Hard Cider Newsletter

Locust Cider Opens Two New Taprooms in Washington State

This past winter, Locust Cider was hard at work expanding throughout Washington state. The cidery celebrated the opening of a new taproom in the downtown Seattle, Washington, neighborhood of Ballard; and sealed the deal on a space in Tacoma for another taproom that will open this spring.

At the Ballard taproom, located at 5309 22nd Avenue NW (Seattle, Washington), customers can enjoy both an indoor and outdoor seating area with 12 taps of Locust Cider including the core favorites (Dark Cherry, Vanilla and Honey Pear), seasonals (like Hibiscus and Pumpkin), and specials (think Cilantro Jalapeno and single varietal heirloom ciders).

The Tacoma (Washington) taproom, which will be located at 2805 6th Avenue next door to local favorite, Jazzbones, makes cider, and specifically Locust Cider, even more accessible to a larger audience. The taproom provides a space to educate consumers on the nuances of the cider world while allowing Locust to localize their efforts on a deeper level in the communities where they serve. Just as Locust does with their current taprooms, they will also have custom barrel-aged ciders specially crafted by the taproom staff.

“On a very high level, we are opening new taprooms so we can get as close to our customers as possible,” said co-founder Jason Spears. “It is fine to throw some cans on the grocery store shelves and hope people buy them but what does a customer learn about us? What do we learn about the customer? That can of cider doesn’t tell them about the people who worked so hard to make their cider, about how we source apples from all over the Pacific Northwest, that we work with some of the world’s biggest growers and orchards as small as two acres, about our cause (Hydrocephalus), or about the story behind the name. They can’t talk back to that can and tell it they love it or hate or share their ideas for the next great cider. We can’t help them learn about cider, about bittersweets and sharps and everything in between. Opening new taprooms is our focus because of all these reasons.” 

The two new taprooms are part of the expanded business plan for Locust Cider to take place over the course of the next year. Co-founders and brothers, Jason and Patrick Spears, are working to expand distribution nationally – currently Locust can be found in Washington, Oregon, Chicago (Illinois), Florida, California and Texas. Additionally, a second production facility and taproom is planned to open in Fort Worth, Texas, next month that mirrors the Woodinville (Washington) Cidery and Taproom on a slightly smaller scale. All this and more is taking place while Locust Cider continues to also donate a portion of proceeds from all cans and bottles as well as the cider club to the Hydrocephalus Association, an important and personal cause to Jason Spears whose daughter lives with the rare brain condition.

To learn about Locust Cider and get directions to their current and to-come taprooms, visit them online at LocustCider.com or on social media @LocustCider.


Meet the Cider Maker: Five Questions with Kyle Sherrer of Graft Cider


Graft – to fix permanently to something else. Graft Cider got its name from the practice of grafting, to take a piece of living tissue and transplant it to something else – a practice common in how apple varieties are grown.  The people behind Graft Cider want to take the preexisting knowledge in America that cider is supposed to be simple and sweet and graft onto that idea, creating new concepts of what cider is and can be.   

We got to catch up with Kyle Sherrer, Owner and Cider Maker of Graft Cider in Newburgh, New York, for five questions about him, the cider and the industry:


What is your background and how did you get into the craft cider industry?

“I went to college for Finance, but have spent all of my adulthood in the craft cider industry.  I got into cider production when my father and I started Millstone Cellars out of Maryland.  At Millstone Cellars, we focused on wild yeast fermented oak barrel aged ciders.  Our traditional European cider making style was inspired by the local terroir, sourcing all of our ingredients within 150 miles of the cidery.  While at Millstone Cellars, I noticed the cider industry missing the opportunity to embrace crafting ciders that would entice the growing movement of sour beer consumers, which is how Graft Cider came to be.

What inspires you and Graft Cider? | What is your favorite Graft Cider?

“We are inspired by the combination of traditional European ciders and the sour beer movement in America.  Traditional European ciders are fermented with native yeast and bacteria living on the skins of apples, which creates a complex yeast and bacteria driven beverage that is typically dry, funky, and has an acidic bite.  Sour beers follow something very similar to European ciders, but you will find a lot more experimentation with additives like fruits, hops, spices and flowers.  My favorite Graft Cider, Farm Flor, is the perfect bridge between the two and is the reason why Graft Cider began.”

