North Park’s first cider brewpub opened early this year, adding French- and English-inspired cider to the craft-rich neighborhood, along with creative farm to table dining, and a unique cocktail program featuring entirely fruit-based spirits. Co-founder Matthew Austin produces ciders ranging from dry to sweet, blending French crabapples with sweeter apple varietals from the West Coast. Bivouac’s set up to produce traditional, fruited, and aged ciders, and future plans include canning, bottling, and adding distilling capabilities. The latter would add to the bar’s selection of brandies and eux du vie crafted to resemble gin, rum, and whisky.
Previously known as Bronto Brew, the name change better reflects what this Gwilt family operation specializes in: mead. Bronto’s Miramar brewery and tasting room offers a range of meads ranging from traditional to sparkling, and from melomels (fruited meads) to metheglins (spiced meads). It also hosts Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, gaming tournaments, and beekeeping workshops. You may also find Bronto serving mead weekly at a number of North County farmers markets, and at the one in Mission Valley as of late April.
After three years making cider, this small business on the outskirts of Julian has been busy putting the final touches on a public tasting room set to open this spring. Vintner David Young came back to the area after years operating a winery upstate, making small batches of bone dry cider and perry entirely from fruit grown on a 30-acre family property near Wynola. His father Conrad has made cider here off and on for three decades, but since launching Calico Youngs have built up the orchards over 24 acres, furnishing 125 varieties of apple and pear made into seasonal blends.
Golden Coast Mead
At nearly eight years old, Golden Coast stood as the county’s only craft meadery until only recently. Just about every local methier (mead-maker) has discussed the finer points of mead production with co-founder Frank Golbeck, who pioneered the concept of a San Diego style mead: sometimes sessionable, sometimes sparkling. Lately, Golden Coast hasn’t stopped innovating, and one of the most popular styles in its Oceanside and Julian tasting rooms this year has been a product that never existed prior: sour mead. Whatever the style, Golden Coast’s brand of “sunshine in a glass” focuses on a honey’s terroir, whether sourced locally or from distinctive locations such as the Yucatan.
This Miramar brand began releasing dry, English-inspired ciders last fall, and has been preparing a public tasting room to open this spring. Bottles of a flagship dry cider sell in local bottle shops and markets, a semi-dry at select bars. Both will be available in the tasting room, along with small batch concoctions featuring the likes of locally-sourced apples, fruit and spice infusions, and variant yeast blends. Married co-founders Sara and Horacio Devoto developed the recipes at home during cold winters spent living in Minnesota, and chose to establish Guthrie in San Diego for its decidedly warmer craft beverage climate.
Hidden Hive Meadery
With plans to establish its own spot in the vicinity of San Marcos later this year, Hidden Hive aims to get started this spring with a series of custom crushes made with the help of a local winery. Founder Chris Roach describes his mead style as akin to wine coolers: something approachable and refreshing that would be great to drink while sitting on a beach. Among his early recipes are a margarita style mead (with agave and lime juice), and another with a salted caramel flavor.
Set in a barn on the outskirts of its namesake mountain town, this prolific cidery sources 250 varieties of apple — both from orchards on its own 210-acre property, and others in the area. Co-founder Brian Kenner swears the best apples in North America grow in Julian, and the cidery aims to prove this with a rotating assortment of more than a hundred naturally farmed and produced ciders on tap. Available at the tasting room only, bottles and drafts include single origin ciders, perries, and plum wines — the latter thanks to assorted pear and plum varieties that also grow well in Julian.
Julian Hard Cider
San Diego’s oldest active cider business, Julian Hard Cider has been at it nine years, and operates a tasting room within Julian Station, a co-op of shops and drinking establishments (including Golden Coast Mead) in Wynola. Though based in San Diego, the business distributes to more than 20 states, and whether traditional or fruited, most of its hard cider is made with freshly crushed apples where they’re grown: up in Oregon. However, the past couple years, JHC has been producing small batches of cider with Julian apples grown at Apple Lane Orchard, made available in limited release bottles.
Lost Cause Meadery
Working out of a shared industrial space in Miramar’s buzzing Mirilani Makers District, Lost Cause got out to a fast start at the end of 2017, and this March picked up a prestigious silver medal at the world’s largest mead competition, the Mazer Cup. Married co-founders Suzanna and Billy Beltz share a background in fitness, but Lost Cause has been a product of art and science all the way. Using innovating methods, Billy practices a controlled fermentation to preserve each honey varietal’s character, then lightly carbonates his finished product to better open these nuanced flavors to the palate, resulting in meads far more refreshing than their 11- to 12-percent ABVs suggest.
