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?

Woodinville Cider Tasting at Locust & Elemental – Visit 3

I spent another afternoon in Woodinville Washington, cider tasting at the tap rooms for Locust and Elemental.  See my notes here from visit 1 and here from visit 2.

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<tap list at Locust Cider>

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<Locust Vanilla Bean & Smoked Blueberry>

At Locust I tried two bottle pours of ciders that are part of their new ‘Hootenanny’ series.

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Locust Vanilla Bean, 5.0% ABV:  Mild scent.  Sweet.  Medium bodied.  Mild tartness and acidity.  Hints of tannins.  No sourness, funk, or bitterness.  The flavor was vanilla creamsicle–yum!  Hints of citrus and pineapple.  Low apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Low complexity.  I really liked the flavor of this one, but it was too sweet.

Locust Smoked Blueberry, unknown ABV:  This cider was made using smoked apples and blueberries.  Mild scent.  Sweet.  Medium bodied.  Mild to moderate tartness and acidity.  Low tannins.  Hints of bitterness and sourness.  No funk.  Notes of blueberry juice & skin and a hint of lemon.  Low apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Low complexity.  I didn’t find this overtly smoked, but I imagine it had some influence.

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<tap list at Elemental Cider>

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<Elemental Lemoncello & Mango>

Elemental ‘Lithium’ Lemoncello, 6.5% ABV:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied with a fizzy mouthfeel.  Moderate tartness.  Moderate to high acidity.  No bitterness, tannins, sourness, or funk.  Lots of lemon, slight creaminess, and hints of grapefruit.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.  Low complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.

Elemental Mango, 6.5% ABV:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  No sourness, bitterness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of mango, citrus, and pineapple.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.  Low complexity.  Low flavor intensity.

My favorite at Locust was Vanilla Bean, although I wouldn’t be able to drink an entire pint of it or anything as it was quite sweet.  My favorite at Elemental was the Lemoncello, as it was more flavorful than the Mango.

Woodinville Cider Tasting 2 – Locust & Elemental

I spent another afternoon in Woodinville Washington, cider tasting at the tap rooms for Locust and Elemental.  See my notes here from my last visit.

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<tap list at Locust Cider>

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<left to right: Locust Mango, Elder & Oak, and Wabi Sabi>

Locust Mango, 6.0% ABV:  Yellow dark straw gold hue.  Mild fruity mango scent.  Semi-sweet to sweet.  Low carbonation with some foam.  Medium bodied.  Mild tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Real mango flavor with some tropical and honey notes.  Quick finish length.  Fairly simple, but I liked the moderately intense real mango flavor (although it was a sweet cider, it didn’t have a mango candy flavor).

Locust Elder & Oak, 7.0% ABV:  Deep berry hue.  Mild scent with hints of berry and oak.  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Mild tannins.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Very textural with berry tannins.  Earthy and wine-like.  Moderate length finish.  Mild to moderate barrel influence.  Very low apple influence.  Although I’m a fan of barrel aged ciders, I wasn’t into this.  I think it was too tannic (although it tasted like that was only from the elderberries, not applies) oddly enough.

Locust Wabi Sabi, 6.9% ABV:  Yellow dark straw gold hue.  Low carbonation with some foam.  Smells mild, acidic, and of citrus.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Mild tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Apple-forward and a bit juice-like.  Notes of fresh apple, honey, citrus (although less than the scent), and apple pomace.  Quick finish length.  I found this to be a very typical sweeter flagship cider.

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<tap list at Elemental Cider; sorry for the blur>

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<left to right: Blackberry Cobbler, Pom-Rose, Root Beer, and Carbon>

Elemental Blackberry Cobbler, 6.5% ABV:  Deep blackberry hue.  Sweet to very sweet.  The flavor is very blackberry, but I also picked up a carbohydrate component in the scent and texture (kinda like “cobbler”, although I was told the only other addition was pie spices, which I didn’t pick up).  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness.  Mild acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Quick finish length.  I wasn’t really into this, but I imagine it will sell very well.  It was a one-off keg as they came into some blackberry concentrate (which I learned is about the most expensive flavor), but they plan to make some other blackberry ciders in the future.