What is your favorite cider and food pairing?

“Rustic cider pairs better with a charcuterie plate than any other alcoholic beverage.  Pizza and cider is pretty good too!”

What word describes you and your involvement in the cider industry?

“Revolutionary – we want to change the way the world thinks about cider.”

Any big future plans for you and Graft Cider?

“We have been working a lot and bringing in the right people to get our process down and scalable.  We will be launching in six states: Pennsylvania, Florida, Maine, Vermont, New Jersey and Connecticut as well as in two provinces of Canada: British Columbia and Ontario.  We are also working on finding a space in New York City to setup a micro cidery/bar concept that focuses on foeder-aged cider from all Hudson Valley ingredients.” To follow all of Graft Cider’s future plans and check out their ciders, visit them online at GraftCidery.com. Photo courtesy of Graft Cider.

Interviewed by: Kristen Sarcone, Staff Writer of Hard Cider News


Stormalong Cider Rolls Out in Vermont

Stormalong Cider is now available to licensed restaurants and retailers throughout Vermont thanks to its new distribution partnership with Farrell Distributing.

Residents of Vermont can now purchase and enjoy Stormalong’s core line-up of ciders including the tannic flagship Legendary Dry, a Citra dry-hopped cider, and Mass Appeal featuring Macintosh apples balancing tart and a hint of sweet.  In addition, Stormalong contributed a can to the new “Cider Grown” variety four-pack which is also distributed by Farrell through Vermont.  The “Cider Grown” variety pack includes ciders from Massachusetts-based Stormalong Cider, Vermont-based Eden Specialty Ciders, and New Hampshire native Farnum Hill Ciders.  “Cider Grown” demonstrates the unique orchard-based approach to making cider with apple varieties grown specifically for hard cider.  Along this notion, Stormalong’s product line also includes a “Rare Apple Series” which highlights a single varietal Kingston Black cider as well as a Boston Heirloom cider made with a 50-50 blend of Roxbury Russet and Baldwin apples.

“We poured cider last summer at the Vermont Cider Classic in Burlington and were pleased at a great response from festival goers.  Vermont has a vibrant cider scene and an appreciation for companies with a paramount focus on quality and ingredients.  We base our brand on these values and felt like our cider would resonate in Vermont and be a welcomed addition to our orbit,” said Shannon Edgar, founder and cider maker of Stormalong Cider.  “We’re happy to begin this partnership with Farrell Distributing who shares a similar vision.”

“We’re excited to work with Stormalong Cider and spearhead its expansion into the Vermont market,” said Jeff Baker, Curator of the Curriculum at Farrell Distributing. “Their values align well with ours and their passion for producing quality cider is inspiring. We’re proud to partner with Stormalong and are pleased to welcome them into our curated cider portfolio.”

With this expansion, Stormalong Cider is now available in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Visit Stormalong.com to find Stormalong Cider and learn more about them. Photos courtesy of Stormalong.


Austin Eastciders Collaborates with Cold Brew

Who doesn’t love a smooth cold brew and a bright, tasteful cider?  So why not put them together?  Austin Eastciders just released its newest collaboration with Austin, Texas’s coffee icon, Cuvee Coffee, who is known for their focus on top shelf coffee and ethical practices. 

Cold Brew Cider is a blend of the cidery’s Original cider and the coffee purveyor’s renowned cold brew coffee.  The Cold Brew Cider packs a 60-mg punch of caffeine per pint, which is almost as much as a full cup of coffee.  The cider also contains subtle sweet notes from the cider base that pair perfectly with the bitterness of the cold brew and a hint of vanilla on the finish.

Cuvee Coffee’s production manager, Logan Allender, stated, “For those who love to pair their chocolates with fruit, we think this new collaboration will tick many of the same boxes for you.  The malty, dry, chocolaty goodness of coffee mixed with the bright, sweet, and acidic flavors of cider!” 

This limited collaboration is only available in Austin Eastciders Collaboratory taproom on the East Side of Austin, Texas, while supplies last.  Make sure to grab some before it’s gone! For more information on Austin Eastciders and Cuvee Coffee, please visit AustinEastciders.com and CuveeCoffee.com.  Photo provided by Austin Eastciders.


