A dozen members and guests of the SFPFS met in the chic, food-centric neighborhood of Oakland’s Rockridge to experience one of the oldest fermented beverages from the civilized world: Cider. Redfield Cider Bar, located on College Avenue, has added to the growing landscape of alternative beverage establishments in the Bay Area. It is run by husband-and-wife team, Olivia Maki and Mike Reis, who graciously opened their doors so that we could learn about the craft.
We first learned that cider-making has been around in the U.S. since the earliest settlements in Plymouth. Cider was the common beverage of colonial America -- even children would drink it diluted. And, long before that, the ancient Greeks and Romans, masters of cider-making, were surprised when they invaded England around 55 B.C. to learn that fermented cider was already being enjoyed there.
For our tasting, Mike poured us three different varietals. He explained the crushing and fermentation processes, differences between apples and pears, and the variation of cider styles between countries, including method champenoise.
The bar’s moniker, Redfield, comes from an apple varietal of the same name. Redfield apples have deep red flesh and is a varietal that was originally created in New York as an ornamental tree. Although not a great apple for eating, it makes a beautiful, deep red cider.
Mike guided us through the three main styles of cider. Each had unique flavors and aromas, from sour and dry with a vinegary aroma to floral with a hint of honey. The Gurutzeta Euskal from Spain is best tasted after a show stopping pour that required Mike to hold the bottle high overhead in one hand. In the other hand, the glass is held as far as way as possible then with a steady hand the cider is poured into the glass.
The store boasts ten different ciders on tap and over 100 bottled offerings from around the world, including the classic apple and pear (known as perry) as well as some more unusual concoctions that include other fruits like cherries or black currants. It also carries some rare late-harvest or “ice-wine” versions where the apple mash is frozen and the concentrated juices ferment into a sweeter, dessert cider.
Besides the beverage offerings, Redfield also has a small kitchen to enhance the tastings with offerings of small plates, sandwiches, and salads to complement their growing clientele of cider aficionados. We appreciate a behind-the-scenes tour and will definitely be back.