San Diego’s cider legacy harkens back to the gold rush days of the late 1800s, but as the lode was short-lived, the remaining pioneers in Julian, California, shifted their focus from panning to planting. Patchworks of apple orchards filled the mountain town, one hour east of downtown San Diego, as the terroir proved to be suited for successful growing.
Julian apples stole the show at world’s fairs in Chicago (1893) and San Francisco (1915), and garnered gold medals at the Jamestown Exposition and the International Pomological Apple Show in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1907. Today, fall is famous for Julian apple picking, and now hard cider is blossoming, making its mark throughout San Diego County with countryside and urban tasting rooms popping up like buds on a tree.
San Diego’s position as a craft beer capital with a rebellious culture has also paved the way for cider’s arcing growth. Cidermaker Matthew Austin saw a gap in a palate-savvy market and dreamed up Bivouac Ciderworks, an urban taproom, cidery and zero-waste restaurant, all in the heart of North Park.
“I think we are at the start of what craft beer was a decade ago,” Austin says. He imports cider apple juice from France, favoring bittersharp and bittersweet apples over dessert varietals. “Our ciders are known for their depth of structure and complex flavor profiles that these apples allow us to showcase,” he adds.
Although Austin also taps Julian apples for special releases, what sets Bivouac apart is innovative food and cider pairings like the semi-dry Albright cider with oysters or its earthy beet cider with beet salad.
Throughout San Diego county, visitors will find both ends of the spectrum. San Marcos’ heritage cider-focused Raging Cider & Mead Co. uses 100 percent San Diego fruit and all-wild fermentation, while Scripps Ranch’s Newtopia Cyder creates five apple blends with a medley of West Coast fruit and playful botanicals. In Miramar, Argentine-born Horacio Devoto follows winemaking techniques and slow ferments for his dry ciders at Guthrie Ciderworks and Serpentine Cider‘s duo of wildlife biologist-owners source Northwest-grown apples for the base of their creative offerings poured in a shared space with a meadery. In Vista, Twisted Horn Mead and Cider follows Norse leads with its wooden ship taproom and infused ciders.
6 SAN DIEGO CIDERS TO SIP NOW
Bivouac Ciderworks The Anchorman
This Ron Burgundy-approved citrus-y sipper — made with 80 percent pear and 20 percent French bittersweets — is tart and tasty. A refreshing fizz, it’s reminiscent of a mimosa and pairs nicely with seafood.
Raging Cider & Mead Co. Wynola Scrump
A bone-dry, tannic cider, made from two-thirds bittersharp and one-third sweet-sharp apples, Wynola Scrump has an earthy flavor with hints of leather and floral notes.
Newtopia Cyder Chai Me A River
This crisp and clean, five-apple-blend is the quintessential San Diego cider with chai spices, dried spiced chamomile and dried chrysanthemum flowers. Big, bold apple pie aromas and light acidity make it a crushable refresher.
Guthrie Ciderworks Rosé
Hibiscus leaves meld with golden apple in this off-dry cider that comes in a trendy vintage stubby bottle. Clocking in at 7.5 percent ABV, this is not a light cider but it certainly is sunny and bright for the season.
Serpentine Cider Smoked Pineapple Toasted Coconut
Made exclusively as a release for the Makers District the cidery resides in, this cider takes tropical fruits next level, bringing unique flavors of “backyard barbecue” to a semisweet apple base.
Twisted Horn Scurvy Mary
A limited-time summer release, locally grown grapefruit and rosemary make their way into the off-dry cider for a citrusy cure-all for whatever seafaring issues ail you.
This article first ran in Vol. 13 of Cidercraft Magazine. For the full, original story and more like it, click here.