Carlson Orchards of Massachusetts Launches Hard Cider Line

The Carlson family, along with the team at New England Apple Products of Leominster, Massachusetts, is pleased to announce the establishment of Carlson Orchards Hard Cider, continuing a long tradition of working with apples.

Carlson Orchards has produced Massachusetts’ market leading non-alcoholic farmstand cider for the last 40 years. This premium cider is available throughout the state in supermarkets such as Whole Foods, Stop & Shop, Big Y, and Roche Bros, as well as hundreds of smaller retailers. Carlson’s premium farmstand cider has been a consistent beacon of quality, making use of the highest-grade local apples grown with sustainable practices.

The Carlson brothers had been contemplating entering the hard cider market for several years, and the timing finally came together this past Fall when they tested sales of hard cider from their orchard in Harvard, Massachusetts. “As we were researching and planning a hard cider line we consulted with the lads from Stormalong Cider about a year ago to discuss the project. Stormalong had their production facility set up in the New England Apple Products building, which is the same location in Leominster where our premium fresh market cider is now made,” remarked Frank Carlson, president of Carlson Orchards, Inc.  “It was a natural fit to work with both Stormalong and New England Apple on the production of our hard cider. We wanted to produce a hard cider that was similar to our premium farmstand cider and ultimately decided to make an ‘unfiltered’ hard cider for increased apple taste and character,” continued Carlson.

Carlson Orchards Hard Cider’s first off-site release will be packaged in 16-ounce cans and is named Oak Hill Blend after the road where the Carlson’s home orchard is located. This cider is bursting with fresh apple taste and aroma, perfectly balancing tart and sweet. Oak Hill Blend is made 100% from freshly pressed apples with no added sugar, concentrate, or additives and is, of course, gluten-free. 

After the first batches of Oak Hill Blend sold out quickly from the farm while receiving positive feedback, discussions began with distributors to help launch the brand in Massachusetts. “We were looking for a partner who understood the Carlson Orchards’ brand and who also shared a similar vision with regards to scale and capabilities,” said Steve Rowse, President of New England Apple Products.  “Massachusetts Beverage Alliance and the distributors within their network definitely demonstrated a plan that we felt provided the right opportunity.”

“The Massachusetts Beverage Alliance is very proud to represent Carlson Orchards Hard Cider throughout the Commonwealth. After taking our first sip we knew right away that Oak Hill Blend was a tremendous opportunity for us. Supporting local producers is important to us so we are excited to offer Carlson’s to all the thirsty hard cider drinkers out there!” said Brian Murphy, General Manager of Massachusetts Beverage Alliance.

Carlson Orchards Hard Cider will be available throughout Massachusetts starting on April 1st, 2018. There are also plans in the works for a tasting room in Harvard, Massachusetts, on-site at Carlson Orchards.  Completion of this new structure is expected by the Fall of 2018.  Until then, visitors can get ready for Spring and the upcoming growing season by visiting Carlson Orchards and trying out some of their delicious produce and apple products, including the new Oak Hill Blend hard cider! For more information on Carlson Orchards and their new Oak Hill Blend, visit CarlsonOrchards.com. Photos courtesy of Carlson Orchards.


Eight Ciders Coming This Spring

We’ve already heard about quite a few rosé ciders hitting shelves that should all be tasted, at least once, but here’s a list of eight ciders coming this spring – a couple additional rosé ciders to look out for, a couple fresh flavors, and one favorite now in cans.

1. Strongbow, Rosé Apple – Strongbow announced its newest flavor, Rosé Apple, a semi-dry hard cider with a touch of red-fleshed apples. With a light, refreshing, fruity taste and 5% ABV, this newest addition to Strongbow’s award-winning line is reminiscent of a rosé wine but with 50% less sugar than leading United States hard ciders.

Developed to capitalize on 45% year on year growth in rosé wine sales, Strongbow Rosé Apple, is now available in six-pack, 11.2-ounce bottles, in the Strongbow variety 12-pack, and, for a limited time, in 5.1-ounce mini cans.

