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?

Three Kees Cider Dessert Apple

Review of Three Kees Cider’s Dessert Apple.  It is my first time trying any cider from this cidery.

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Cider:  Dessert Apple
Cidery:  Three Kees
Cidery Location:  Snohomish WA
ABV:  6.7%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles (and draft)
Style:  American craft farmhouse-style cider made from dessert apples, partially oak rum barrel aged

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Availability:  only in the greater Seattle WA area close to Snohomish; see this list

Cider Description from bottle:  Our artisan-crafted Dessert Apple Hard Cider is made from a blend of Washington-grown apples using slow, cool fermentation.  After aging in oak rum barrels and cider tanks, mature cider is blended to showcase apple flavors and balanced with sweetness, acidity and oak tannin structure.

Cider Description from website:  Semi-Dry Hard Cider, Tank-aged cider blended with rum barrel-aged cider, 6.7% ABV, Carbonated.  Distinct “cidery” apple aroma and flavors with rustic, earthy-oak and spirituous background notes.  Soft acidity and tannin structure with a slight sweetness, finishing semi-dry.

Cidery Description:  Our artisan-crafted beverages are made from a blend of Washington-grown fruit using slow, cool fermentation.  Fermented cider and perry is aged in cider tanks and oak rum barrels from 1 month to a year depending on the desired product.  Mature cider is blended to showcase the fruit and then balanced with sweetness, acidity and oak tannin for a complex structure and finish.  Talk with Roger about our products.  Our high quality cider and perry are achieved with quality, locally sourced ingredients and patience.

They are a new cidery, a family business (their last name is ‘Kees’, and the ‘Three’ in the name refers to their three kids).  Their official Grand Opening was just last week.  They have a tasting room at their cidery in rural Snohomish WA near Lake Roesiger, on 9 acres they purchased in 2013.  They planted a small apple and pear orchard (although it won’t be ready to harvest for 6-7 years).  Check out this news article.

Price:  $12.77
Where Bought:  Special Brews in Lynnwood WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  It was the first time I had seen cider from this cidery.

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First Impression:  Very hazy lemonade type hue.  High carbonation, tiny bubbles.  Smells of citrus with hints of sulfur, sourness, and funk.

Tasting Notes:  Dry to semi-dry.  Light bodied with a frothy carbonated texture.  Very high tartness and acidity.  Low tannins, bitterness, funk, and sourness.  Notes of astringent lemon, grapefruit, lime, mineral, and floral.  Long warming finish.  Moderate apple flavor, flavor intensity, and complexity.  Low sessionability.  No noticeable oak or rum influence.

My Opinion:  I found this to be a mouth-puckering Farmhouse-style cider, reminiscent of Spanish Sidra.  Unfortunately this is not a style I enjoy, as I find the sourness overwhelms my palate, especially when combined with low residual sugar, very high tartness & acidity, and high carbonation.  My husband however liked it; he enjoys dry acidic ciders with high carbonation, and doesn’t mind some sourness (although he isn’t as tolerant to funk as I am).

Most Similar to:  Farmhouse-style ciders and Spanish Sidra, although this was higher carbonation than most – Millstone Cellars Farmgate Dry, Angry Orchard Walden Hollow, WildCraft Flagship Dry CiderSietsema Traditional Dry Hard Cider, and Bereziartua Edición Gourmet.

Closing Notes:   I wish the bottle’s label had described the cider as Farmhouse-style or rustic, in which case I probably wouldn’t have bought it.  Their website however at least mentions rustic in this cider’s description.  This likely won’t be the most crowd-pleasing style of cider, but will appeal to folks who enjoy Farmhouse-style cider, Spanish Sidra, sour beers, and the like.  Sour ciders have been increasing in popularity and availability, at least in the Seattle area.

Update:  The cidermaker messaged me with more information.  This cidery doesn’t only make rustic-style ciders; the other two current selections (Dessert Pear and Cherry Flirt) won’t have the sourness and funk.

Have you tried Three Kees cider?  What did you think?