Elemental Pomegranate-Rose, 6.5% ABV:  Light pink hue with some foam.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness.  Mild acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Very mild and smooth with some mild fruitiness.  I tried this before too.  Its well balanced and refreshing.

Elemental NW Atomic Root Beer, 6.5% ABV:  This is a cider-based hard root beer (vs. making an alcoholic root beer with a malt base).  I’ve had this a few times before.  This time I really enjoyed it…I think its the best batch yet…I tasted more apple than previously, but apparently it was less.  The “root beer” is stronger in the scent than the flavor.  This doesn’t taste exactly like root beer, but it has a great flavor.  Oddly enough this is my favorite cider that Elemental makes.  Probably as it has a rich full flavor (I tend towards English & French ciders).

Elemental ‘Carbon’ Dry, 6.5% ABV:  Semi-dry to dry.  Light bodied.  Apple-forward.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Citrus notes with some mineral.  A hint of tannins.  This tasted between that that of the first two times I tried it.  I liked the previous batch a bit more, as it was richer and less tart.  Elemental is unique in that they continue to tweak their ciders after release, so although it has the same name, it may be different.

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.

Elemental Hard Cider NW Atomic Root Beer

Review of NW Atomic Root Beer from Elemental Hard Cider in Woodinville Washington.  It is a cider based hard root beer (cider with root beer spices).  I’ve tried this twice before on draft (different batches…Elemental is unique in that they continue to tweak recipes after releasing a cider), and I have tried a number of ciders from them (see here).

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Cider:  NW Atomic Root Beer
Cidery:  Elemental Hard Cider
Cidery Location:  Woodinville WA
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  22oz brown glass bottle
Style:  American craft alcopop, cider based hard root beer

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Availability:  Likely only in WA

Cider Description:  NW Atomic Root Beer starts with out crisp, clean and bright hard apple cider fermented bone dry to 6.5% ABV. We then infuse the base with an intense magical concoction of sassafras and liquorice. Subtle notes of vanilla, anise, fennel and plum are soft on the palette and round off the experience of our unique beverage.

Note that they use caramel color, but its certified non-GMO (apparently rare to find) and gluten free.  They are even working on getting an organic version of it.

Cidery Description:  Family owned and operated.  Brian and Christina Callahan launched Elemental Hard Cider to bring quality, affordable, and delicious hard cider to the world. We strive to bring fun and exciting flavors to the experienced cider enthusiast, as well as novice cider drinkers.

Hand-crafted micro ciders designed for taste, smoothness, and quality.  Each of our hand-crafted ciders are made from only the finest Northwest apples and cold-fermented to preserve the fruit. Our ciders are reminiscent of champagne, they are lightly filtered and mildly effervescent for clean taste. Experience our quality for yourself. Come in often to grab a glass. We are constantly trying out new flavors, so the line-up is always changing.

Price:  ~$8
Where Bought:  The Cave in Kirkland WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I heard about this at Cider Summit Seattle last year but didn’t get around to trying it until I saw it at the Schilling Cider House on draft (notes here).  For awhile it was draft-only, no bottles.  Then, I tried it on draft again at Around the Table (notes here).  I remembered liking the previous version better (I heard that over time they retained less apple flavor), but wanted to give a bottle a try as it is so unique.  I thought that this bottle was closer to the first version I tried than to the second, as it retained more apple flavor, which I like.  Apparently most of their customers however seem to prefer less apple flavor than I do.

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First Impression:  Caramel brown root beer hue.  Low carbonation upon pouring.  Smells like root beer spices with a hint of baked apple.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low carbonation.  Low acidity and tartness.  No sourness, bitterness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of root beer spices (milder than a typical root beer), rich baked apple, caramel, and honey.  The flavor starts as root beer and finishes with baked apple.  Quick finish.  Moderate apple influence.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  Tasty!  This is my idea of a sessionable cider…very easy to drink, but also very flavorful and unique.  The only thing I’d change would be slightly more carbonation.  Not as much as soda, but more than I detected would be nice.

