Now before this blog tanks before its second post, hear us out; we get that you probably (understandably) don’t care about cider…at all. The population in San Diego is divided into two different categories; craft beer fans and craft beer superfans. That is it. So by bringing hard cider into the conversation, we know we’re already walking a thin rope. The carbonation is weird. Am I drinking apple juice or an adult beverage? Fruit doesn’t belong in my beer, so why would I want to drink something solely comprised of it? And finally, beer always tastes better.
That’s what we always figured ourselves. Our first several dates involved going to a number of Boston breweries and brewpubs such as Harpoon and Lord Hobo (if you ever find yourself in Cambridge and want a solid slice of Boston Hipsterdom, GO TO LORD HOBO), and we liked to consider ourselves as lay-persons well-versed in beer and its tasting.
One of our favorite places to go, and in fact one of our first dates, was Downeast Cider House in Charlestown, MA. Their original location itself is a little comical especially upon driving/walking up to it. It’s reminiscent of a movie scene where someone is led to a vacant warehouse lot to later be brutally killed. Okay, that’s not painting a great picture or doing this place any justice, but trust me, its worth it. Underneath the Tobin Bridge, you’ll find a small warehouse with a garage door opening, home to the Downeast Cider House. It’s small space with very limited seating. You can either post up on a bar stool surrounding a wooden barrel or you can sit outside on the loading dock and hang your feet off the edge. You can find a number of board games, and even a cornhole game out in the parking lot on the nicer days. It’s a fun little place to have a day. They have since expanded to a beautiful new facility in East Boston, and we half-seriously think we pumped enough money into that expansion through pure cider consumption that we are due a stake in the company. We could not be prouder of local New Englanders taking a risk and trying to break into the Angry Orchard-dominated cider world;taking something that is so central to any New Englander’s childhood (picking apples in the fall), harvesting local ingredients, and pitting their mark on local cider production.
But the facility, nor even it’s story, is why you go to Downeast; it’s for the cider itself. We’ve tried a number of ciders before, but nothing like this. Downeast is a completely unfiltered, straight from the apple orchard, juicy, golden hard cider that brings to mind cozy fall days. It truly feels like you’re drinking apple cider from the orchard, and it looks like it, too. They use ale yeast as opposed to the champagne yeast central to so many hard cidersBest part is this ciders a little more fun than the stuff at the orchard. ANYWAY, we knew upon leaving Boston that we were going to go through Downeast withdrawals due to the impossibility of finding this local New England cider on the west coast. We figured the best we could do was beg our friends back east to ship some out to us periodically (yes, technically illegal, but ya’ll-this liquid gold is worth it).
For months we searched, trying any cider we could find around San Diego to see if it would even come close to the perfection that is Downeast. Until one day midst conversation with another beer connoisseur, we were informed of Newtopia Cyder. It was a very new cider house that had just opened up a few weeks prior. The review seemed promising, so we thought what the hell, lets give it a try.
Another thing we loved about Downeast was the variations they did on their cider. Whether it was their seasonals such as their maple, pumpkin,winter, summer or cranberry blends (they even make a hard lemonade), or the occasional randals they produced at the cider house only (creating things like jalapeno infused cider, or a cider infused with different fruits or berries) Downeast rarely produced a miss. Pretty unique. So you can only imagine our excitement when we walked into Newtopia for the first time and peeped their lineup. Belgian Pineapple, Strawberry Fields, Indonesian Sumatra, Chai Me a River, India Pale Cyder…just to name a few. And when we saw the hazy, unfiltered beauty that came pouring out of the taps…few things in this life have made me more excited than this moment. Now, all of this buildup and it’s finally time to put this product through a taste test. We of course tried every cider they had on tap, which was somewhere around 10 (just tasters guys, relax). We left there with two crowlers to get us through until the next time (literally a week later) that we could make it back. The crowlers were drank the next day. To say that we were dying to go back would be an understatement.
So since we are currently over half way through our brewery tour at the start of this blog, deciding where to go for our first feature blog went something like this:
Jill: Wanna take Roscoe out for his first blog debut tonight?
Cam: Where? Newtopia?
Jill: Yup. 100%.
And just like every other time before that we’ve gone, Newtopia did not disappoint. They have food trucks Thursday-Sunday, extremely dog and kid friendly. Located right off of the highway in Scripps Ranch, making them super accessible. Outdoor seating area with tables, heaters, string lights and hanging succulent displays. Adorable. The inside features a bar that seats somewhere around 20ish would be my guess, with a number of high bar tables, and a cozy set of couches below a large wall projecting whatever sporting event is on that night. And the artwork for this place…even their coasters and cans are a work of art. Staff is super friendly, will take the time even when they’re busy to talk to you about the cyders, give you samples, pet your adorable dog. And honestly, fruit like infusions are relatively common when it comes to craft cider. They work well, they make sense. But an IPC!? Bless this genius who combined an IPA with a cider, creating a mosaic dry hopped cyder producing a strong apple taste with a hint of hop at the end and a dry finish. Might sound weird at first, but trust-it’s delicious. As previously mentioned, the Sumatra (i.e. coffee) cyder was probably our favorite and had an amazing sweetness that, upon tasting this second tasting last night, brings us straight back to an incredible golden caramel stout we had at Border X Brewing the first time we visited SD together. The Strawberry Fields does put you in a kind of wonderous, whimsical place as depicted in the famous Beatles song The Belgian Pineapple has a special sweetness and unique aubergine color, alongside a little bitterness, reminding us of a fruity Belgian saison.
Newtopia still uses champagne yeast (mostly; some batches employ Belgian ale yeast), yet the pour, haziness, mouth feel, taste, and carbonation are completely different from your typical hard cider in the best of ways. The only aspect in which Newtopia barely falls short of our annoying awesome Downeast is in the thickness; it’s still quite thin, rather lending to its drinkability-a potentially dangerous characteristic. Lucky for us, it’s an easy aspect to overlook given the amount of things this place does right.
So if you’re in the area, or even if you’re not, a million times worth the stop in. With all of the breweries in San Diego, it’s a nice little way to switch up what you’re drinking and try something craft, local, and delicious.
Now please enjoy these pictures of Roscoe loving his trip to Newtopia, where he got to play with babies, improve his modeling skills and was handsomely rewarded in treats.