101 Cider House: Be Healthy, Happy, and Merry

For those unfamiliar with the sprawling gridlock that is Los Angeles, California, the 101 Freeway is the bane of many a morning commuter. No, driver in general. As you sit with the sunshine glaring down on you, the car behind you inching closer, and no chance of escaping to your exit just a half mile away, the minutes become fruitless.

The 101 Cider House, however, takes this negative association and flips it along with everything else you’ve ever imagined about cider on its head. Climb on your car, roll out your yoga mat, and mindfully meditate on the spectrum of ciders that 101 Cider House is bottling up just off the upcoming exit.

Mark McTavish, the founder and cider master behind the company is not new to the craft beverage scene. In fact, 101 Cider House is only a slice of his apple-inspired undertakings. The Westlake Village warehouse also holds parent company Half Pint Cider, an exclusive cider focused import and distribution company (but more on that in another article). We’re stepping away from the candy sweet, generic ciders. Far, far away. 101 Cider House goes so far as to classify their beverages under sour, raw cider. This stems largely from Los Angeles’ love for juice bars. Fresh-pressed, raw, and unfiltered juice. Mark fully understands this west coast culture and has perfectly cornered the consumer market.

Each batch begins with a raw apple juice base, pressed from a variety of apples that may alone cause mouth puckering. Then, they walk away. For a few months, the juice is left to evolve through wild fermentation into its apple alcohol. Poof! Cider! And? It’s healthy! Through this natural process, they allow lactic acid bacteria to thrive and multiply creating probiotic cultures much like those found in kombucha, yogurt, and sauerkraut.

I had the chance to speak with Peter Clausen, the in-house microbe wrangler (aka production manager) more about this. “It’s sort of like how you can choose to eat healthy. You can also drink healthy. Flavor-wise, it [lactic acid] makes it a lot sourer and it does contribute to our dryness as well.” That’s only the beginning. Peter said because 101 Cider doesn’t grow and harvest their own fruit, the focus is less on agriculture and more on blending.  

Now think juice bar meets cocktail culture. Steep in some fresh Thai basil. Pour in pressed prickly pear juice and you have their brilliant ruby cider called 
Cactus Red. Or juice a few blood oranges. Infuse with lavender and finish with activated charcoal for a black elixir named Black Dog (catch these in our reviews later). That is only a sampling of their funky flavors. Not to worry, locavores. All of the fruit and herbal additions are locally grown and sourced from orchards and farms lining the vast expanse of the 101 Freeway. This is a quality cider company from press to pour.

Peter explained it best saying, “I think we have the experimental attitude of – drinkability of beer along with the complexity of wine.” Unfortunately, they do not host a public tasting room in their unassuming industrial space. Peter welcomes anyone interested in taking a private tour to get in touch though. You can also order 22 oz. bottles direct to your door from their website. But wait! Coming to cider enthusiasts in early 2018 is 101 Cider House’s official Downtown LA tasting room. Keep an eye out on their Facebook page for the details.

When I asked Peter where he sees the California cider industry going, he knew that last year’s Nielsen data said we drink more cider here in Los Angeles, per capita, than any other city in the United States. “The perception of cider being either too sweet or too girly for people is really going away. People are becoming more aware of it [craft cider] and it’s getting more diverse and bigger.” So don’t count out SoCal (Southern California). They’re just as excidered as us.

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