Jester & Judge Pineapple Express

Review of Jester & Judge’s Pineapple Express cider.  I previously tried it on tap at the Schilling Cider House (see here).  I’ve also previously tried their Sharp Cherry, American Apple, and Columbia Belle.

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Cider:  Pineapple Express
Cidery:  Jester & Judge
Cidery Location:  Stevenson WA
ABV:  5.2%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles (and draft)
Style:  American craft cider from dessert apples, with pineapple juice concentrate

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Availability:  Likely only Oregon and Washington

Cider Description:  The spirit of the Gorge is independent and fun-loving.  This cider embraces our spirit and our love of little latitudes.  Pineapple Express takes us where the sun is always out, the rain is always warm, and the mood is always festive.  Handmade with all natural ingredients and an endless supply of Irie!

Cidery Description:  We’ll bring the Jester and you be the Judge.  At Jester & Judge we believe that balance is important in life and in cider.  It’s the foundation of our seriously whimsical attitude.  Serious about the quality of the ciders we make.  No concentrates, sorbates, artificial flavorings, colorings, or other shortcuts.  Whimsical because we have fun making the best ciders we can featuring local ingredients from the Pacific Northwest, which sometimes means snubbing our nose a little at traditional cider.

Price:  ~$2.50 / single bottle
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I first tried it on tap at the Schilling Cider House

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First Impression:  Hazy pineapple juice hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells strongly of fresh pineapple.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of pineapple juice, pineapple, and a hint of lime.  Quick finish.  Low apple flavor.  High flavor intensity.  Very high sessionability.  Low complexity.

My Opinion:  Yum!  I really like this one.  It tastes like alcoholic pineapple juice with a hint of fizz.  It is definitely on the juice-like and simple side though.

Most Similar to:  Ace PineappleSchilling Pineapple Passion, and Wyder’s Prickly Pineapple.  I’ve also had Portland Cider Co. Pineapple, but that one didn’t have nearly as much flavor as the others.

Closing Notes:  I’m a big fan of this easy to drink flavorful cider.

Have you tried Jester & Judge Pineapple Express?  What did you think?

D’s Wicked Baked Apple

Review of D’s Wicked flagship Baked Apple cider.  I’ve tried this before, but only on draft.  I’ve also tried their Chanilla and Cranny Granny.

Cider:  Baked Apple
Cidery:  D’s Wicked
Cidery Location:  Kennewick WA
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz cans (and bottles & draft)
Style:  American craft unfiltered spiced cider

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Availability:  Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Reno Nevada, New Jersey, and New York (per this page).

Cider Description:  d’s Wicked Baked Apple™ is a premium, artisanal, hand crafted cider made with natural flavors and the freshest Washington State grown apples. Off-dry with a hint of spice, Baked Apple™ hosts the flavors of Red Delicious and Honey Crisp apples, finishing with a perfect touch of allspice and cinnamon. Just like the apple pie Grandma made, only WICKED!

Cidery Description:  We started brewing cider because we love great ciders!  Try the wicked delicious flavors that inspired us…wicked good ciders…wicked good times!  Using the very best apples from Washington State, we let the unique character of each apple variety guide our crafting,  resulting in our sinfully delicious varietals.  d’s ciders are crisp with the freshness of just picked apples, not too sweet, not too tart, just playful layers of flavor that are just plain WICKED GOOD.  d’s  ciders are naturally gluten free, rough filtered to maintain the richest apple flavor, contain no colorants, and use natural ingredients. 

Note – cider is fermented like wine – not brewed like beer (no heat involved).

Price:  ~$2.50 / single can
Where Bought:  Special Brews in Lynnwood WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing

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First Impression:  Hazy dark straw yellow hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells of baked apples and cinnamon.

Tasting Notes:  Sweet.  Medium to full bodied.  Mild tartness.  Moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Hints of tannins.  Notes of baked apple, apple skin/pomace, cinnamon, and a hint of citrus.  Quick finish.  High apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Low complexity.  Low spice level.

My Opinion:  I thought this was pretty average.  Its a dessert cider for me as I found it quite sweet (12oz was more than enough).  I can see why it is appealing, but its not a favorite type of mine.

