Cider drinkers in San Francisco had much to celebrate when Ozzie Gundogdu and Omer Cengiz opened the area’s first cider-focused establishment, Upcider, in 2012. With multiple ciders on tap and bottles from across the globe, Upcider quickly became the place for the cider lover and cider curious. But with nearly 8 million people in the 6,900-square-mile Bay Area, one had to wonder why there weren’t more places to satisfy one’s cider thirst. Wonder no more! In the last 18 months, no fewer than three have opened around the bay.
First up was Cider Junction in the San Jose neighborhood of Willow Glen. Owners Claudia Derp and Tracy Smith, longtime home fermenters who were introduced to cider at the now closed Euston Tap in London, first thought about starting their own cider company. They eventually realized that creating a space where folks in the South Bay could come together to share a great glass and a bite made more sense.
Opened in the fall of 2017, Cider Junction has a relaxed, intimate pubby feel and features 25 cider and six beer taps, two coolers with bottles of American and European craft brands, and a menu of simple small plates like tangy cider-braised chicken tacos. “We have a rule that whatever cider we bring in should be made by an independent company,” not a big conglomerate, said Claudia. “We’ve also tried to make a point of meeting as many of the cider makers as we can.” That kind of intimate knowledge, monthly tap takeovers, and a well-trained and friendly staff make Cider Junction a fine place for regulars to try something new and the new-to-cider to discover something they love.
Redfield Cider Bar and Bottle Shop
One hour north in the hip Rockridge area of Oakland, you’ll find Redfield Cider Bar and Bottle Shop, opened in January 2019. It’s a small space, a mere 800 square feet, but the quiet urban minimalist décor makes it feel warm and inviting. That’s certainly the vibe you get from owners Mike Reis and Olivia Maki, one or both of whom will most likely be there to welcome you. Redfield’s regularly rotating tap list (11 ciders and five beers) and by-the-glass bottle pours plus an extensive bottle shop (likely the largest on the West Coast) offers ample opportunity to sample the best that the world of cider has to offer. Bottles can also be purchased to go, perfect for taking to one of the many local restaurants.
Mike and Olivia’s many years in the world of artisanal food and drink informs everything about Redfield. As the founding chairs of the Good Food Awards cider category, they are in an ideal position to know something about a cider company’s ethos, such as their commitment to sustainable production practices and support of community and the environment. But in the end, the cider also needs to taste really good. “We believe in transparency in sourcing,” said Olivia, “so we only bring in things we can vouch for, and every cider is something that we drink ourselves. Our goal is to take the anxiety (some people have) about not knowing what to expect when they buy a bottle out of the equation.” For the serious cider aficionado, Redfield is a little bit of paradise.
Crooked City Cider
The newest Bay Area cider hot spot, Crooked City Cider, opened recently in Oakland’s historic Jack London Square. Owner Dana Bushouse has been making cider commercially since 2014. After sharing tasting room space with a couple of other companies, she decided she needed one of her own where she could showcase not only her own ciders but those of other smaller producers as well. Dana created a space that is young and urban and yet channels a bit of her family history. Two of her great uncles, it seems, were moonshiners during Prohibition. Large-scale copies of their mug shots grace a part of the 2,800-square-foot space, and the décor is an eclectic mix of modern and 1920s speakeasy.
In just a few short months, Crooked City Cider has developed a host of loyal regulars who are eager to try one of the 27 bright and refreshing ciders on tap, including some of Dana’s own. The cider menu is conveniently arranged from sweet to dry, making it a snap to find the part of the cider spectrum that appeals to your particular palate. Beer and wine is also available, as well as salads, sandwiches and other simple fare. This is a place that is all about fun, from the pinball machines to the twice monthly trivia-for-people-that-hate-trivia nights (points for wrong answers if they’re funny!). Crooked City Cider is a welcome addition to the Bay Area’s burgeoning cider scene and sure to be one of the hot new spots of the year.