This hive-to-glass mead maker doesn’t have a tasting room, but its bottles are available at dozens of shops and restaurants, and through the newly formed Southern California Mead Club, which curates seasonal mead selections. The young business hopes to move into its own place by the end of the year. In the meantime, it’s making mead out of a winemaking co-op in Escondido, and is preparing to release a second round of its estate mead in bottles. Meadiocrity operates its own apiary, likely to grow to 250 hives by the end of 2018, and its estate meads are made to highlight the terroir produced by its own bees.
Although Mjødhall (pronounced myood-hall) has yet to find a location to launch its business, many of its recipes have been brewing in north county for three generations. Methier Eric Olson’s grandfather once lobbied the city of Vista for permission to make mead at home, and the family’s been doing so since, brewing from a Lithuanian tradition. Archeologists by trade, Olson and wife Anya Gonzalez have been plotting Mjødhall’s opening for years, but held off due to family considerations. They hope to be up and running by sometime in 2019.
Longtime home mead maker Jim Allison started developing Mysterious Mead as a side gig four years ago, and it lived up to its name until last year, when the enigmatic brand debuted a trio of melomels in bottles. The Ramona business doesn’t have a public tasting room, issuing about 8 barrels’ worth of bottles and kegs to select local businesses, including dry Meyer lemon and strawberry lime flavors, and a sweeter mixed berry batch. Mysterious has plans to open a tasting room down the line, but it won’t likely be this year.
In its first year, Scripps Ranch’s resident cidery has given San Diego its first cider gold medal, collaborated with several breweries and distilleries, and produced 3500 barrels of spelled-with-a-y cyder. Co-founder Rick Moreno applies a range of European traditions to Newtopia cider, and craft beer influences as well. Any given cider may incorporate wild or Belgian yeasts, exotic fruits, unique spice blends, or hops. Meanwhile, a first round of a barrel aged ciders are just hitting maturity. But Newtopia’s just getting started. It aims to open a San Marcos tasting room in May, a Scripps Ranch bistro this summer, and a distillery in year three.
Poochie’s Hooch Urban Cidery
Currently under construction en route to a summer opening in Mission Gorge, Poochie’s borrows its name from a foster dog of founder Mary Paulson, a former firefighter and LPGA golfer who delved into cider making after discovering she’s gluten intolerant. Paulson fostered the namesake Poochie through the Labradors and Friends dog rescue, and Paulson has pledged 20-percent of gross profits from the Hooch will be donated to the organization. She’s developed 32 recipes over the course of years’ worth of parties in her North Park backyard, incorporating flavors such as cinnamon, caramel, ginger, and a host of fruit combinations.
Raging Cider & Mead
There’s locally grown fruit in just about every beverage poured by this multifaceted San Marcos producer. Co-founder David Carr consults with local orchards to improve apple and pear harvests, and uses the results to craft dry, funky, and sometimes barrel fermented ciders and perries, most often brewed with the yeasts occurring naturally on their skins. When apple-picking season has passed, he turns his focus to mead, focusing primarily on melomels, or fruit meads, that pair local honey with exotic local fruits, including the likes of pomegranates, persimmons, mulberries, and passion fruit.
Cider maker Sean Harris first encountered hard cider in his native Pacific Northwest, where the craft cider scene is about eight years ahead of our own. The desert biologist inevitably moved to the southwest to study reptiles and amphibians, and became the rare San Diego homebrewer to make only cider, never beer. He brought his recipes to Miramar late last year, in a space Serpentine shares with Lost Cause Meadery and Good Seed Food Company. Serpentine adds to the wealth of beverage options available in the Miralani Makers District, contributing a flavorful, rotating selection of fruited, spiced, and dry-hopped ciders that range from dry to semi-sweet.
Turquoise Barn Cider
Established in Ramona two years ago, Turquoise Barn does not yet offer public service at its eponymous barnhouse cidery, but private back porch tastings may be arranged in advance. For now, the best places to find Turquoise Barn’s sweet and semi-sweet hard ciders include local bottle shops and craft beer taprooms — plus select vendors at Petco Park! A finished taproom is a part of the brand’s future plans, and that’s not all. While currently supplementing its flavored ciders with outsourced fruit, co-founder Neal Kennedy reports Turquoise Barn has planted 1600 apple trees, counting on a more self-sufficient future.
Twisted Horn Mead & Cider
The county’s most mead-friendly surroundings may be found in Vista, where Twisted Horn co-founders Vince Obarski and Michael McCague have built a small, Viking-style drinking hall. Drinking horns are available to buy, and rotating varieties of both mead and cider to fill them. The cider runs from sweet to dry, both in traditional styles and local fruit infusions. The meads take on the character of several honey varietals —wild flower, orange blossom, or desert sage, for example — and include melomels (fruited meads), hydromels (session meads), and the cider-mead blends known as cysers. Now entering its second year, Twisted Horn has started to reveal what it’s been aging in barrels….
Check out our map and directory from the Winter 2018 issue below: