As craft cider and mead production have gained momentum in San Diego, they're often found together. Such is the case with Raging Cider & Mead Co., which introduced both beverages to San Marcos in November.
177 Newport Drive, Suite B, San Marcos
Raging doesn't precisely describe founder David Carr, who speaks with a calm demeanor and practices a methodical approach to fermenting apples and honey. He explains the "Raging" refers back to a younger time, when he and his wife were active in the local punk scene. That's before they moved out to the country, buying a property in Valley Center with enough land to start planting.
"We've grown our own fruit and had various fruit trees, including apple trees, for 20-plus years but really pushed the orchard thing in the last two to three years," Carr says.
Carr, a 20-year homebrewer of beer 20 years, started making cider and mead 9 years ago for his wife, when she discovered she was gluten-intolerant. But Carr himself quickly developed a fondness for both.
Though he has no formal horticultural training, Carr has become adept at raising fruit trees, to the point he manages orchards in Julian and Descanso as well as his own. Their combined harvests support 100 percent of Raging's cider — and perry (pear cider) — production. "We probably have 25 varieties of apples, and one of the orchards has 13 wild-seedling pears," Carr says. "Every one of those has a different characteristic."
It's these characteristics Carr studies and blends, crushing the fruit in-house and wild-fermenting them, meaning with whichever airborne yeasts have settled naturally on their skins. Involved in every phase of the apples' and pears' life cycles, Carr has become knowledgeable about the different aspects of each varietal.
"One of the orchards I manage up in Julian has hundred-plus-year-old trees," he offers as an example. "It's got the original Hawkeye red delicious in there, which is an amazing apple." However, he explains, "It bears virtually no resemblance to the modern-day red delicious."
The bright red version found in grocery stores has been cultivated over more than two dozen generations to remain crisp longer. The heirloom Hawkeye apple is green with red striping. "And when you bite into them," Carr says, "they're crispy and juicy, and just explode with aroma and flavors."
Carr attributes a lot of his knowledge of apple varietals to another local-source cidery, Julian Ciderworks, which he worked with to brew his first batch of ciders last year. Some of these have been aging in oak barrels and are now being served in Raging's tasting room, which is housed in the same building as Carr's second-generation family business, sheet-metal fabricator Crown Steel Mfg.
Raging will produce about 3200 gallons of cider this year, but the amount will vary with each annual harvest. So when the apples are gone, Carr makes mead. Unlike his ciders, Carr's meads are flavored with additional fruit. The business launched with only a single hydromel (or session mead) infused with passion fruit and has another with mulberries on the way. Like the ciders, the meads are locally sourced, with fruits as well as honey coming from areas around Escondido and Valley Center.