My home – the province of Ontario in Canada – is a prominent apple growing region and combined with the English influence on Canadian culture we have a pretty strong hard cider market. For as long as I can remember, Strongbow was a staple on taps in Toronto but over the last few years that’s changed as craft cideries have started to pop up – creating incredibly dry and complex ciders that make the big brands look like alco-pop.
One of my favorite ciders from home – Waupoos – debuted in Los Angeles earlier this year thanks to Half Pint Ciders – LA’s first cider-focused importer/distributor. Half Pints sees Los Angeles as a very promising cider market and has gone ‘all in’, their owner Mark McTavish has not only launched 101 Cider House, one of LA’s first cideries, but also is the brain behind LA Cider Fest, which is happening at Raleigh Studios on September 19th.
The festival is pairing their cider with craft beer, which is an important way of casting a wider net for attendees, but honestly the cider alone is more than worth it. When I talked to Mark for a recent article in Beer Paper LA, he explained that his main goal is to introduce cider to the Los Angeles market as an entire category rather than a single beverage and the lineup at LA Cider Fest really showcases that idea.
A big part of Half Pints’ portfolio is about bringing the best in Spanish cider (or sidra) to the U.S. market and LA Cider Fest will offer a variety of them. Spanish Sidra is traditionally wild fermented, often barrel-aged and about as far from macro-American cider as you can get. It’s very lightly carbonated, funky as hell, and often finishes with a delicate savory character that is reminiscent of olives. For fans of Magners or Angry Orchard this might seem a little weird, but I urge you to give it a try – it’s as complex a beverage as any beer I’ve ever tasted.
Having recently attended Cider Summit PDX, I have to say that the Pacific Northwest is making some of the best ciders I’ve had in a very long time, and I’m excited to see many of them being brought down to Los Angeles for this event. Snowdrift Cider Co. out of Washington is crafting some of the most complex, refined ciders on the market. They are dry, clean and anyone who consider themselves a real wine fan will flip over the flavor profiles Snowdrift gets out of fermented apples. Also in attendance will be Cider Riot!, a Portland cidery that takes its cues from traditional English ciders – bone-dry but rich in full apple flavor. Their blackberry cider in particular is beautiful.
Closest to my heart are the Canadian ciders of course, including the aforementioned Waupoos from County Cider Company. Waupoos has an almost champagne-like effervescence and finishes semi-dry. This is the cider that got my wife absolutely hooked on hard cider and is a great gateway into the more complex, higher end styles. Very similar in character is the flagship from Sea Cider out of British Columbia; worth a comparison, but if you get a chance I urge you to try their Prohibition Cider, a rum-barrel-aged cider that boasts an almost 10% ABV and actually works quite well as an ingredient in cocktails.
I started Cask Ale LA because I saw that a segment of the craft beer market wasn’t getting the attention it deserved in Los Angeles and over the almost two years since I’ve started it’s been amazing to watch LA’s appreciation for cask-conditioned beer grow. Over the last year I’ve started to feel very much the same about hard cider in the craft beer market – it’s so often dismissed as a drink for people who don’t like hops or as simply the gluten-free option. But cider is in every way as diverse and complex as craft beer. Don’t believe me? Come to LA Cider Fest and I’ll show you a thing or two.
LA Cider Fest takes place at Hollywood’s Raleigh Studios on September 19th, 2015. Tickets are available here: http://www.labeerandciderfest.com/buy-tickets/
I’m told if you use the the code LABEERBLOG you can get $15 off.
You can also grab discounted tickets on Goldstar.