The count of breweries, distilleries, and wineries in Woodinville long ago tipped into the triple digits. While many of these establishments have origin stories that intrigue and inspire, one similar shop opened its doors in 2015 to sell the spike of apples. That same year two of its founding members learned their young daughter Lucy was born with an incurable brain condition.
Lucy was born with hydrocephalus, a condition caused by an abnormal accumulation of fluid that pushes immense pressure on the brain. Hydrocephalus is a life-threatening condition. As of 2018, Lucy had undergone four brain surgeries for her condition, making it so she had experienced more brain surgeries than she had years of life. “Lucy is tough. Every child I’ve met with this condition is tough,” said Lucy’s father and founder of Locust Cider Jason Spears.
Like nearly all pediatric conditions that require research for quicker, gentler cures and methods of care, more traditional kinds of funding are extremely low. Individuals that have hydrocephalus are typically fitted with a pump-like device called a shunt in their brains. Though shunts are effective and have promising short-term results, they rarely ever make it through a decade of use which then requires the individual with hydrocephalus additional brain surgeries.
“I am selfish. I want to raise as much money as possible so one day my daughter may have a better option. Using Locust Cider, we can make a difference,” said Jason Spears.
Locust Cider, which is a family owned and operated establishment, has largely sidestepped the more commonplace grape and grain beverage boom that has blossomed in Woodinville over the last decade. With a focus on making “real cider for real people” Locust has been concocting award-winning hard ciders in Woodinville since their first year of business. They run with staples like their Original Dry cider that rings with notes of pineapple, to more unique styles like their double gold winner at Sip Northwest’s 2018 Best of the Northwest called Sweet Aged Apple built up from dessert apples and a six-month aging process. With the quintessential diligence for sustainable packaging and sourcing ingredients from the area that have become synonymous with Woodinville, Locust’s aim was on apples and creating innovation with the proper understanding of classic cidermaking methods.
“We use cull apples that are going to be thrown out because they aren’t “pretty enough” to be sold in stores. Our new can packaging holders use 98% less material and are photo degradable and our aluminum cans are the most sustainable packaging that exists,” said Rebecca Spears, Jason’s wife, Lucy’s mom, and VP of Marketing at Locust Ciders.
Nearly four years ago, Rebecca Spears along with her husband Jason and his brother Patrick found their Woodinville home nestled among the breweries and wineries that dot the area. “It felt like a perfect combination for us with a built-in customer base looking to experiment with beverages,” said Rebecca Spears. The company’s quick success has already allowed them to open taprooms in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle and the founding Spears brothers’ hometown of Fort Worth, Texas.
Rebecca Spears says that they source a majority of their apples from eastern Washington as well as other ingredients. “As we grow in other states, we will be sourcing ingredients locally there but continue—for now—getting our apples from Washington,” she said. While Rebecca, Jason, and Patrick are all busy with their success, their mission is still focused on helping people with hydrocephalus like their daughter.
“Lucy had three [surgeries] in the first year-and-a-half of her life… We have made it our mission to use our business as a vehicle to support research and drive awareness of this life altering condition. Clearly it is very personal for us,” said Rebecca Spears.
Locust Cider offers a cider club called “The Swarm” that inspires people to fight for an amazing cause while allowing them to partake in the unique beverages the cidery has to offer. “The Swarm Club membership is an amazing deal to start but then when folks find out that $25 of the donation goes to our cause, it makes it that much more enticing to join, “said Rebecca.
By joining The Swarm for $125 a year, you’ll donate that initial $25 to the Hydrocephalus Association, you’ll receive a free pint for you and a guest every single time you visit, and the remainder of your balance goes towards packaging which helps spread awareness for hydrocephalus and in turn raises even more money for research.
While Jason and Rebecca are focusing on operations here, Patrick is running the location and oversees all of Texas. “Our next location is still confidential, but it will be in a completely new state! We also have joined forces with Dirty Bucket Brewing (next door to us in Woodinville) and will become Locust Cider and Brewing Co. at the start of the year. We will be rolling out an all new cider and beer experience in Woodinville, with a combined taproom onsite at our cidery, where our cider will flow alongside inventive and un-conventional beers. After we kick off in Woodinville, our new beer will start to roll out in our Washington taprooms and beyond,” said Rebecca Spears.
Rebecca is jubilant with Woodinville which has been tremendously supportive over the last four years. “We love the community here in Woodinville and have built a great family of club members and customers. We are proud to call this our home!”