties are sweet).  This unique sort of flavor is something you see more with the small cideries, not the large ones, so its nice to see, and is a great value in my opinion.  The most similar cider I’ve probably tried is Angry Orchard Elderflower, their 2014 summer release (this year they had Summer Honey), and it was still quite different.

It took me about half the bottle to figure out whether I liked it or not, which is unusual for me.  Usually by the second sip I’ve made my decision.  But, I liked this one enough to pick up a six pack (originally I only bought a single bottle), but not stock up on it.  I love when shops offer single bottles of six pack varieties!  Its worth the extra markup.  The unfortunate thing with Out on a Limb is that they are limited releases, with no guarantees of a variety ever coming back.  The good thing though is you get different varieties with the store only stocking essentially one cider.  Oopsy Daisy is good for someone who wants to try an herbal cider without it being overwhelming.  I don’t think someone needs to like Chamomile tea to enjoy this (I don’t).  GIve it a try, if you can still find it!

Note that the Woodchuck Out on a Limb series keeps the same packaging but rotates ciders every month or two, so check the bottle neck before assuming it is the same cider as you’ve seen before.  So far they have had:

  • Chocolate Raspberry
  • Splitter Splinter (with bittersweet apples and aged in whiskey barrels; not bad but I like Barrel Select better as this one was a bit tart)
  • Cheeky Cherry (apparently identical to their cellar series Sour Cherry release but 5.5% instead of 6.9%)
  • Oopsy Daisy
  • Lazy Hazy Lemon Crazy (their take on a summer shandy, with lemon juice & lemongrass)

Have you tried Oopsy Daisy?  What did you think?

Woodchuck Lazy Hazy Lemon Crazy

This is Woodchuck’s newest Out on a Limb release:

Cider:  Lazy Hazy Lemon Crazy
Cidery:  Woodchuck
Cidery Location:  Middlebury, VT
ABV:  4.2%
How Supplied:  6 pack of 12oz bottles
Availability:  limited release (flavors in Out on a Limb rotate)

Description on Bottle:  After a crazy day under the sun, grab a cider – your hammock is calling!  We’ve taken a spin on the traditional shandy and made it our own.  Our “cider shandy” starts with out small batch hard cider and infuses fresh lemon juice and lemongrass, crafting a well-balanced session cider with sweet and tart in every sip.

Price:  $8.99 / six pack (although I only picked up a single bottle for under $2)
Where Bought:  Total Wine
How Found: Started to look for it after reading it on Facebook from Woodchuck.  Note that it can take awhile between when Woodchuck announces a flavor and it is stocked, especially if you are on the other side of the country.  Also, with Out on a Limb, stores are often waiting until they are out of the previous flavor to stock the next one.  I got lucky and was able to find Lazy Hazy Lemon Crazy even though it was just announced this past week!
Where Drank:  home

Opinion:  This is Woodchuck’s take on a summer shandy (traditionally a mix of beer & lemonade, but other mixers can be used).  It was created using a mix of McIntosh, Empire, & Cortland apples, and is infused with fresh lemon juice and lemongrass.  They call this a session cider, which typically refers to low alcohol content beers (cider in this case) suitable for extended drinking sessions.  The ABV (alcohol by volume) is 4.2% in this case, where other Woodchuck varieties typically run between 5% and 6.9%.  Woodchuck previously had “Crisp”, a 3.2% ABV session cider, which I actually thought was quite tasty, and good for drinking multiple bottles as it only came in at 120 calories per 12 oz.  With the bump up to 4.2% ABV for this variety, the calories only bump to 140…not bad!  Also, only 9 grams of sugar, much lower than most of their other ciders.

I think Woodchuck went a bit too “Out on a Limb” with this one, as its definitely “Lemon Crazy”!  I love lemon, yet I find this cider is overwhelming with lemon flavor, and finishes a bit too tart.  I’ve never been a fan of tart ciders, such as green apple.  I like the relatively low level of sweetness though.  I think if they toned down the lemon a bit it would be very nice.  It smells really nice, with only a hint of lemon, but the overwhelming lemon flavor lingers on the tongue.  I would however call it refreshing.  I would only recommend this to people who really like lemon, and like a tart cider.

Note that the Woodchuck Out on a Limb series keeps the same packaging but rotates ciders every month or two, so check the bottle neck before assuming it is the same cider as you’ve seen before.  So far they have had:

  • Chocolate Raspberry
  • Splitter Splinter (with bittersweet apples and aged in whiskey barrels; not bad but I like Barrel Select better as this one was a bit tart)
  • Cheeky Cherry (apparently identical to their cellar series Sour Cherry release but 5.5% instead of 6.9%)
  • Oopsy Daisy (chamomile & honey)
  • Lazy Hazy Lemon Crazy

Have you tried Lazy Hazy Lemon Crazy?  What did you think?

Woodchuck Summer Time

This is a perfect cider for summer, and one of my favorites.