Most Similar to:  This is quite different from other hard root beers such as Not Your Father’s as it has a cider (not malt beverage) base, so it doesn’t have the bitterness of that product (and is less sweet and less carbonated).  The only similar cider I know of is Sonoma Washboard, but that is sarsaparilla not root beer spices, and quite dry (I really disliked that one, but my husband was a huge fan).

Closing Notes:   I’m usually not a huge fan of flavored ciders, but I think one of the reasons I enjoyed this was because it is so far from traditional cider.  I hope I can purchase this version/recipe in the future, as I really liked it.

Have you tried NW Atomic Root Beer?  What did you think?

Woodinville Cider Tasting – Locust, Elemental, & Woodinville Ciderworks

Recently I spent a Saturday in Woodinville with my husband and a friend.  I planned to just go to Locust as I wanted to try their new Bourbon Barrel Aged cider, but ended up visiting all three cideries / tasting rooms in the area, which was nice.  Locust Cider, Elemental Hard Cider, and Woodinville Ciderworks are all within walking distance of each other, and each has both cidery and tasting room in the same location.  It was my first time visiting any of them, although I’m very familiar with their ciders and have met or communicated with the owners.  We started with lunch at Big Fish Grill, which was very tasty.  They even had local cider on tap (Schilling Mischief Maker Pom-Cran, which I reviewed here).

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Next we went to Locust Cider.  My husband and friend tried a couple ciders, then left me to finish up mine (and visit the other cideries) while they went wine tasting.

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<another couple ordered a pretty colorful large flight!>

I only tried two of Locust’s ciders, as I had tried all the others or wasn’t interested (and the first one was a large pour of a high ABV cider!).  They were offering Original Dry, Winesap, Dark Cherry, Chipotle, Thai Ginger, and Aged WA Dessert Apple on tap, and bottle pours of Bittersweet Reserve and Bourbon Barrel Aged.  See my tasting notes on Thai Ginger, Pumpkin, and Dark Cherry, and reviews of Aged WA Dessert Apple and Bittersweet Reserve (plus I’ve tried Original Dry and Green Tea Infused).

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Bourbon Barrel Aged (14% ABV) – This is their newest bottle release, originally only for their club members, but sales were opened up to the public as they had a bit extra (tap room only).  Aged 9 months in bourbon barrels.  Smells like bourbon with only a hint of apple and oak.  Golden orange amber hue.  On the sweeter side of Dry.  Still.  Served room temperature.  Light bodied.  Moderate acidity, mild tartness, mild bitterness, and mild tannins.  Moderate to full flavor profile.  I could definitely tell it was 14% ABV, and I think I would have liked to try it cold (or even, shudder, with an ice cube or two), as I think it would have smoothed out a bit.  As is, it was a bit much for me.  In addition to bourbon, notes of oak and vanilla, and a slight bit of maple and must.  Long warming boozy finish.  Moderate to high spirit influence.  Moderate barrel influence.  Very low sessionability.  Mild to moderate apple flavor.

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Winesap (6.0% ABV) – This is a new cider for them (tap only), a single varietal from Winesap apples.  They experimented with a Sidra-style fermentation, aiming to smooth out the tartness of the Winesap apples, and aged it a few months (I assume tank as Ryan didn’t specify barrel).  Smells mildly sour and of citrus.  Hazy light lemon straw yellow hue.  Semi-dry.  Only very mild sourness (and I’m admittedly sensitive), less so than in the scent.  Mild tartness and acidity.  Medium bodied.  Frothy mouthfeel but low carbonation.  Mildly flavored, with citrus, earthy, yeast, and mineral notes.  Quick finish.  High sessionability.  Mild to moderate apple flavor.  This was one of the most unique ciders I’ve ever tasted–very textural more than flavorful.  This would be a great refreshing summer cider.

They had a neat handout for tasting notes (reminiscent of this source):

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Next I walked down the street to Elemental Hard Cider.  I hadn’t realized they had so many taps (12, in comparison to 6 at Locust, although 1 was out).  The owners Brian and Christina Callahan were tending bar (I had met them previously at Around the Table in Lynnwood).  They were offering Dry (Carbon), Acai (Nitrogen), Ginger, Pomegranate-Rose, Margarita (Jalapeno Lime Cilantro), Apple Pie, Pomegranate (Oxygen), Blood Orange (Calcium), NW Atomic Root Beer, Lavender-Rose Petal, and Grapefruit (Hydrogen).