“Rosé Apple scored in the all-time top 25% of liquids and concepts that have been tested,” said Jessica Robinson, Vice President of Portfolio Brands, who was involved in the development of the new flavor. “With Strongbow outpacing the cider category three years in a row, and with a 52% purchase intent for Rosé Apple, the newest flavor will ride the wave of booming rosé wine sales and offer cider consumers a truly unique, refreshing taste alternative with only 10 grams of sugar and 137 calories per bottle. We are confident that consumers of both cider and rosé wine will respond positively to this product feature,” said Robinson. “Our research tells us that 66% of wine drinkers aged 22-39 years who try cider become cider drinkers, with 36% becoming monthly cider drinkers. Strongbow has a huge conversion opportunity with this new flavor.” Check out Strongbow.com for additional information and to find Rosé Apple near you. Photo provided by Strongbow.

2. 2 Towns Ciderhouse, Pacific Pineapple – Ripe Costa Rican Gold pineapples drop in on a fresh-pressed wave of Northwest apples in Pacific Pineapple, the latest cider to be added to 2 Towns Ciderhouse’s year-round offerings. Jam packed with fresh-pressed Pacific Northwest apple character and juicy Costa Rica pineapples, this sessionable cider is the perfect blend of Pacific Northwest and the tropics.

“Pacific Pineapple is full of intensely ripe, real golden pineapple character. A lot of pineapple products are artificially enhanced, and that’s just not what we do,” said Dave Takush, 2 Towns Ciderhouse head cider maker. “We worked directly with our supplier in Costa Rica to get the tastiest pineapple for a cider that isn’t sugary sweet, but gives you the sensation of biting into the juiciest slice of golden pineapple imaginable.”

Pacific Pineapple is currently available in bottles, 1/2bbl and 1/6bbl kegs, and, for the first time, cans! Find 2 Towns Ciderhouse Pacific Pineapple throughout Oregon, Washington, California, Alaska, Idaho, Hawaii, Chicago (Illinois) and parts of Minnesota. Visit 2TownsCiderhouse.com for additional information. Photo provided by 2 Towns Ciderhouse. 

3. 2 Towns Ciderhouse, Passion Statement – Passion Statement, the latest limited release from 2 Towns Ciderhouse, pairs flavorful Yellow Maracuyá passion fruit with fresh-pressed Northwest apples and D’Anjou pears. Sensational and exotic, Passion Statement stands out from the crowd with a flashy tropical tang that turns heads and tips pint glasses!

 “We used Yellow Maracuyá passion fruit because of how richly fragrant it is,” said Dave Takush, head cider maker for 2 Towns Ciderhouse. “When you hold a glass of Passion Statement up to your nose, you’ll get heavy notes of guava, papaya and citron. It’ll practically transport you to a tropical garden with its ripe aromas and bright, tart finish.”

With 1.3 pounds of passion fruit per gallon, Passion Statement’s richness is best paired with more delicate flavors such as those of Hawaiian Haupia coconut custard, Madagascar vanilla crème brulee, or even Norwegian Krumkake cookies. If you are looking for a juicy addition to a class brunch, try a Passion Statement mimosa made with orange and guava juices. Passion Statement is currently available in 500ml bottles and 1/2bbl and 1/6bbl kegs in Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, Hawaii, Chicago (Illinois) and parts of Minnesota. Visit 2TownsCiderhouse.com for additional information. Photo provided by 2 Towns Ciderhouse.

4. Woodchuck, Tank Series Pear Ginger – Woodchuck Hard Cider announced that it will release a new line-up of ciders called the “Tank Series” this year beginning with Pear Ginger. Woodchuck has always been synonymous with innovation and their cider makers are honoring this pioneering spirit with the Tank Series. Each cider will be in the market for three to four months and then will be replaced by the next round of Tank Series innovation. Pear Ginger is a cider that was released briefly in select markets in 2017 and won Gold at the World Cider Championships. Pear Ginger infuses both pear and ginger for a cider that is light and refreshing.

“We took time in 2017 to talk to our fans and hear what they wanted to see from Woodchuck,” said Bridget Blacklock, Director of Marketing. “Across the board they said more innovation again. We also kept hearing that being outdoors is a big part of their lifestyle so we knew it had to be a can package.”

