written by Charyn Pfeuffer | photos by Jason Redmond
Hard cider is having its moment.
In Woodinville, Washington, Locust Cider is taking dry, sweet and fruity-loving palates by storm. A roll-up garage door opens to Locust Cider’s tasting room and cider-making operations, alongside small breweries and a car transmission mechanic.
Locust Cider Founder and CEO Jason Spears is pictured at his cider house in Woodinville, Washington.
Nine ciders are on the menu on any particular day, ranging from Original Dry, made with a combination of apples, to Thai Ginger, composed of Granny Smith and Gala apples, and Bittersweet Reserve, a cider made from French and English apples. Much like its craft beer and wine brethren, cider is served in tasting flights or individual glasses.
Jason Spears, founder of Locust Cider, loves cider, but he also saw opportunity. “I started a cidery, so I could drink the cider I wanted to drink,” Spears said. He argues that Locust Cider is more than just the cidery. “It started as an extension of my belief in perseverance, drive and toughness; it was something I needed to do,” he said. It’s also driven by a deep need to make a difference. In 2015, Spears’s daughter, Lucy, was born with hydrocephalus, a condition in which fluid builds in the brain, and is only treated with brain surgery. A portion of Locust Cider’s sales, plus its Cider Club membership fees, directly benefit research in this underfunded area.
Personal cause aside, Spears cites that Woodinville is an amazing place to be in the craft beverage business. “We have a network of dozens of breweries, cideries, distilleries and wineries to collaborate with and support each other—a real community of craft, literally within walking distance,” Spears said.
Spears attributes cider’s recent hot streak to the fact that it’s real and it’s good. “The growth of cider has been steady—it’s not a fad,” he said. “Hard soda is a fad. With the proliferation of beverages with page-long ingredient lists, fermented sucrose drinks (what exactly is hard root beer?) people are skeptical.”
Cider, however, is made from apples. That’s it. It’s pure, and there is amazing variety and complexity. “A single varietal cider can so purely display the beauty of the fruit, like wine, while the creative end of the spectrum, using spices and other fruits, is exciting and new, like craft beer,” Spears said.
If you can ignore the many wine-tasting rooms along the walk, Elemental Cider is just around the corner. Elemental Cider has its Pomegranate Rose to an infused Lavender Rose Petal and more lively Margarita cider with jalapeño, lime and cilantro.
For those who are staying closer to Seattle, there are multiple good options. In Seattle’s Fremont area, you can pop into Schilling Cider House. This industrial tasting room is home to more than thirty ciders on tap, plus the world’s first nitro cans of cider. Grumpy Bear cider is a bizarre combination of hard cider and cold-pressed coffee. It is marketed as, “Drinks like a cider and pours like a stout!”
Located in Seattle’s SoDo (south of downtown) neighborhood, Seattle Cider Company claims to be the city’s first cidery since Prohibition. Founded in the summer of 2013, Seattle Cider Company’s tasting room, The Woods, has twenty-four tap handles, outdoor seating, pool, shuffleboard and darts in a sleek, urban setting. Its citrus, dry and semi-sweet ciders are staples. Also look for the Washington Heirloom and Gravenstein Rosé during harvest season.