I’ve previously tried Cherry, Dry (version a & version b), NW Atomic Root Beer (version a & version b), Blood Orange, Seasonal Spiced Apple, Pom-Cherry, and Pomegranate.  They are unique in that they have made significant tweaks to their recipes after releasing them, and even bottling them in some cases, thus I have very different tasting notes on the same cider in two cases.  I learned they plan to release some ciders in six packs (previously they have only done 16.9 or 22 oz bottles).

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<Margarita, Lavender-Rose, and Grapefruit>

Margarita, Jalapeno Lime Cilantro (6.5% ABV) – Smells like lime with hints of cilantro and jalapeno.  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  Only very mild spiciness (although apparently it can sneak up if you drink a couple pints).  The flavor was also mostly lime, although surprisingly only mildly tart.  Moderate acidity.  A hint of bitterness.  Light bodied.  Moderate finish length.  This would pair really well with mexican food.

Lavender-Rose Petal (6.5% ABV) – Sweet.  Full bodied, almost syrupy.  Floral and herbal flavor, although I’m not sure I could have guessed it was infused with lavender and rose petals (apparently more rose than lavender with this batch).  Low acidity and tartness.  Too sweet for me (apparently this is their response to requests for sweeter ciders).

Grapefruit, Hydrogen (6.5% ABV) – Very mild grapefruit scent.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Mild refreshing grapefruit flavor.  Low tartness and acidity.  Medium bodied.  I’m usually not a huge grapefruit fan, but this was surprisingly nice.

Brian at Elemental had mentioned that Leroy at Woodinville Ciderworks was now pouring Asian Pear cider out of his Flying Dreams Winery tasting room (which specializes in Spanish red wines).  I was walking to try to meet up with my husband & friend and walked right by it, so I decided to drop in.  They only have one other cider, Tropical, which I tasted at Cider Summit Seattle last summer, but they haven’t bottled yet.

Asian Pear (6.5% ABV) – Semi-dry.  Mildly flavored with only a hint of pear (the apple also remains mild).  Low tartness and acidity.  Light bodied.  Citrus, pear, and mineral notes.  Moderate finish length.  I can see why this is popular, especially with fans of white wine, but its not really my thing, as I like a very flavorful cider.

While I was there I learned they will be bottling Tropical in about 6 weeks, and also a new cider, Pomegranate Dark Cherry, this summer.

I actually ended up back at Elemental to meet my husband and friend as they thought I was still there.  They tried a few ciders, and Ginger was their favorite of those.

Locust Bittersweet Reserve remains my favorite Woodinville cider so far.  I opened my bottle the night before this group of cidery visits–yum!

Have you been to any cidery tasting room lately?

Locust Cider Bittersweet Reserve

Review of Bittersweet Reserve from Locust Cider in Woodinville WA.  This variety was released in late 2015, only 1,000 bottles and some kegs, to benefit Hydrocephalus (which the owner’s daughter has).  This review is from a half growler of the cider, although I also picked up a bottle for future consumption, so I photographed the bottle which is much prettier and informative.  I’ve had a few varieties from Locust, including Washington Dessert Apple Aged Hard Cider (which I enjoyed), and Original Dry, Green Tea Infused, & Dark Sweet Cherry (which I wasn’t a huge fan of…they were all very mildly flavored, definitely sessionable).

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Cider:  Bittersweet Reserve
Cidery:  Locust Cider
Cidery Location:  Woodinville WA
ABV:  6%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles, kegs
Style:  American unfiltered craft cider made using bittersweet apples

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Availability:  Limited, only sold from their Woodinville WA tap room and a few locations around Seattle WA

Cider Description:  A full-bodied hard cider made from French and English bittersweet apples, with caramel and dried fruit aroma, and subtle citrus and baked apple. Only 1,000 bottles exist.