Pear Ginger is a 5% ABV cider that is currently available in 12-ounce, six-pack cans, and 15.5 gallon kegs. Learn more about this cider and others to come on Woodchuck.com. Photo provided by Vermont Cider Co.


5. Angry Orchard, Rosé – Made with a delicious blend of apples including rare red flesh apples from France, Angry Orchard Rosé delivers the crisp and refreshing qualities of cider with a rosy color and floral aroma.

In developing the recipe for Rosé, Angry Orchard cider makers were inspired by the light and fruit-forward elements of Rosé wine which, like cider, is derived from harvested and fermented fruit. The team experimented with small batches at the Angry Orchard Cidery in New York’s Hudson River Valley to find the perfect balance of high-quality ingredients. Ultimately, they found a unique, red flesh apple in Brittany, France, that contributes to the cider’s bright apple flavor and rosy hue. These apples, known as Amour Rouge or red love were then blended with the juices of six apple varieties and other ingredients, like a hint of hibiscus. The result was unparalleled – an unconventional, apple-forward style that brings a unique flavor for wine and cider drinkers alike. When the cider makers sampled the new Angry Orchard Rosé at the Cider House, drinkers couldn’t get enough of it.

“I love Rosé wine, but I’m excited for drinkers to move on over to cider and try something new this spring with our Angry Orchard Rosé,” said Ryan Burk, Head Cider Maker of Angry Orchard. “The rare red flesh apples used in our Rosé not only impart complex flavors but contribute to the cider’s beautiful rosy hue. It’s crisp, refreshing and unlike any other style we have crafted.”

Angry Orchard Rosé hard cider’s apple-forward taste is complemented by refreshing light tannins, similar to a semi-dry wine. It has a light, yet refined floral aroma, medium mouthfeel, and bright apple finish. The cider is first-and-foremost delicious on its own, but it also pairs perfectly with a variety of cuisines, from creamy cheeses, like gouda and feta, and hearty, flavorful meats, like ham and prosciutto. It’s the natural beverage that can be enjoyed at the table with food or hanging out by the fire pit. Rosé is 5.5% ABV and is available nationwide in six-packs and 12-pack variety packs with other Angry Orchard styles. Check out Angry Orchard online at AngryOrchard.com or on this year’s Kentucky Derby as the Derby’s official hard cider. Photo provided by the Angry Orchard Cider Company.

6. Angry Orchard, Understood in Motion 03 – This new collaboration cider was created with distinguished United Kingdom cider maker, Tom Oliver, of Oliver’s Cider and Perry. The ‘Understood in Motion’ series’ latest cider began in two orchards separated by an ocean: Tom Oliver’s cider house in Ocle Pychard, Herefordshire (UK), and the Angry Orchard cider house in Walden, New York, where it was ultimately completed. This collaboration showcases an unconventional approach to the creation of cider, made with two distinct wild-fermented juices from rare apples that through blending would become one complex style. Understood in Motion 03 is the third cider in the Understood in Motion series, named for the motion of the apple harvest and the cider making process, and is now available for purchase at the Angry Orchard in Walden, New York.

“Tom has been an inspiration and mentor for many years, and through our shared love of cider and food, has become a dear friend,” said Ryan Burk, Head Cider Maker at Angry Orchard. “I’m honored to have worked with him on this creation that celebrates the occasions cider is enjoyed with friends and family, and highlights what is special about cider making here in the US and in the UK.”

Understood in Motion 03 started over two years ago, as two different natural ciders fermented with wild yeast. At Angry Orchard, Dabinett apples were blended with Northern Spy apples, which are only available on the East Coast and used for the acid it brings to the final cider. Fermentation was carried out in used calvados barrels and aged on lees to enrich the mouthfeel. At Oliver’s, Dabinett apples were blended with Foxwhelp apples, only available in the west Midlands of England. The cider was then fermented in stainless tanks and again aged on lees. After a year, Tom made his way from Herefordshire (UK) to Walden (New York) with the cider he’d made, ready for blending. The cider makers then integrated the two base ciders and began to taste and compose Understood in Motion 03. The final style uses ciders from multiple harvests as far back as 2014, all of which matured in oak for an intricate flavor profile.

