Locust Cider Vanilla Bean & Smoked Blueberry

Review of Locust Cider’s Hootenanny series Vanilla Bean and Smoked Blueberry ciders.  This is a two for one review as I enjoy these ciders mixed together.  Its not my first time trying these, but I hadn’t yet bought bottles / done a full review.  I’ve also tried a lot of other ciders from Locust:  Original Dry, Green Tea Infused, Sweet Dark CherryWashington Dessert Apple, Bittersweet Reserve, Pumpkin, Thai Ginger, Bourbon Barrel Aged, Winesap, Alder Smoked Apple, Mango, Elder & Oak, Wabi Sabi, Apricot, Sweet Aged Apple, Berry Session, Winter Banana, Chili Pineapple, Seckel Perry, and Hibiscus.

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Cider:  Vanilla Bean & Smoked Blueberry
Cidery:  Locust Cider
Cidery Location:  Woodinville WA
ABV:  5.0% & 5.0%
How Supplied:  22oz bottles (and kegs)
Style:  American craft cider infused with Madagascar vanilla (Vanilla Bean) or alder smoked apples and blueberries (Smoked Blueberry)

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Availability:  Year round in CA, ID, OR, TX, and WA

Vanilla Bean Description:  Washington apples meet real Madagascar vanilla, creating what is best described as an adult’s all natural cream soda. you don’t like sweet ciders??? Ok sure, try this.

Smoked Blueberry Description:  Some people do not like smoked foods and drinks. Ok fine, stop reading. for those who do, this is comfort in a drink, blending apples, smoked over alder wood, with real blueberries, this is unexpected but amazing.

Cidery Description:  My brother Patrick and I founded Locust Cider in March 2015 with the mission of making outstanding hard cider using the fruit that is most available in Washington- the eating apple. Washington growers produce 60% of the apples in the United States, and cider-specific varieties are in a major shortage, so we set out to put innovative spins on classic cider-making methods to bring out the best in the everyday apple. 

Our delicious ciders begin with great fruit- we primarily use “cull” apples- those that are not pretty enough or are too small or large to make it to grocery stores, diverting these from destruction because their juice is still great! Our unique process then transforms them into great cider- methodical yeast selection, meticulous temperature control, slow aging, and creative and deliberate blending.

We are now made up a great small team: Chelsea, head cidermaker, Ryan, cellar manager, Shenna, tap room manager, Spring, events manager, and Chris, sales manager. We are a “family” passionate about cider, and we thank you for visiting our tasting room, and being part of our family!  -Jason Spears, founder of locust cider

Their Woodinville cidery has a tap room.

Price:  $7 each
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I tried these individually at Locust’s tap room awhile back, then at a tasting event I decided to try them mixed.

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First Impression:  Both nearly still (very low carbonation).  The Vanilla Bean is a light straw yellow hue and the Smoked Blueberry is a bright purple-blue hue.  The Vanilla Bean smells rather mild, just slightly sweet and of vanilla.  The Smoked Blueberry is a bit more fragrant, smelling of blueberry with a hint of smoke.

Vanilla Bean Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of vanilla, cream, and hints of citrus (reminiscent of cream soda).  Quick to moderate length finish.  Low apple flavor.  Low to moderate complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.  High sessionability.

Smoked Blueberry Tasting Notes:  Sweet.  Medium to full bodied.  Low tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of blueberry and grape with hints of smoke and alder wood.  Quick finish.  Low apple flavor.  Low to moderate complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.  High sessionability.

Mixed Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet.  Both fruity and creamy.

My Opinion:  On their own, although plenty good, I don’t find either of these too remarkable.  The Vanilla Bean has a great flavor, but I find it a bit sweet to drink much of (although this batch is slightly less sweet than I’ve had before, but also slightly less flavorful).  The Smoked Blueberry is nice, but pretty typical.  However, mixed together, the result is a uniquely tasty.

Most Similar to:  Not much else.  I’ve had other smoked ciders, but they weren’t fruit-infused.  For example, Locust Alder Smoked Apple, and the more intense Tilted Shed Smoked and Alpenfire Smoke.  The closest I’ve had to the Vanilla Bean is probably Long Drop Vanilla Honey (but that has more honey than vanilla, with some awesome honeycomb notes).

Closing Notes:  Combining ciders is a fun way to mix things up.  I haven’t really got into cider cocktails, as to me, mixing cider with other beverages is something I would think of doing if I don’t like a cider (and have done actually).

Have you tried Locust Cider?  What did you think?

Locust Cider Alder Smoked Apple

This will be a short post, as I only tasted one new-to-me cider during my latest visit to Locust Cider in Woodinville WA.  Check out my prior tasting notes and reviews of Locust ciders here.  It was an impromptu visit.  My husband and I met two friends for lunch at the Tipsy Cow in Redmond (which is an amazing burger place, and I don’t even like hamburgers…I get a veggie burger), and we decided to go to a few tasting rooms in Woodinville before heading home.  The boys had some wine at a couple of the winery tasting rooms in the same stripmall as the Locust Cider tasting room, and us girls tried some cider.

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Their tap list hadn’t changed much from my visit a few weeks ago…they swapped Chipotle for the Alder Smoked Apple.  That worked great for me though, as it was the only one on the menu I hadn’t tried!  Their “up next” list also looks really interesting, especially the red wine barrel aged and prickly pear ciders.

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Alder Smoked Apple:  6.0% ABV.  They get the smoke flavor from alder smoked apple rings added during fermentation, showed in this photo from their Instagram.  This is a tap-only release, but has made it to a few other locations in the Seattle area.

