In this new year (happy new year, by the way), I decided I need to start exploring my “new” hometown area a little more. Not wanting the downtown experience, with all the hipsters, run-of-the-mill bars and any kind of defined scene, I decided to head east to Julian, CA, home of some rather popular hard cider you may have seen on the shelves at a store near you.
This trip took me through two Indian reservations, four valleys and a lot of windy mountain roads, ultimately bringing me to the sleepy little community of Julian. This historical town is in the high desert east of San Diego. I learned some interesting tidbits in the local museum there, such as the town’s founding by three Civil War soldiers because land was much cheaper than in post-war Georgia. Some good food and interesting things along the main drag there in Julian, but we’re here for the beer, right?
Well, not to disappoint, but the drink of choice in this area is cider, mostly due to the vast apple orchards in the valleys around there. Enter Julian Hard Cider. Their process is very simple, brewing only with fruit juice and yeast. There is something to be said for simplicity in craft brewing.
The…brewery (do they “brew” cider?) is harder to find that I thought it would be, considering it sits in a town of fewer than 2,000 people. Like most breweries I have encountered, it inhabits an industrial warehouse-style building about three miles off the main drag. It is connected to an indoor mall of sorts, with a Mexican restaurant, craft studio and some other odd shops. I drove past it a couple of times before figuring out where I needed to be.
Walking in, to the right was a wide open gallery-style area with all the shops along the outside, an arcade in one corner, and a sitting area in the middle with couches and a couple plush chairs. It was kind of an odd assortment to me. But not to be deterred, I headed in for some sampling.
This is the lightest of their offerings, though each holds steady at a surprising 6.99% abv. Harvest Apple poured completely clear, with only the slightest hint of gold from the apples and only very few tiny bubbles from the carbonation. It had a sweet yeasty aroma, much like that of champagne. There was only a light apple smell and a touch of fermented sourness. It tasted very fresh, with the apples foremost, then the yeasty champagne flavor kicked in. After that, a tart sourness came through, finishing dry with tart apple flavors.
This was a refreshing drink, but it reminded me far too much of champagne, which, in turn, reminds me of a headache.