Apple Outlaw Cider Tasting & More at Around The Table

I recently attended an Apple Outlaw cider tasting at Around the Table, a game pub in Lynnwood Washington, North of Seattle.  Its a unique game shop with tables to play at, snacks, and beer/cider/mead/soda/etc on tap.  They have quite a tap list, which usually includes a few ciders and a mead (which is more ciders than most places with even more taps have).  They’ve had a few other cider tastings prior to this, which include having a mini cider tap takeover and bringing in a cidery representative to pour them and chat.

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They had Apple Outlaw’s Ginger Bite, Original, and Tangerine Twist on tap.  The rep Meghan also opened a bottle of their Cranberry Jewel while I was there.  I met up with Nathan from The Cider Chronicles, who now also works part time for Elemental Hard Cider.  He brought a growler of their Pomegranate-Rose cider with him.  Around the Table also had Elemental’s NW Atomic Root Beer cider on tap (a cider-based hard root beer, which I reviewed here), and Moonlight Meadery’s Sumptuous Mango mead.

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<the full tap list that evening>

Apple Outlaw is an orchard-based cidery in Applegate Oregon, in the Applegate Valley in the Southern portion of the state.  They actually sold non-alcoholic cider (juice) for quite awhile before starting to sell hard cider, which they make from dessert apples.  Oddly enough they no longer sell their unfermented juice.  Although the place was rather busy, the cider tasting wasn’t, so Nathan and I got to chat with Meghan for awhile.  We learned that Apple Outlaw is still on the small side, and mainly family-run.  They don’t currently have a tasting room, but their bottled (and draft) ciders have been sold since 2013, and are available in Oregon and Washington.

Elemental Hard Cider Pomegranate-Rose, 6.5% ABV:  Light cherry pink hue.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Mild to moderate tartness.  I mostly tasted pomegranate, but it was smoother than typical, presumably from the infusion of rose petals (although I didn’t pick up any floral notes).  Elemental has infused rose petals with other ciders as well, such as Lavender-Rose (which I reviewed here).

Apple Outlaw Tangerine Twist, 5.5% ABV:  Cider with tangerines and hops.  It is their Spring/Summer seasonal. Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  The flavor started distinctly citrus and tart, and the finish was hopped (light bitterness and floral notes).

Apple Outlaw Original Hard Cider, 5.5% ABV:  This is their flagship cider.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Mild tartness.  Easy to drink and sessionable.  Very apple forward (back sweetened).

Apple Outlaw Ginger Bite, 5.5% ABV:  Made with Peruvian yellow ginger.  Moderate to strong ginger scent.  Semi-sweet.  I’m not a ginger fan, but this was definitely more approachable for me than most ginger ciders, as most of the ginger remained in the scent…I really didn’t pick up too much ginger flavor.  Most of all, it didn’t have any sinus burn.  I think the sweetness also helped its approachability.  This was described as being great for food pairings.

Apple Outlaw Cranberry Jewel, 5.5% ABV:  This was a bottle pour.  Made with cranberries, rose hips, and orange peel.  I didn’t pick up the rose hips or orange peel (which I only read about later).  It was definitely very cranberry (moderate to strong) and tasted juice-like to me.  Semi-dry.  Moderate tartness.  Medium bodied.

Moonlight Meadery Sumptuous Mango Mead, 13.6% ABV:  Nathan let me taste the glass he ordered.  Very fruity and alcohol-forward, but the mango flavor isn’t particularly strong.  Sweet.  Moderate tartness.  Full bodied.  This was the first beverage from Moonlight Meadery that I didn’t think was amazing…I think I much prefer their ciders, meads, and cysers which are more honey-forward, with richer brown sugar type notes (see my prior reviews here).  The fruitiness just didn’t seem to mesh with the whole 14% ABV mead vibe.  I think as a lower ABV cyser (apple + honey) it would have worked better.

Of the Apple Outlaw selections, I liked the Original best.  I’ve previously tried their Oaked Sweet Dark Cherry and Blackberry Bounty ciders on tap.  However, none of the Apple Outlaw ciders are really a style I enjoy (and I’m not really a fan of hops, ginger, or cranberry).  My favorite ciders are typically richer and/or made from cider apples.  Its always fun to try new ciders though!

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.

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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.

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<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.