Most Similar to:  Downeast Original Blend and One Tree Crisp Apple, as they have the unfiltered slightly spiced flavor, although both are drier.

Closing Notes:  This definitely isn’t off-dry as described, but it is a very popular cider, probably because it is sweet.  People often say their want a drier cider, but sweet sells.

Have you tried D’s Wicked cider?  What did you think?

Whitewood South Sounder

Review of Whitewood’s South Sounder.  Its my first time trying it, but I’ve previously had their Summer SwitchelKingston Black Whisky Barrel Aged, Red CapGravenstein Old Fangled Series 2012 HarvestGravenstein Old Fangled Series Barrel Aged, Northland, Winesap, Gibb’s Farm, and Newtown Pippin.

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Cider:  South Sounder
Cidery:  Whitewood
Cidery Location:  Olympia WA
ABV:  6.7%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  American craft cider from community sourced apples, with quince added (an astringent & sour fruit that looks similar to a pear)

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Availability:  Per this list, only in Washington, including Olympia, Seattle, Federal Way, Tacoma, and Eastern Washington.

Cider Description:  Semi-dry cider.  Community sourced apples & quince.  Limited release.  Made exclusively from 2015 harvest apples and quince provided by friends and farms of South Puget Sound.

Cidery Description:  Whitewood Cider is the South Puget Sound’s first craft cidery. Officially we are a nano cider and can be hard to locate. Fear not as you’ll be able to find us at the finest bottles shops as well pubs and and restaurants that are the most dedicated to locally made craft cider.

Too often the word traditional is haphazardly thrown around when it comes to making cider. At Whitewood Cider Company we make hard cider seasonally, as traditional as it gets, just as cider has always been made.

  • We pick and press apples in the Autumn as they are ripe and properly sweated out to produce the thickest richest juices possible.
  • Our ciders ferment slow all throughout the Winter at the cold ambient temperatures of South Puget Sound
  • We rack and blend our ciders in the late Winter and early Spring.
  • Curing the late Spring after the ciders have had ample time torest and mature, we rack our cider once more and begin bottling and kegging. 

When it comes to apple selection and cidermaking we have a “no compromise” approach. We believe cidermaking is an art and that the best fruit and the best practices yield the best cider possible.

Whitewood Cider is owned and operated by Dave White (of Old Time Cider) and Heather Ringwood.  Visits to their Olympia Washington cidery are by appointment only.

Price:  $16.25
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  Its one of the few (only?) ciders I hadn’t tried from Whitewood, so I was game to give it a go.

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow hue.  Nearly still.  Smells of pineapple, mango, and green apple.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Moderate to high tartness and acidity.  Low bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of green apple skin, lemon, pineapple, mango, quince, grapefruit, and hints of floral & herbal.  Moderate length finish.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability, flavor intensity, and complexity.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  This would especially be a nice summer cider.  Its very tart and fruity and finishes with a bite.

Most Similar to:  Ciders with high tartness & acidity and tropical notes.  Eaglemount Quince, which I think I prefer, as it isn’t as tart.  Besides that the only other cider with quince that I’ve tried is Honey Moon CiderHead Quince, which had less complexity than both the Whitewood and Eaglemount ciders.

Closing Notes:   My favorite Whitewood cider remains the Kingston Black Whisky Barrel Aged, as I prefer richer flavor.  I also really liked Northland and Gibb’s Farm.  I’ll have to see if I can find any more to try from Whitewood!

Have you tried Whitewood South Sounder?  What did you think?

Alpenfire Spark!

Review of Alpenfire Spark!, their semi-sweet cider.  I’ve tried it a couple times before, but only bottle pours.  I’ve tried most of Alpenfire’s ciders–DungenessSpark, SmokeApoCalypsoEmberSimple Cider, Calypso, Pirate’s Plank, Glow, Cinders, and Shrub.