The Dabinett apple was the principle apple variety used in this collaboration, an 18th century English bittersweet apple, customarily used in Somerset, England, for making cider, that is favored for its reliability to yield fruit annually, and is now grown in the United States.  The additional Northern Spy apples and Foxwhelp apples were both incorporated aiming to add acid to the cider. The result, a still, tannic, dry, wild, and funky cider that pairs well with a hearty meal enjoyed by friends. The dry, tannic parts of the cider are a result of the strong tannins brought out from the Dabinett apple. The wild and funky flavor provides a full round mouthfeel from the time spent aging on lees. A subtle oak character can also be found within, from Angry Orchard’s fermentation process, which happened in used Calvados barrels.

Understood in Motion 03, at 7.2% ABV, is available in 750mL bottles for $25 per bottle, while quantities last. For the location of the Angry Orchard Cider House in Walden, NY visit AngryOrchard.com. Photo courtesy of MyBeerBuzz.com.

7. Virtue Cider, Rosé – The Virtue Cider cider makers spent many months working with a range of botanicals to get just the right blend. Rosé pours with a light pink of spring apple blossoms, with bright floral notes and hints of fresh-picked apple, grapefruit peel and green strawberry. The finish is clean and dry, with just a slight tartness.

“At Virtue Cider, naturally, we love cider. But we drink beer, whiskey, cocktails, and wine too. We love the bright flavors in a summery bottle of rosé, with notes of strawberry, citrus and flowers, and that inspired us to create Virtue Cider Rosé,” said Gregory Hall, Virtue Cider founder. “We’ve in fact been making rosé ciders since 2015. We did a different batch each year at our farm, experimenting with aging cider on grape skins, using cherries and more. We discovered a bright and balanced blend of botanicals for this year’s Rosé, and we loved it so much we decided to bring it to you in a can.”

Rosé is a 6.7% ABV cider and is achieved with a botanical blend that includes citrus oil, sage, and hibiscus, as well as all kinds of locally grown Michigan apples from our neighbors including Jonathans, Golden Russet, McIntosh, Winesap, Ida Red, and Northern Spy. Rosé is available on draft and in 12-ounce six-pack cans. Pair Rosé with soft, creamy goat cheese, oysters, or crisp pickled vegetables from the garden. Visit VirtueCider.com to learn about release parties for Rosé. Photo provided by Virtue Cider.

8. Blake’s Hard Cider, Blossom Eater – Blossom Eater, an apple blossom honey, jasmine and bergamot hard cider has been released with the intent to give back to a cause that’s near and dear to all at Blake’s Farm. One dollar from every pint sold via the Blake’s Be-Kind-Tap at the Blake’s Hard Cider tasting room in Armada, Michigan, until July, will benefit the bees. The 72-year-old farm has partnered with a national organization, The Honeybee Conservancy, and the Detroit-based, Bees in the D, both non-profits that focus on education and advocacy of bees. The orchard has worked for years with local organizations to have hives out on the property to help pollinate fruit trees, pumpkin blossoms, raspberries, strawberries, their lavender field, and more. Unfortunately, the bees are facing a serious crisis currently. Blake’s Farm Manager, Erin Lauwers says, “Bees actually really love orchards because apple blossom pollen is of a high quality. Colony Collapse Disorder is attributed to many factors, including human practices, disease and mites in the hive.”

Brian Peterson of Bees in the D adds, “Honeybees seem to have the deck stacked against them. We owe these tiny workaholics a toast for their tireless pollination of millions of apple blossoms that result in the delicious apples which Blake’s crafts into Blossom Eater.”

Blossom Eater will be available in six-pack bottles and on draft at select bars over the next few weeks across Blake’s 18-state distribution footprint.

“It’s a toast to the hardest workers on the farm,” said Marketing Manager, Chelsea Iadipaolo. “Blossom Eater is the perfect balance of crisp apple and sweet apple blossom honey, foraged from hives located around our orchard.” Visit BlakesHardCider.com for additional information. Photo provided by Blake’s Hard Cider.


Eat This…

Drink That…

Cider-Glazed Pork Belly and Brussels Sprouts
From Duskie Estes on Fine Cooking

The Bloody
From Blake’s Hard Cider Co.

Photo Credit: Scott Phillips

Photo Credit: Blake's Hard Cider Co.