Los Angeles has a lot of festivals — tacos, ramen, Sriracha, wine, beer — but it has never celebrated cider. Until now. The inaugural L.A. Cider Fest will take place on Saturday, Sept. 19, at the historic Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. During each of the two sessions, festival-goers will be able to taste 100-plus craft ciders, beers, meads and kombuchas.
Mark McTavish is the man behind the celebration of all things fermented apple. McTavish is curator and architect of the L.A. Cider Fest, in partnership with Hand Crafted Tasting Co. As owner of distribution company Half Pint Ciders, McTavish opened L.A.’s first cidery, 101 Cider House, in Westlake Village this year. “My vision started back in 2014,” he says. “I wanted to create a unique festival wherein attendees could party their hearts out while learning about cider.”
Cider is popular here, especially popular with health seekers and the gluten-free crowd. “L.A. is the largest market for cider in the U.S., based on sales volume,” McTavish says. “Shocking to many, but it’s true.” That market volume represents commercial cider varieties that taste more like liquid Jolly Ranchers than apples, but McTavish is confident that more artisanal beverages will find their audience.
Many drinkers don't have access to the small-batch ciders that will be available at the L.A. Cider Fest. This makes the fest an opportunity to change minds and challenge palates, broadening the cider spectrum from saccharine bombs to balanced and nuanced beverages. The fest will feature tasting pavilions, organized by style, so that you can isolate what you do or don’t like about a cider and get an idea of what to pair with it.
You can expect a wide range of cider flavors and even textures. The imports are especially worth sampling. Canadian Sea Cider Prohibition is aged six months in Screech barrels, lending it a strong rum character and high alcohol content. French import Bordelet Poire Granit is a perry (cider made from pears), far more delicate than the barrel-aged selections.
101 Cider House will also have its latest release, Black Dog cider. The world’s first “black cider,” Black Dog is made with Newtown Pippin apples, Ventura County lemons and activated charcoal from coconuts. This release comes on the heals of the activated charcoal craze you've witnessed at your nearest juice bar. 101 Cider House also will offer its full lineup of bone-dry ciders.
“The L.A. Cider Fest is 100 percent curated with quality in mind,” McTavish says. “The majority of our selections will be new to consumers in L.A., as they are rare and limited in production.”
L.A. Cider Fest, Sat., Sept. 19, 1-9 p.m.; Raleigh Studios, 5300 Melrose Ave., Larchmont; $55, tickets available here.