It’s getting cold in Chicago and it has made me look back fondly on the 4 trips we’ve taken to Southern California this Summer and Fall. Between Disneyland and Business trips we had the opportunity to visit some amazing cideries and sample great ciders in the LA & San Diego area.
The cidery was easy to miss at first, tucked away in an industrial park (like this one and this) off the expressway in Carson, CA. The keg lined walls opened up onto a small tasting area with a few guys playing board games and a couple of tables. We had the opportunity to sample all the ciders and mead on tap that day in a couple of cider flights.
The cidery sources the apples for their semi-dry to semi-sweet ciders from the Big Bear California area. One of the standouts was the Independence (a/k/a Civil War) Barrel Aged cider. This cider produced by aging the Farmhouse Apple – which is a slightly sour, unfiltered cider made from a blend of sweet, tart, and heirloom apples which provide a bit of tannin on the finish – for 9 months in Rose barrels. The aging softens the tannins a bit while retaining a slight earthiness, slight acidity, and lingering aftertaste. There is also slight sweetness and hints of vanilla and oak. Some other interesting ciders are the Pineapple, with a pineapple syrup nose is refreshing, not super sweet and reminiscent of a slightly underripe pineapple with apple notes. The Limoncello is reminiscent of a slightly bitter apple lemonade and the Mosaic hopped cider also imparts citrus flavors to the cider but the apple is more pronounced and lingering.
Newtopia Cyder’s tasting room has an urban feel in a slightly suburban area. The concrete slab wall is adorned with artwork (including some cool graffiti) that appears on the cans. The 9 or so taps jut out from a grey subway tile backsplash. We had about 30 minutes before Sean had to catch a flight back to Chicago, so we made the best use of our time and had a flight with all the ciders on tap.
Newtopia sources their apples from the Northwest and dry-spices (similar to dry-hopping) many of their ciders with unique and interesting blends of spices, herbs, and botanicals post-fermentation. When Sean was younger he drank a lot of Orangina (a fizzy beverage that is a blend of orange, lemon, mandarin, and grapefruit juice) and My Darling Clementine reminded him of that. The off-dry apple flavors lightly mingle with the fizzy orange, clementine, and tangerine. I love spice, and the Chai Me a River was a nice unique cider surprise. Traditional chai spices are blended with a semi-sweet cider resulting in warm apple flavors and a slightly spicy aftertaste. Belgium OG is a barrel aged Cider aged in Chardonnay barrels and fermented with Belgium Ale yeast. The cider has a light citrus flavor and slight acidity. The wine barrel aging imparts some Chardonnay flavors into the off-dry cider.
So despite our best efforts we never made it over to 101 Cider House (which is on the Malibu Coast). But Sean was lucky enough to come across two really unique ciders.
The Black Dog cider is a sour cider made from a blend of blood orange, lavender and activated charcoal which imparts black color. Shaking up the bottle ensures a consistent black color when poured and the resulting flavor is fruity and slightly sweet.
SoCal Scrumpy is a bone-dry, unfiltered, farmhouse cider made with cider apples and quince. The wild yeast fermented cider has traditional barnyard characteristics found in a farmhouse style and is slightly sour.