How did the Bristols Cider get its’ start?
Erich: Jackie and Neil, the brother and sister founders of Bristol’s Cider, are originally from Bristol, England. Neil is a wine maker with a passion and taste for cider, which provided him with the necessary tools to test out cider-making. At this time in the early 1990’s, there was very little access to cider, especially quality cider. As someone who has the drive and passion to be on the cutting edge, Neil set out to change this. He began experimenting with cider-making and eventually made enough to sell in their Lone Madrone Winery tasting room. Fast forward to now, where in this year alone Bristol’s has made enough cider to fill the equivalent of 3500 cases of wine.
How does Bristols keep their flavors evolving and creative?
Erich: With his background in wine making, Neil knows the possibility of creating each cider with their own flavor. Us cider-makers at Bristols strive to make every variety of cider unique. We press the ciders ourselves, use indigenous yeast, (which will never be replicable), and let the ciders ferment and ferment to dryness. The approach is very similar to what a winemaker may do; letting each individual lot of apples do their own thing then blending what we think makes the most sense, rather than having a recipe to follow.
One of my favorite motto’s from Neil is, “if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, what’s the point in doing it?”. This sense of creativity spills over to the cider makers and empowers us to experiment with flavors and to keep our ciders ever changing and evolving.
What makes it unique from other cideries in the Central Coast?
Erich: Like I’ve mentioned, the encouragement to keep experimenting and exploring is really the foundation to the uniqueness of our ciders. Along with this, we source our apples as far north as Sonoma, into the foothills in Mariposa, and locally in Paso as well. In total, we use between 50-70 different apple varieties in our cider making. It takes years to really get to know what a specific varietal of an apple does: how it blends, what the aromatics are like, and how the flavor may or may not be enhanced by other apples or barrel aging.
Ideally, 3-9 months is the time frame we work to get cider out in. After this time, the freshness of the cider is paired well with a bit of niceness from the age ability. Something that most people don’t know is that Bristol’s also has ciders in bottles that are from as old as 1996. Cider has a beautiful acidity that with the low alcohol you need to age very well, and it caramelizes the older it gets. We will be pouring these bottles at the upcoming Central Coast Cider Festival in August.
What are ways the community can enjoy Bristols Cider?
Erich: Our tasting room is one of the best ways for the community to enjoy Bristols Cider. We offer tasting flights, pints, live music Friday and Saturdays, and local food Thursday-Sundays. Our Cider Club is also a fantastic way for people to get involved at Bristol’s. We have three cider club pick-up parties a year, where we host unique events such as tasting the four stops an apple takes on its’ journey to becoming a cider.
Another great way to get involved is to volunteer! We are always accepting volunteers who are interested in spending part of a day in the sun, pressing apples, listening to music, and laughing. We live by our motto of “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry” from the beginning stages of pressing apples all the way to the drinking of the cider.
What is in store for Bristols in the future?
Erich: The business model we have right now has a ceiling. Our original cider starts out around 7000 gallons and we ran out two months after harvest last year. We will eventually reach a critical mass. Our ultimate goal is to continue refining what we do, keeping the uniqueness and quality of our cider, and making the experience even better than it already is.
Do you have any final thoughts to share?
Erich: Bristols Cider is one of the Central Coast’s best kept secrets. There is a preconceived notion of what cider will taste like, and one of the many favorite moments of my job is when I experience the “ah-ha” moment from someone trying our cider for the first time. Our cider is un-replicable, even for us.
We hope that if you haven’t already, that you’ll take the time to come out and visit us at Bristols tasting room, at Lone Madrone winery, or at one of the events we participate in around the Central Coast. Our motto of “eat, drink, and be merry” is sure to follow you there.
Bristols Cider House