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.

Fox Tail Fuzzy Haven

Review of Fox Tail’s Fuzzy Haven cider, a dry peach cider I tried on tap.  This is the first time I’ve tried a cider from Fox Tail, although I’ve seen their flagship Sir Issac variety in bottles (at Full Throttle Bottles in Seattle).  I believe that is currently their only bottled cider, although they have expansion plans, and they offer a number of varieties on tap.

Cider:  Fuzzy Haven
Cidery:  Fox Tail
Cidery Location:  Hood River OR
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  on tap

fox tail logo

Availability:  regional, only North & Central OR and Western WA

Cider Description:  Named for everyone’s favorite peach variety the Red Haven. It has great notes and flavor of peach mixed with apples. (Dry to Semi-Dry)
[Fox Tail’s website says 6.2% ABV, but this was listed as 5.5% ABV on the menu board.  I imagine it may vary batch to batch, and I’m more likely to believe the menu board as listing what the keg said.]

Cidery Description:  Fox-Tail Cider comes with a long history of family farming in Oregon. It all started in the late 1800’s with a German immigrant who planted apple trees to export apples back to Europe. August Paasch created the Paasch packing label for domestic and export. He continued farming with his sons into the 20th century.  Every fall August would crush up a few barrels of raw squeezed apple cider and let it naturally ferment. He was always a big hit when he’d bring the barrels back out for the New Years Eve party that following winter. Five generations later, his Great Great Grandsons still work the land. Growing not only apples, but pears, cherries, peaches and more. In 2009 Bob and long time friend Justin Cardwell began doing test batches of hard cider. Foreseeing that in the next few years there would be a reemergence of the cider industry. (Cider was America’s drink of choice before prohibition.) In 2013, Fox-Tail opened its doors next to Smiley’s Red Barn in the heart of the fruit growing area of the valley. Now distributing throughout the Pacific Northwest, Fox-Tail Cider has only begun to tell its tale.

They have a taproom open seasonally with 10 hard cider selections (5 of theirs and 5 others),plus non-alcoholic cider.

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<tap list at ‘Round the Table Gamer Pub in Lynnwood WA>

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<my selection>

Price:  $5.50 / pint on tap
Where Drank:  ‘Round the Table Gamer Pub in Lynnwood WA.  I heard about them on Facebook and visited just for the cider, as they have three on tap and a few bottle selections as well.  Their other cider tap selections that day were Finnriver Habanero and Tieton Cider Works Dry Apple.  They even had a mead (Kurt’s Apple Pie from Moonlight Meadery).  It wasn’t really the type of scene my husband and I like on a Friday night though…lots of teenagers, and everyone was very into the games they were playing, but apparently their typical scene is more family-like.  It wasn’t so much a place to hang out and just have a drink (no bar, and it was library type tables & chairs to accommodate game play).

However, I wasn’t really expecting a bar type atmosphere (for that sort of vibe in the same area, my vote is definitely Special Brews, which has a larger tap list but less cider, and a huge bottle selection).  I imagine ‘Round the Table is a really good family place though, which is what they cater to (vs. a 21+ bar).  They sell all types of games, have a selection of games which you can test play for free, and a community puzzle.  The prices were reasonable, they had a small food selection (toaster oven type stuff), and about a dozen varieties of Full Tilt ice cream.  There were also specialty sodas, including on tap.  They even do growler fills (32oz).  Check out this article about their opening last year.  The co-owner even got in touch with me and mentioned they really want to do a cider event, so I look forward to coming back for anything cider-related!

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First Impression:  Yellow hue.  Light foam ring.  No visible bubbles/carbonation.  Mild apple-peach slightly earthy scent.

Opinion:  Dry to semi-dry.  Hints of peach and citrus, but I found Fuzzy Haven to be a very mild flavored cider.  Crisp tasting and fairly easy to drink.  Moderate acidity.  Mild bitterness,  Mild to moderate tartness.  Light bodied.  Very little carbonation.  Quick finishing.  Slightly earthy but not funky.  I looked it up before ordering a pint, so I was expecting it to be dry, but I’d thought there would be more peach flavor.

Most Similar to:  Other mild fruity ciders.  I’ve tasted this most often with cherry (of which I’ve had at least 8 types), but I’ve also had one peach cider, which I found to be mild, from Blue Mountain.

