Last year, fivethirtyeight.com called hard cider the fastest-growing segment of the craft beverage market. As we enter 2017, the movement is catching on in San Diego, with several new cideries in the works for the new year.
10045 Carroll Canyon Road, Scripps Ranch
First up will be Scripps Ranch startup Newtopia Cyder — which favors the old English spelling. Cofounders Rick and Jennifer Hays Moreno met while working in the health care industry, which they still do, but the married couple has been steadily making a move into the craft beverage business.
"We have a lot of friends in the craft industry, so we gravitated toward that to get out of our 9 to 5 that we normally have," says Jennifer. "We just want to get out of the corporate world and get into the craft world and do something fun for a change."
They claim an ownership stake in the Seattle location of North Park craft beer bar Toronado, and have been developing Newtopia for the past two years, outfitting it with multiple 30- and 60-barrel tanks and plenty of ambition. "We have the goal this year to do about 2000 barrels, with the capacity to do 10,000," says Rick Moreno. "We're not just here to build a local presence, but a regional presence as well."
Moreno started out making cider at home, then apprenticed with Newtopia's "master cyderist," Rusty Figgens, a noted Washington winemaker and distiller whose long career in the beverage industry includes turns as educator and consultant.
They've conspired to create four core Newtopia offerings: Semi-sweet, made with elderberry flower and eucalyptus leaf; Belgian, made with pineapple, cardamom, and saison yeast; the marionberry Wyld Cyder; and craft beer–influenced India Pale Cyder (IPC), steeped with Mosaic hops. "We essentially create our base cider and infuse botanicals in the secondary," Moreno explains, "kind of like dry hopping."
Small batch offerings will include fresh-hopped and coffee-infused ciders, plus frequent collaborations with an international retinue of visiting ciderists. Newtopia taps orchards in northern California, Oregon, and Washington to blend varietals like Fuji, Red Delicious, and Granny Smith. "We do private crushes all the way from Santa Cruz, to Hood River, to Yakima," he notes, adding, "We'll also have single varietal ciders like the Gravenstein, which is really popular right now."
While the latter apple grows up north in Sebastopol, the Morenos profess a strong commitment to the Scripps Ranch community, where they live, and strive to incorporate local ingredients — such as the eucalyptus leaf in their semi-sweet cider. They point out the 47-foot tasting-room bar hews from reclaimed eucalyptus salvaged after the massive Cedar Fire that burned much of the community in 2003.
Moreno intends to cultivate local wild yeast to produce brett ciders in oak barrels and will look to add local terroir by planting apple trees. "It's in the works right now to have our own private orchard estate," he says. "We have ten acres right here on Scripps Valley Parkway."
While Newtopia plans to distribute cans and add a distilling component to the business down the road, subsequent to its mid-January opening, expect growler and crowler fills, food trucks, and catered snacks on the tasting room's spacious drinking patio.