Apple Varieties:  Dabinett, Yarlington Mill, Michelin among limited others

Cidery Description:  Real, Creative Hard Cider from fresh pressed Northwest Apples.  Locust Cider is THE SESSION cider. Every cider we make, from smooth and light Original Dry to full flavored Aged Dessert Apple, is designed and made to be extremely drinkable. Sessionable cider.   What is The Locust?  Tough. Hard. Real.

When you are done with your hard day taking over the world, you deserve good hard cider.   The Locust stems from the a near death experience had by the founder during childhood. Now motivated by the sensory memory of that moment, his life is about being tough, being insistent on the best, and never giving in.  Locust Cider is real people. Founded by 2 brothers from Texas who wanted a great cider that they could drink more than one of, the company remains small. Everybody who works in the tap room also has a hand in making cider. We obsess over making drinkable, session cider for real, tough people to enjoy.

They have a tap room in the Woodinville WA warehouse district.

Price:  $18 for a 750ml bottle or $8.50 for a 32oz half growler
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Facebook

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First Impression:  Orange-amber hazy sweet (unfermented) cider hue.  Smells of bittersweet apples, sweet cider, orange citrus, spice, raisins, and honey.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to sweet.    Low acidity, tartness, and bitterness.  Low to moderate tannins.  The slightest bit of earthiness & oakiness.  No funk or sourness.  In the flavor I picked up bittersweet apples, orange, spice, raisins (less so), and honey that I smelled, plus caramel and oddly enough, coffee?  Although it has a lot of characteristics of sweet non-alcoholic cider, I wouldn’t call it juice-like (which as my tastes have evolved I’ve found to be a negative).  I found the cider to be slightly alcohol-forward, but I enjoyed it (I would have guessed it had a higher ABV).  Full bodied.  Moderate to long finish.

My Opinion:  Yum–rich, smooth, and luscious!  It reminds me a lot of English cider, but with the additional residual sweetness, unfiltered flavor & mouthfeel, and less tannins than your average English craft cider, it may be more approachable.  Overall this is a very easily likeable unique cider.  However, I liked the sample I had from a bottle better.  I believe my growler was from the bottom of the keg, and it seemed to have more tannins, spice, bitterness, etc (and the odd coffee note).  Still plenty enjoyable though.  I’m looking forward to drinking the bottle I bought.  Overall my only feedback would be to have slightly less sweetness, and that bottled (or not from the end of the keg) may have more desirable flavor, or that its a bit variable (which often happens in ciders, especially if they are from different batches).

Most Similar to:  Other ciders made from bittersweet apples (such as most English ciders, Sea Cider Bittersweet, Finnriver Fire Barrel, Angry Orchard Stone Dry, and Woodchuck Gumption & Hot Cha Cha Cha) and those which are of an unfiltered style (such as from J.K.’s Scrumpy & Downeast, and Locust Washington Dessert Apple).  I’ve found that for the most part I really enjoy ciders from bittersweet apples.

Closing Notes:   Its crazy how good of a deal Schilling must have got on that keg, as the price on tap was almost 1/3 of the price for bottled (by ounce), a deal I couldn’t pass up.  I was quite surprised the keg lasted on tap a couple weeks.  If you can find this one and don’t mind a sweeter cider, I highly recommend it (in fact, Schilling still has a few bottles left as of earlier this week).

Interesting Fact:  I was told that this cider should stay refrigerated, as the high residual sugar content makes it prone to re-fermenting in the bottle (becoming too dry or sparkling).  Being a small batch they didn’t filter and process it as much like their other ciders.  This wasn’t noted on the bottle, and is basically unheard of for a commercially produced cider (more of a homebrew thing).  I think its impractical to rely on stores to tell their customers this, and many stores don’t have significant refrigerated shelf space.  I imagine this explains what happened to my Washington Dessert Apple cider (a similar small batch sweeter cider release from them), which didn’t stay refrigerated.  It turned crazy fizzy even though I bought it not long after it was released, and a sample from a friend’s bottle later a few months later was much drier than mine.

Have you tried Locust Bittersweet Reserve?  What did you think?