To say that Jason Spears likes cider is an understatement. Perhaps saying he loves cider is more accurate. Co-founder of Locust Cider & Brewing Co. in Woodinville, Washington, Spears has seen his company grow tenfold since opening in 2015. Spreading over three states — Washington, Texas and Colorado as well as having multiple locations in the Seattle area — Locust Cider has grown rapidly since opening.
WHEN OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS
Spears’ path to owning a cidery began after a friend of his recommended he try drinking cider since he was allergic to beer.
Eventually starting the company with his brother Patrick, Locust specializes in using cull apples, or apples that tend to be too small or otherwise undesirable by grocers.
“We try to be very opportunistic with the apples we use,” Spears says. “The market is so hard to reach sometimes and it changes so fast that, rather than put all our apples in one basket, we use cull apples because there are so many and you can do so much through blending.”
Ultimately, Spears says using these types of apples forces Locust to be creative in regards to the flavors they create. Moreover, his determination to create different types of ciders reflects in how successful the company has become.
In regards to reaching three states, Spears says his reason to expand is to give consumers better access to cider. “I am sick of being at the mercy of highly concentrated distribution,” Spears says, lamenting on how he would get calls from consumers wanting to know where they could purchase their cider. Thus, the need for more direct taprooms was born.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love to be able to sell to grocery stores and local bars but to be able to get straight to our customers is amazing,” Spears adds. “So to me it doesn’t feel like we have this national network of locations, but these are just points of distribution and ways to reach our customers.”
There is more to the story of Locust Cider than just producing cider and its exponential growth. Spears’ daughter Lucy was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, the buildup of fluid in the brain which causes brain damage, right after she was born — around the same time as the company was set to open. Spears saw the perfect opportunity to help give back and fund research for this relatively unknown cancer.
“I learned that as many people have hydrocephalus as things like Parkinson’s, which everybody knows what Parkinson’s is but nobody knows what hydrocephalus is,” Spears explains.
Describing the process of building his company while his daughter was having surgery as “insanity,” Locust Cider now gives a portion of its proceeds to the Hydrocephalus Association, which researches the disease.
“All these new taprooms are helping us raise more and more money,” Spears says. Half of the money raised in Washington state goes directly Seattle Children’s Hospital, with the goal of research for hydrocephalus.
With expansion meaning more money helping his daughter, Spears says the next leg of the company revolves around branching off into places like one of Washington’s wine countries of the Walla Walla Valley.
“We are just gonna keep doing what we are doing,” Spears says. “We are opening more taprooms and we are working really hard on figuring out how to do more small batches.”