By Sarah Bennett
Have you ever had a hard apple cider dry hopped with Cascade and Centennial hops? How about one rich in local terroir, made from pressed fruit grown in the San Bernardino Mountains? Or what about any of the number of new-wave versions of America’s historic boozy beverage, some fermented with wild yeast, others infused with adjuncts like prickly pear, charcoal and sage? If your palate has not yet had the pleasure of such fascinating liquids, get thee to Long Beach’s Great Society, the only place in Southern California that takes cider and mead as seriously as the gastropubs take beer.
It’s the first time that a local bar has dedicated an entire taplist to the current innovations happening in the world of fermented apples and honey, and it’s a glorious place where the gluten-free crowd and curious drinkers alike can finally explore the wide range of flavors being made by small-batch cideries and meaderies up and down the West Coast. It’s all a far cry from the sweet-and-sappy liquid candies of Angry Orchard and Stella Artois’ Cidre you see on supermarket shelves.
And when you do go beyond the Bud Lights of cider – made easy by Great Society’s ever-rotating taps and endless bottle selection — you’ll discover a small but intense scene of cider makers that’s been running parallel (albeit at a much smaller scale) to craft beer for years. Now is their time to rise up from the afterthought offerings at the bottom of beer menus and take control of the respect that is rightfully theirs.
Locally, there’s Honest Abe in nearby Gardena (they have a barrel-aged one!) and 101 Cider in Westlake Village farther north (try the Piña Menta!). Beyond that, there’s Troy in San Francisco, Golden State in Sebastopol, Wandering Aengus in Oregon and more. On the mead end, Golden Coast Mead in Oceanside is SoCal’s only makers of the ancient honey-based drink, but there are plenty of other contemporary meaderies, from Nectar Creek in Oregon to Sky River in Washington and beyond.
Meadery Profile: Great Society Cider and Mead