Leavenworth Cider Tasting

My husband and I recently spend a few days in Leavenworth WA, a Bavarian-themed town in the mountains a couple hours East of Seattle.  Visiting this time of year is especially special as they light up and decorate the entire town.  This time we visited mid-week, skipping the weekend festival crowds, which we concluded was a great decision (plus it is nearly impossible to get a hotel room there on a festival weekend as they allow folks to re-book for the next year).  I found cider at nearly every place we went to, and didn’t spot Angry Orchard on a single tap list!  Very cool.

At least three new cider-centric places opened in Leavenworth since our last visit:

  • Bushel & Bee – a tap room with about 12 beers, 9 ciders, and 3 meads on draft, who offers flights, snacks, and two fridge cases of bottles & cans
  • Broken Barrel – a combination bottle shop & tap room which focuses on wine & cider and offers classes
  • Stein – a huge tap room (over 50 taps, where probably 8 were cider) with tons of seating, full food menu, two fridge cases of bottles & cans, and a mini gift shop in the front

Here is what I tried:

  • At Bushel & Bee I had Swift‘s Peach Oak on draft.
    • reviewed below
  • At Icicle Brewing I had a can of Rambling Route Yakima Cider (they have 1 rotating cider option).  This is a really cool local brewery for beer lovers, with a neat tap room sharing the space with their production facility, and snacks & games.  Plus their beer prices are crazy affordable, especially growler fills.  My husband took home a bunch of his favorite ‘Dark Persuasion’ german chocolate cake porter.
    • previous review of Rambling Route here
  • At Broken Barrel I picked up a couple fancy bottles to take home.
    • Phillipi Fruit‘s Snowdance, a Pommeau-style apple brandy fortified cider made in Wenatchee.  I tried it previously (see here) but haven’t seen it in any other shops.
    • Cashmere Cider Mill‘s Country Elegance Heirloom Blend Medium cider, made in Cashmere.  I had never heard of this cidery, probably as it looks like they are only sold at their tasting room and a couple shops.
  • At Leavenworth Sausage Garden I had Seattle Cider Semi-Sweet on draft (which has been their 1 cider selection since they opened).
    • previous review here
  • At Munchen Haus I had Whiskey Barrel Cider‘s Dam Hard Cider on draft (they have 1 rotating cider tap), my first time trying cider from that cidery.
    • reviewed below
  • At Stein we took a look at the tap list and thought we’d have time to come back later, but didn’t.  However, like Broken Barrel, I had previously tried everything on their tap list, so it wasn’t too much of a loss.
  • At a roadside shop East of Leavenworth I picked up a bottle of mead from Honeywood Winery (in Salem Oregon) – see my previous review of their cider here
    • I opened the bottle the day after we got home and really enjoyed it.  Very sweet (more of a dessert mead), but very flavorful and complex, with a lot of honey and floral notes.  Also an awesome value at $13.50 / 750ml of 11% ABV.

Swift Cider Peach Oak

Swift‘s Peach Oak is a seasonal draft-only cider, 6.9% ABV, made in Portland Oregon.  I paid about $7 for 12oz on draft at Bushel & Bee.  They have a really cool tap room by the way – cozy, with fun decor (and even some games & adult coloring books).  There was a wide range of ciders, from dry to sweet, although I think they were all the flavored type you most commonly see on draft (not from cider apples).

Photo Dec 06, 4 33 11 PM.jpg

Light peach yellow hue.  Nearly still.  Smells mildly fruity and acidic.  On the drier side of semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Low bitterness.  Hints of tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of peach, green apple, pineapple, and a hint of oak.  Moderate length tart finish.  Low apple flavor.  Low flavor intensity.  Low to moderate complexity.  Moderate to high sessionability.

I thought this was average, but only as it is not my preferred style.  This would appeal more to fans of dry & acidic subtle flavored cider.  I personally prefer a slightly sweeter and/or more intensely flavored cider.  This is on-par with what I have come to expect from Swift, having tried their Pineapple Hop and Marionberry.

Whiskey Barrel Cider Company Dam Fine Cider

Whiskey Barrel Cider Co.’s Dam Fine Cider is their flagship offering, 5.8% ABV, made in Pullman WA.  I paid about $6 for about a pint on draft at Muchen Haus, an outdoor sausage garden.  Thankfully they had a fire pit as it was in the 30s when we visited.  We stopped by for a drink before dinner just so I could try this cider (plus they had one of my husband’s favorite beers, Icicle’s Dark Persuasion).  This was the only cider they had, and apparently the selection rotates.

Photo Dec 07, 5 20 09 PM.jpg

Light straw yellow hue with a hint of orange/pink.  Low carbonation.  Smells mild, of apple juice.  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Notes of apple juice and honey with the very slightest hint of oak.  Quick finish.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Low complexity.  High sessionability.

I enjoyed this, and it ended up being my favorite cider I drank during our visit (except for the bottle of Newton’s Court Gasping Goose I had in our room).  If I’m drinking cider from dessert instead of cider apples, I like something with more flavor than Rambling Route and Seattle Cider for example.  However, it left me wanting more whiskey & oak flavor, as it was nearly non-existent, which was surprising considering the cidery’s name.