Semi-sweet to sweet.  Mild acidity.  Mild tartness.  No sourness, funk, or tannins.  Full bodied.  Notes of maple, honey, and hints of citrus and alder.  I only picked up mild smoke flavor in the moderate length finish.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  High sessionability.

They said this was less smokey than previous batches.  I enjoyed it, but I think with more smoke and less sweetness, it would have been awesome.

I also tried their Winesap cider again.  I liked it better last time; this time it was missing that frothy texture I enjoyed, and was a bit more sour.

I also spotted their new bottle design.  They are going from 750ml to 500ml bottles on their special release ciders, which I think is a good move.  500ml is my favorite bottle size.

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I look forward to trying more from Locust Cider.

Locust Washington Dessert Apple Aged Hard Cider

Review of Washington Dessert Apple Aged Hard Cider from Locust Cider.  This is their first limited release offering, and also the first to be packaged in a large bottle (instead of a multi pack of cans or bottles, or on tap only).

There is a bit of a funny story with this bottle of cider:  Upon arriving home from the bottle shop with this cider I found it on its side in my car in my bottle tote in a small puddle of cider.  Thank goodness for waterproof floor mats…  The bottle was hissing slightly.  I guess the cap hit something in my car when it rolled around a bit and the edge got lifted slightly.  It definitely could have been worse though.  After cleaning up the mess I decided I needed to finish opening the cap and put on the attached flip-top cap before putting it in the fridge.  I hadn’t been planning to drink it that night, and it wasn’t cold anyways.  The following night I opened the bottle and it proceeded to violently foam over!  So, I had cleaned up after this cider twice before even drinking any…  I definitely got a foamy bottle which went a bit overboard in bottle conditioning!  Thankfully only a few ounces of cider was lost in those messes.

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Cider:  Washington Dessert Apple Aged Hard Cider
Cidery:  Locust Cider
Cidery Location:  Woodinville WA (Northeast of Seattle)
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  750ml clear flip-top bottle

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Availability:  Locust Cider is currently available in WA and ID.  This is a limited release however so it may not be available everywhere that Locust Cider is sold.

Thanks to Jason Spears, co-founder of Locust Cider, for extra info on this cider!

Cider Description:  Made from Golden Delicious, Fuji, Gala, Red Delicious, and Granny Smith dessert apples.  Fermented with wild yeast (the yeast on the fruit itself, in contrast to most ciders which add new yeast). The outcome of a wild yeast fermentation is more unpredictable, and Locust described losing several batches of cider that didn’t turn out well.  The cider is then tank aged for 6 months, where they allow a small amount of oxygen into the system to initiate malolactic fermentation.  This is from secondary bacteria, as opposed to yeast, and changes the cider, reducing acidity and adding body & mouthfeel.  This technique is not always desirable, but is what they were going for with this cider variety.  Then the fermented cider is blended with fresh pressed juice and bottled ulfiltered, to allow for bottle conditioning.

Cidery Description:  Real people making a cider for real people.  They aim to make extremely drinkable ciders, with balanced flavors, not overly sweet or sour.  All ciders are made from Pacific Northwest apples and fruit, with no artificial sweeteners, only apples and yeast.  Founded by two brothers, Jason & Patrick Spears, from Texas, in early 2015.  Their name is a reminder to embrace life without compromise, after Jason was calmed by a gentle orchestra of locusts in a field after a near death experience.

Their tap room is open Thursday thru Sunday in the Woodinville WA warehouse district.

Locust Cider currently offers Original Dry, Green Tea Infused, Sweet Dark Cherry (had been tap only but bottles are on their way to stores now), Summer Berry (tap only), Thai Ginger (tap room only), and Washington Dessert Apple Cider.

Price:  ~$10
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in Georgetown area of Seattle WA, where they were having a tasting of Locust Cider (Original Dry and Green Tea Infused) and Argus Fermentables (Ciderkin and Ginger Perry).  Of those I only liked the Ciderkin, which I reviewed here previously.
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I hadn’t heard of this one before.

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First Impression:  Foam!  Hazy/unfiltered honey hue.  Smells of sweet unfiltered cider, honey, and a slight earthiness.

Opinion:  Sweet but not very sweet.  Taste is similar to unfermented sweet cider, except with that hard cider kick.  High acidity.  Moderate carbonation, high foam/fizz, and a bit of tang.  No noticeable funk, but a bit of earthiness.  Moderate finish length.  No significant bitterness or astringency.  Mild tartness.  Medium bodied.  Notes of honey and cooked apples.  Moderate complexity.  This cider is slightly booze-forward, and I probably would have guessed it to have an even higher ABV.

Most Similar to:  Farmhouse style unfiltered ciders such as J.K.’s Scrumpy (from whom I’ve tried Orchard Gate and Northern Neighbor, which are a bit sweeter than this cider).

Closing Notes:   Overall this cider is a solid unique selection.  However, I’m curious how the taste was affected by the apparently aggressive bottle conditioning.  I opened this cider on a Wednesday, had a small glass Thursday, a small glass Friday, and the rest on a Saturday, and even on Saturday it had plenty of fizz left and tried to overflow the glass upon pouring!

I’ve tried most of Locust Cider’s other offerings:  their Sweet Dark Cherry on tap at Schilling Cider House and their Original Dry (canned) and Green Tea Infused (bottled) at the tasting at Full Throttle Bottles when I picked up this cider, all of which I found to be a bit lacking in flavor.  The Washington Dessert Apple however is much different and much more full-flavored than the other three.  I’ll definitely try any other limited release and/or full-flavored cider from Locust Cider, even though their current regular offerings don’t appeal to me.

Have you tried Locust Washington Dessert Apple Aged Hard Cider?  What did you think?