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Cider:  Spark!
Cidery:  Alpenfire
Cidery Location:  Port Townsend WA
ABV:  8.9%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  Organic American craft cider from heirloom & cider apple varieties, sugar added

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Availability:  Year round in Washington and their online store

Cider Description:  Spark! is blended from Melrose, Kings, Gravenstein, Winter banana, burgundys and other heritage apples as well as traditional cider apples. This bottle conditioned, unfiltered cider has the wonderfully crisp flavor of a just picked fall apple. This semi sweet cider is delicious with a appetizers, especially cheese and fruit.

Cidery Description:  Alpenfire Organic Cider is made from our estate and locally grown organic apples. We planted our WSDA certified organic orchard in 2004 with over 800 trees and 10 varieties of English, French & Early American cider specific apples. These apples have been used for hundreds of years for the unique qualities they bring to cider production. Namely the tannins and bitters not found in dessert style apples. While the juice, much less the fruit, of many of these apples would be hard to enjoy by the glass they become amazing with a little fermentation. One of our favorites, the “Muscadet de Dieppe”, has a viscous, winey, yes, even musky juice. It takes months of slow, cool fermentation for that to develop the subtle aroma and flavor you will find in our bone-dry cider. We augment our juice and mellow the flavors with organic apples from other local orchards.

Price:  $15.99
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I’ve been wanting to pick up an Alpenfire bottle, and this is one of my favorites from them (in addition to SmokeApoCalypso, and Glow).

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First Impression:  Light pumpkin amber hue.  Low carbonation and foam.  Smells tannic, of honey and apple pomace.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness.  Moderate to high acid.  Low to moderate tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Apple-forward and rich.  Notes of apple pomace, honey, orange, and leather.  Moderate finish length.  Moderate to high apple flavor, sessionability, and flavor intensity.  Moderate complexity,

My Opinion:  Awesome!  I forgot how much I like this cider.  Its easily in my top 10 favorites, and has all my favorite cider qualities.  It would be a great introduction to “real” cider (made with cider apples), as it is sweeter and doesn’t have any overwhelming qualities.

Most Similar to:  English cider such as from Aspall (except a bit sweeter and less yeast-forward), Bertolinos, and E.Z. Orchards Semi-Dry.

Closing Notes:   I think this cider is a great choice and a good value too.  Their Smoke is my favorite, but I need to be in a certain mood for that one…Spark is way more easy drinking.

Have you tried Alpenfire Spark?  What did you think?

Ole Swede Blend of 9 Cider

Review of Ole Swede’s Blend of 9 Cider.  I’ve previously tried their Blueberry cider.

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Cider:  Blend of 9 Cider
Cidery:  Old Swede
Cidery Location:  Tonasket WA
ABV:  6.8%
How Supplied:  22oz bottles
Style:  American craft cider made from dessert & cider apple varieties, oak aged

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Availability:  Only in WA

Cider Description:  A unique blend of Kingston Black, Storks Red, Harry Masters Jersey, Dabinett, Rome Beauty, Granny Smith, Honey Crisp, Golden Delicious and Pink Lady apples.  Lightly oaked.

Cidery Description:  Our ciders are hand crafted from farm to bottle.  Out family farm was homesteaded in 1899 as new territories were opened in the west, near Havillah, Washington.  Old Swede is born from our roots in North Central Washington’s Okanagan Highlands, a place of natural beauty perched above a valley known around the world for apple production.  We moved back to the family homestead in 2014 and began to take our cider into the world in 2015.

They don’t have a tasting room, but do offer mobile juicing and event catering.

Price:  $9
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing

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First Impression:  Light straw yellow hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells mild, of oak and honey.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low to moderate tartness and acidity.  Low tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of honey and citrus.  Moderate length finish with some warming.  Low apple flavor, oak influence, flavor intensity, and complexity.  Moderate sessionability.

My Opinion:  I really liked the flavor, but wanted more of it.  It tasted a bit watery.

Most Similar to:  Nashi Orchards Barrel Fermented Cider, Wandering Aengus Wanderlust, and Finnriver Oak and Apple.

Closing Notes:   This is the third cider from Ole Swede I’ve seen in the Seattle area (in addition to Blueberry and Cherry Perry).

Have you tried Ole Swede cider?  What did you think?