When Flavor Team member Andrew shared the Facebook post for the Hard Core Cider Tour’s first-ever stop in San Luis Obispo, I voted an enthusiastic thumbs up. What possible reason could the Flavor Team have for not attending this monumental and flavorful event?
Nada. Zilch. None.
We bought tickets that afternoon. And a good thing, too, as the SLO Hard Core Cider Tour sold out before its October 22, 2016, debut at El Chorro Regional Park.
As a personal side note, when I was diagnosed in 2003 with gluten intolerance, my beer drinking days were over. Fortunately, I wasn’t much of a beer drinker. A few years later, a friend introduced me to Strongbow hard cider from Scotland. Cider = naturally gluten-free food. Coincidence? I think not. I’ve been a hard cider lover ever since.
Perfect Central Coast weather (you know… bright blue sky, crisp air, warm fall sun, 72 degrees, coastal breeze), live music, outdoor games, and a couple food trucks provided the perfect backdrop for passionate cider lovers to discuss the merits of Braeburns versus Gravensteins, oak versus stainless, on both sides of the vendor booths.
According to Albert Martinez, Chief Event Organizer of Santa Barbara-based Hard Core Cider Tour, “the first annual Hard Core Cider Tour – SLO was a total success.”
He added, “We met our goal of a sold-out event, and we’re thankful for the support of the local community in having a great turn out and aiding us in the Craft Cider Revival along the Central Coast.”
The company believes in reinvesting in the local communities where they host the Cider Tours. This year’s SLO Cider Tour benefitted Bike SLO County, and was sponsored by New Times SLO.
More than 500 hard cider aficionados gathered to partake of and discuss the nuances of the wares of nearly two dozen cider makers from around the world. Fortunately for the Central Coast, many top-notch cider makers dot the map from LA to Eureka, and several call SLO County home. Cider makers from Washington and Oregon, as well as France and Spain, ensured global cider representation.
Sporting our age-verified bracelets, we picked up our adorable 2-oz cider tasting mugs and started the fun.
First stop was Andrew’s flavorite international cider: Green Goblin, made by Thatchers Cider, all the way from Somerset, England. It’s there we had the good fortune to meet event organizer Albert Martinez, who was doing double-duty pouring samples for Green Goblin.
The crowd grew as the afternoon shadows lengthened, yet the energy at the HCCT was always friendly, convivial, low-key, and fun. Several groups played bean-bag toss and tower building games as they enjoyed their tastings.
After enjoying several of the ciders, and revisiting a few to be sure of our ratings, we enjoyed lunch from the Cubanissimo and The Pairing Knife food trucks, while listening to local musicians Bear Market Riot and Medicine Hat.
As Martinez shared after the event, “We had a blast at the first SLO Hard Core Cider Tour, and we hope all who attended had as much fun as we did celebrating the revival of craft hard cider making.”
Martinez and the Flavor Team look forward to seeing everyone at next year’s SLO Cider Tour. We might be the ones with the Great Flavors food truck. Just sayin’.
Here are a few of our thumbs-up flavorites from the show, listed alphabetically.
*Check out the full listing of cider makers in attendance at the end of this story.
Bristols Cider / Paso Robles, Calif.
Owner and cidermaker Weston uses 100% west-side Paso Robles apples in his Westy cider.
This is great clean, crisp cider. Just what you’d expect in a quality hard cider.
Flavor Team fun fact: We’ve enjoyed a glass of Bristol’s Westy cider on tap at Beda’s Biergarten in SLO after many a swim at SLO Swim Center (Sinsheimer) Pool. (Read the related Adventures and Activities article about our 100-mile swim challenge.)
Humboldt Cider Co. / Eureka, Calif.
Owner and operator Michelle Cartledge crafts what might be the show standout: Passion of the Fruit. With 8.6% alcohol, it’s one of the stronger ciders at the show, and the passionfruit essence adds amazing depth and flavor. Unfortunately, Humboldt Cider is not available locally, so it warrants a road trip to Eureka for a tasting and a growler at their tap room: The Local Cider Bar.
Jean Marie Cidery / Paso Robles, Calif.
Owners and cidermakers Connor Meznarich and brother Brandon offer two distinctly different ciders. Mama’s Boy is fresh and what you’d expect in a quality cider; Training Wheels might be an acquired taste. It uses saison, a yeast used in brewing beer, so it’s got a distinctly beer-like flavor. Available locally at California Fresh Market, Depalo & Sons Market, and several other locations.
Meraki Hard Cider / Pismo Beach, Calif.
Owners and creatives Travis and Quincy Storm craft several great ciders. Sebastapool Gravenstein, which is made with apples from the family orchard in its namesake town, and Totem are flavorites. Early Gold is also good. And their Persimmon doubles as a divine dessert cider. Hmmm… what about a pairing with a Great Flavors Bakery gluten-free dessert? Stay tuned for that. Travis and Quincy deliver growlers locally and enjoy providing Meraki ciders to corporate and other events. And the name? Meraki is Greek for loving what you do and putting heart and soul into work…and it shows in their ciders.
Red Branch Cider Company / Sunnyvale, Calif.
Jon Siddoway, account manager with Red Branch, poured us a sample of their peach cider. Oh, my. It quickly earned the second Flavorite Show Standout. Some fruit-flavored ciders are cloying (and some are like cough syrup). This one is none of that. It’s a magical blend of the best of apple and peach. In fact, we were swooning over its flavor and forgot to ask if it’s available locally. Luckily, Sunnyvale is a great day trip.
Reef Points Hard Cider / Cayucos, Calif.
Hailing from one of my flavorite beach towns, Cayucos-based Reef Points Hard Cider offers two distinct and equally great ciders. Co-owners and cidermakers Patrick Martinez and Dane Jacobs are pouring Kid Neptune, a dry, crisp, flavorful cider, and Unhooked, a delightful sparkling cider. Unhooked’s delicious secret is aging in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels at Niner Winery in Paso Robles (which the Flavor Team has enjoyed a few times), giving it the perfect hint cab flavor. Available locally from California Fresh Market and Depalo & Sons Market.
Tin City Cider Company / Paso Robles, Calif.
Collin Raynaud creates a well-balanced cider that’s easy to drink and enjoy. While it’s dry hopped, it retains it cider flavor instead slipping to the side of beer taste. Enjoy at the tap room or pick it up at California Fresh Market and DePalo & Sons Market.
SLO Hard Core Cider Tour Who’s Who
- Hard Core Cider Tour (#HardCoreCiderTour)
Hard Core Cider Tour
P.O. Box 91113
Santa Barbara, CA 93190
- 101 Cider House – Los Angeles, CA
- Ace Cider – Sebastopol, CA
- Bristols Cider – Paso Robles, CA
- Common Cider Co. – Dry Town, CA
- Finnriver Cider- Chimacum, WA
- Humboldt Cider Co. – Eureka, CA
- Jean Marie Cidery – Paso Robles, CA
- Meraki Cider – Pismo Beach, CA
- Mission Trail Cider Co. – Bradley, CA
- Rambling Route Cider – Yakima, WA
- Red Branch Cider Co. – Sunnyvale, CA
- Reef Points Hard Cider – Paso Robles, CA
- See Canyon Hard Cider Co. – San Luis Obispo County, CA
- Thatchers Cider – Somerset, UK
- Tieton Cider Works – Yakima, WA
- Tin City Cider Co. – Paso Robles, CA
- William’s Orchards – Herefordshire, UK