UPDATE (July 11, 2018) – I received an e-mail from the cidermaker, Kody Franks, with clarification that Whiskey Barrel Cider Co.’s Dam Fine Cider is not barrel aged.  Their original flagship cider was barrel aged, but with their increased production, none of their current selections (like this one) are.  A few of their ciders (including Dam Fine) are now also available in cans.  Also, they are planning to open a tasting room / production facility in Liberty Lake WA in a few months.  Due to the potential confusion with the cidery name vs. selections, they plan to change to Trailbreaker Cider Co.  Thanks for the info, Kody!

Do you enjoy trying new ciders on vacation?

Spire Mountain Red Apple

Review of Spire Mountain’s Red Apple variety.  I’ve had this one a couple times before, same with their Sparkling Pear, but this is the first time since starting Cider Says.  My favorite cider from Spire Mountain is their Dark & Dry (which isn’t dry, but is a nice rich semi-sweet cider), which I reviewed here, one of my first reviews.

Cider:  Red Apple
Cidery:  Spire Mountain (Fish Brewing Company)
Cidery Location:  Olympia WA
ABV:  5.0%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles, kegs
Style:  American (New World) modern apple cider

Spire Red Apple
<cider reviewing on vacation means less photos; sorry!>

Availability:  AL, AK, CA, FL, HI, ID, IL, MI, MN, MT, ND, OR, PA, RI, SD, WA, Canada (Alberta & British Columbia), and online through BeerShip.com.  Red Apple, Sparkling Pear, and Dark & Dry are available year-round in six packs & kegs, Spiced Cider is available Nov-Jan in limited markets in 22oz bottles, and they have a new variety I haven’t even seen yet, Habanero Apple, which is also available Nov-Jan (I also assume in limited markets) in 22oz bottles.

Cider Description:  From the natural sweetness of famed Washington apples comes this delightful hard cider. Pleasant, light and with a snap of champagne effervescence, each glass is like a bite of crisp liquid apple. Perfectly balanced with just the right tartness, this is one of life’s natural pleasures.

Cidery Description:  Deep in the very heart of the Cascade Mountain Range, legend has it that there is a hidden mountain with an enchanted orchard, where the climate is ideal for growing the world’s finest apples and pears. For centuries, the inhabitants of this magical place known as Spire Mountain, have spent their days doing nothing but nurturing the fruit on the trees, and making the best cider on earth. Is it any wonder that Spire Mountain Cider is the oldest premium cider brand in America? The next time you order a cider, ask for the one made in the enchanted orchard on Spire Mountain!

Spire Mountain was founded in 1985 (yes that is correct, before even Woodchuck) and have a tap room (under Fish Brewing) in Woodinville WA and a Brew Pub (under Fish Brewing) in Olympia WA.

Price:  $6.50! / 12oz bottle (it runs around $8-$11 a six pack in stores)
Where Drank:  J.J. Hills in Leavenworth WA, which we visited to satisfy my husband’s prime rib desires.  Leavenworth is a quaint Bavarian-themed mountain town a couple hours East of Seattle WA, which we were visiting for one of their famous Christmas Lighting Festival weekends (it literally requires a reservation a year in advance to stay the weekend).
Their Cider Selection:  J.J. Hills offered Spire Mountain’s Red Apple and Sparkling Pear varieties in bottles.  The Spire rep must have hit up Leavenworth, as a couple years ago when we last visited, almost no cider was to be found, and now every place had an offering or two, mostly Spire (where in Seattle I rarely find it in a restaurant or bar).

I was able to order the following ciders during our weekend in Leavenworth:
– Spire Mountain Dark & Dry on draft at Bavarian Lodge (our hotel, which is awesome, and the only place we’ll stay in Leavenworth)
– Spire Mountain Dark & Dry on draft at Bavarian Bistro & Bar
Seattle Cider Semi-Sweet on draft at Cured
– Spire Mountain Red Apple in a bottle at J.J. Hills
– Woodchuck Amber in a bottle at Icicle Brewery
– this one doesn’t really count, but I brought a can of Downeast Cranberry Blend with us to enjoy in the room, and it tasted nice and festive

First Impression:  Light amber.  Low carbonation.  Smells like apple juice with a touch of acidity and tartness.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet.  Moderate acidity.  Mild tartness.  No sourness, bitterness, or funk.  Very apple-forward with crisp flavrs, but I also detected some mild tropical notes.  Juice-like, but not syrupy.  Highly sessionable and a well-hidden ABV.  Light to medium bodied.  Quick finish length.

My Opinion:  Above average.  Its a pretty standard tasting cider and doesn’t have any significant complexity.  However, its tasty, easy to drink, apple forward, and on the sweeter side but not crazy sweet or syrupy like some other easily available ciders are (such as Angry Orchard Crisp Apple, Strongbow Gold Apple, and Smith & Forge).  Still, its on the commercial side, and they even add sugar after fermentation (listed on the ingredient list).

Most Similar to:  Semi-sweet apple-forward commercial and craft-commercial ciders.

Closing Notes:   Dark & Dry is definitely my favorite Spire Mountain cider, especially on draft, but Red Apple definitely hit the spot, and I wouldn’t hesitate to order it if it was available, although its not something I’d buy to keep in the house.

Have you tried Spire Mountain ciders?  What did you think?