Craft beer might be getting all the attention right now, but it’s all cider all the time at Great Society, the first bar in Southern California dedicated to sourcing and serving America’s historic boozy beverage in all its modern-day glory.
The long-awaited bar and eatery opened in downtown Long Beach Thursday night with a 20-deep tap list, which reads more like a craft beer lineup from an alternate, gluten-free universe than the Angry Orchard crap we’ve become accustomed to. On draft were hard apple ciders dry-hopped with Centennial, Cascade and Columbus hops; an oak-aged dry cider made with heirloom Washington apples; and a pink prickly-pear cider infused with adjuncts like basil and agave nectar, among others.
Then there are the meads, made from fermented honey, which are the other slice of Great Cider’s uncommon focus. On tap were meads made from blackberries and cloves, from blends of apricots and honey, and a 12% ABV one made in Oceanside fermented with Belgian ale yeast like your favorite Trappist beer. Next week, the selection may be entirely different.
America is in the midst of a contemporary craft cider revolution that is running parallel to (though slightly more under the radar than) the now nearly mainstream craft beer one. And while the East Coast may be the ancestral home of these artisanal takes on hard cider (it is where the early settlers first made theirs, after all), market research shows that L.A.’s health-conscious consumers and rabid gluten-free crowd have helped make it the largest market for cider in the United States, based on sales volume.
Unfortunately, most of those sales are for ciders that taste more like liquid Jolly Ranchers than apples – for now. Great Society’s interior design is intent on propagating cider love across the land, and its selection so far represents an exciting cross-section where even beer nerds can get acquainted with the flavor possibilities of fermented apples, honey and more.
L.A. County’s two cider makers are well represented at Great Society. Honest Abe opened in Gardena earlier this year and makes both ciders and meads (on draft were a tart, fruit-forward cider made with apples grown in the San Bernardino Mountains as well as a strawberry mead). And the year-old Westlake Village’s 101 Cider is as close to a powerhouse as a small-batch cidery can be, with owner Mark McTavish launching a cider distribution company as well as last year’s first L.A. Cider Fest, plus making dozens of his own creative and complex ciders available around town in bottles and kegs (they’re the creators of the aforementioned prickly-pear cider as well as a special, salty gose-style release made exclusively for Great Society’s opening).
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Because Great Society is the only SoCal bar specializing in cider and mead, expect lots of special events with the two local cideries along with hard-to-find kegs and bottles from popular craft brands such as B.Nektar, Wandering Aengus, Reverend Nat’s and more.
Soft opening hours are 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 4:30 p.m. to midnight on Thursday and Friday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday. Food includes small plates, meat skewers, seasonal salads and flatbreads, with more dishes to be added as the kitchen gets its sea legs.
Great Society Cider & Mead, 601 E. Broadway, Long Beach; (562) 270-5625, greatsocietycider.com.