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Cider:  Summer Time
Cidery:  Woodchuck
Cidery Location:  Middlebury VT
ABV: 5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles (also available in cans, although more difficult to find)
Availability:  Spring/Summer (approx. March-July)

Description on Bottle:  The sounds of the lapping lake-shores, the mountain views, and memories of fresh picked blueberries, now in a convenient six-pack. Exhibiting a slight tartness, this cider begins with a full, robust flavor followed by a rich summertime taste.

Price:  $7.99 / six pack
Where Bought:  Total Wine
How Found: I think I originally found this just by browsing.
Where Drank:  home

Opinion:  Yummy blueberry refreshing sweetness.  This is one of Woodchuck’s sweetest ciders.  I pick up more than “a hint of blueberry” as they say, but I like it.  It is part of Woodchuck’s seasonal line of ciders, which currently include Summer Time, Fall Harvest, and Winter Chill (now that they aren’t releasing the Spring one).  This is one of those ciders I like better out of the bottle than a glass.  I’ve also had it from a can twice, and the second time was better as it had been on ice instead of just in the fridge, although from a bottle is still better.  I recommend it for anyone who likes sweet ciders, as long as they like blueberries.  I’ll probably have to stock up a bit on this one, although it is available 5 months a year now they only have three seasonal releases.

Woodchuck Winter Chill

This is probably my favorite cider, especially for the price.  Not too many barrel aged ciders are available in affordable six packs (most are expensive single larger bottles).  I like this stuff so much I bought six 6 packs to try to tide me over for the year, since it is a seasonal release.

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Cider:  Winter Chill
Cidery:  Woodchuck
Cidery Location:  Middlebury VT
ABV: 5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles
Availability:  Winter (approx. Nov-Feb)

Description on Bottle:  The chill of winter sends some running for the mountains, while others prefer to stay cozy in the comfort of the great indoors. Whichever way you enjoy winter, this cider is built to get you through. Aged in premium french and traditional american oak, Winter Chill brings a rich depth of apple flavor with hints of vanilla and Oak throughout.

Price:  $7.99 / six pack
Where Bought:  Total Wine
How Found: I think I originally found this just by browsing.
Where Drank:  home

Opinion:  This is some really tasty stuff.  It is one of Woodchuck’s more dry offerings, but definitely still on the sweeter side.  I definitely pick up the vanilla & oak flavors, and can tell it is barrel aged.  It is very easy to drink, and although it is more of a wintery cider, I like it year round.  I sure wish it was available year-round.  To me this cider is a very good value, as typically barrel aged ciders start at a higher price point (as they are typically from craft cideries).  I definitely did some stocking up this winter between Woodchuck Winter Chill & Barrel Select.  It is part of Woodchuck’s seasonal line of ciders, which currently include Summer Time, Fall Harvest, and Winter Chill (now that they aren’t releasing the Spring one).  When I went to the Woodchuck cidery I got to see the giant stack of barrels which held the aging cider.  Apparently this flavor has been available since 2008.  I highly recommend it!  Its a good intro to barrel aged ciders, as it isn’t as strong of a barrel aged flavor (I’d guess it is aged less than some of the others).

Woodchuck Pink

This is a cider I’ve had a few times, and although I wouldn’t call it one of my favorites, it is quite good.

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Cider:  Private Reserve Pink
Cidery:  Woodchuck
Cidery Location:  Middlebury VT
ABV: 5.5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles
Availability:  Spring/Summer (approx. March-July)

Description on Bottle:  Reclaiming your life after cancer is a challenge. We want to help survivors meet that challenge. Woodchuck Pink was crafted to honor that effort. The Cidery’s donation supports Dragonheart’s Survivorship NOW mission which offers programs to help cancer survivors. Delicate in body yet full of crisp apple taste. Raise a bottle to all survivors and join us in helping them live a better life.

Price:  $8.99 / six bottles
Where Bought:  Total Wine
How Found: I read about this online and started to look out for it in Spring 2014, as I try just about every Woodchuck flavor, since I always seem to like their ciders.  I bought some again this Springtime.  Unfortunately they no longer offer the Spring seasonal flavor, which was quite good, and had a maple & brown sugar flavor which reminded me of Vermont.
Where Drank:  home

Opinion:  This cider has a fruity (berry) sweet sparkling wine type flavor.  It gets its pink hue from purple grape skins.  This is a nice choice for Spring & Summer, and has a light flavor.  It is surprisingly non-boozey.  I pick up more carbonation than usual in this variety.  This cider tastes better to me out of the bottle (vs. some of the stronger barrel aged type ciders which I find better out of a glass).  I also tried it on draft/tap once (at Ciderbration), and unlike many ciders, and oddly enough I didn’t notice much of a difference (often cider, like beer, tastes better on draft/tap).  Pink is part of Woodchuck’s Private Reserve Line, which currently has three seasonal releases (Pink, Pumpkin, & Barrel Select).  They recently cut out the fourth one, Belgian White.  Of the Private Reserve flavors, Barrel Select is my favorite.  Pink supports the Dragonheart Vermont Survivorship NOW initiative for breast cancer.  This variety has been available seasonally since 2013.

Have you tried Pink?  What did you think?