Closing Notes:   I’d recommend Fox Tail Fuzzy Haven for someone who likes drier fruity but mild ciders.  Although it was a very solid cider, I didn’t especially enjoy it…I usually go for ciders which are more boldly flavored.  However, I’d be interested to try other varieties from them.

Have you tried any ciders from Fox Tail?  What did you think?

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.

Finding Good Hard Cider While Out on the Town

Do you have a tough time finding a good selection of hard cider while out on the town at restaurants, bars, and events?  Even in the Seattle area, I often do.  Many chain places only carry Angry Orchard Crisp Apple.  I wish more places at least offered Woodchuck.  Here are a few times I’ve been lucky enough to find a good cider selection.

Tipsy Cow Burger Bar, in Redmond.  They have two cider taps, which had d’s Wicked Baked Apple (from Kennewick WA) and Spire Mountain Dark & Dry (from Olympia WA) last time I was there.  I chose one of my favorites, Spire Dark & Dry, which was even better on tap than bottled.  Plus, their food is awesome, and I even eat veggie burgers.

Tavern Hall, in Bellevue.  They have two cider taps, which had Seattle Cider Semi-Dry (from Seattle) and Rev Nat’s Revival (from Portland OR) last time I was there.  I chose one of my favorites, Rev Nat’s Revival, which was also better on tap then bottled.  This is a tropical fruit flavored cider, with which I pick up a lot of pineapple & mango.  This place has a great atmosphere.  Hubby and I ended up hanging out at the bar for a few hours chatting up the bartender.  Didn’t try any food, but their menu looks awesome.

Big E Ales, in Lynnwood.  This is a beer brewery which offers a couple bottled cider selections, Sonoma The Anvil (from Healdsburg CA) and Anthem Pear (from Salem OR) last time I was there.  I chose the Sonoma Anvil, their bourbon flavored variety, which I had before but had forgot how good it was.  It was a fun atmosphere and they have a yummy bar food menu.  I was surprised how busy it is despite their odd location in a warehouse district, but it appears they have a loyal following.

Black Raven Brewery, in Redmond.  This is a beer brewery which offers a few Finn River bottled cider selections (from Chimacum WA).  I chose the Black Currant, which I hadn’t tried before.  It was very fruity & tasty, almost tasted “grapey” to me (in a good way), and was a good mix of dry & sweet.  Black currant is an unusual cider flavor, but they did it well.  They have a fun atmosphere.  There is often a food truck, or else many restaurants will deliver here.

Tap House Grill, in Bellevue (also has a Seattle location).  This restaurant has 6 cider taps, ranging from ordinary to local.  I tried Wandering Angus Wickson (from from Salem OR) when I was here, which was way too dry for me.  Bad on me for choosing something at random (because I hadn’t heard of it) instead of looking them up or even just walking up to the bar, after the waitress had no clue about their cider selections.  They have ok food.  We mainly went here due to the location, within walking distance of everything in downtown.

Capitol Cider, in Capitol Hill.  This cider bar and gluten free restaurant has 20 cider taps, plus 250+ selections in their bottle shop.  I went here quite awhile ago so I’m not sure how valid my info is anymore.  However, I was surprisingly disappointed.  We went at an odd time, Sunday at noon, so the place was pretty empty.  I was expecting to get lunch, but they had a brunch menu, which didn’t have any interesting sounding lunch selections, so we ordered breakfast with our cider!  At the time I went most of the selections on tap were really dry, and after the first couple tastes I coaxed out of the bar staff I just picked one, which also was too dry for my liking (don’t even remember what it is, so it must have not been very memorable).
The waitress didn’t seem to interested in finding something I’d like.  Their current tap selections look more well-balanced.  I was excited for their bottle shop after reading about it online, but it turned out to be a list to choose from which they would pull the bottles for you.  Hopefully that has changed, as half the fun is looking at & reading the labels.  I ended up spending a bunch of time on my phone to make an educated selection.  Hoping to give it another shot sometime, but in general this place just isn’t our scene.

Schilling Cider House, in Fremont.  I haven’t been here yet, but it is at the top of my to do list!  Yes, I have my priorities straight.  Cider first, then everything else.  They have 32 cider taps, 250+ selections in their bottle shop, and food available from local restaurants which deliver.  Their tap list is awesome, and includes a number of Schilling’s own varieties and many more, including some novelty/wacky stuff.  They have a few of their own ciders on tap which they don’t offer anywhere else, such as their Berry cider.

How have you fared finding good hard cider while out on the town in your area?