by Alex “Cider Monger” Fortin
This Saturday, April 26, from 12-6pm in downtown Berkeley, will be the first Cider Summit in California. Already an annual celebration of cider in Chicago, Seattle and Portland, finally the Bay Area will get a taste of what so many people in North America are rediscovering: hard cider. Before my days as cider judge and writer, one of my first experiences with real cider was at the Cider Summit in Seattle.
Not since Prohibition has there been so much interest in cider; the beverage is making a huge comeback as people are searching out more sustainable, local, and gluten-free options. Made from local apple orchards and with an ABV (alcohol by volume) between beer and wine, cider in its simplest form–apple juice and yeast–hits many chords for people looking to try something different. Saturday’s offering will range from the traditional “West Country” English Cider made from cider-making specific apples to a local smoked American heritage apple cider. Regardless of your tastes, there will be plenty of options for even the most advanced cider connoisseur.
Having been a veteran of multiple Seattle and Portland Summits now, I can tell you that this is the must-attend event for anyone interested in trying some of the premier ciders in the world. Listed in the over 100 available ciders are 17 hailing from California, including Tilted Shed and Devoto Orchards, two local cideries that have been on my radar for quite some time. Compared to the international offerings available, you will find both of these choices very approachable and quite easy to drink… even, perhaps a little too easy? Did I mention that the BART is only two blocks away?
Held at the Civic Center Park on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in downtown Berkley, cidermakers and owners will be on-hand to help answer questions and make suggestions. With over 100 American and International ciders available for tasting in 4 oz. pours including 17 Californian cideries, you may need some help in deciding on where to start.
Give these a try first:
Tilted Shed, Graviva!
A semi-dry cider made from mostly Gravenstein apples sourced from organic growers in the Sebastopol area. There’s a lot of buzz around Tilted Shed; last year they were selected as one of 4 “up and coming cider makers to watch in 2013” by Serious Eats.
A winner of Gold at the World’s 2nd largest cider competition, and named after the year the Devoto family moved from Berkeley to Sebastopol and planted their orchard, this semi-dry cider is a blend of their 17 original heritage apple varieties.
E.Z. Orchards, Cidre 2011
A French-style cider from Oregon, it has a residual sweetness and a creamy mouth feel that is so common with the cider of Normandy, France. Smooth tannins and acidity make this a favorite of cidermakers and cider drinkers alike.
Reverand Nats, Hallelujah Hopricot
A cider after the craft beer drinker’s heart, it’s made with French Saison & Belgian Ale yeasts, then topped off with fresh apricot juice and finally dry-hopped with 2 different types. Bold and funky, it’s blazing the way for new cider drinkers.
Alex, The “Cider Monger” describes himself as a cider-evangelist and is one of the leading voices for Craft Cider in the Pacific Northwest. Recognized for his successful cider blog at www.cidermonger.com, Alex has also been printed in Sip Magazine and is a regular contributor to BC Craft Beer News. In addition to writing, Alex is known for his sensory evaluation, which was certified by the National Association of Cider Makers in England. He has judged in commercial cider competitions such as the inaugural Portland International Cider Cup. As a former student of England’s Peter Mitchell and a graduate of Northwest Agriculture Business Centre’s “Cider & Perry Production Course,” he is also an avid home cider maker. In Spring of 2014, he plans to take his knowledge from WSU’s Cider and Perry Orcharding Class and plant a few cider apples in his own backyard.