A new cider tasting room would have opened in North Park this week, if not for the pandemic.
On El Cajon Boulevard, just about the point North Park becomes University Heights, the new taproom for Serpentine Cider was originally slated to open this weekend (2311 El Cajon Boulevard). The coronavirus had other ideas. So instead of hiring a crew to build out the space and open quickly, owner and cidermaker Sean Harris has the time to gather his tools and finish the place himself, just as he did at his Miramar brewery.
8665 Miralani Drive #100, San Diego
8665 Miralani Drive #100, San Diego
“Now I can do almost everything myself,” Harris says, “save some money, be able to put my heart into this one also.”
However, even as he works, the new location is helping business: as a pick-up point for customers. A satellite taproom has been in Harris’s plans since Serpentine launched in fall 2017, the point being to bring its cider closer to where people live. The pandemic hasn’t stopped that from happening.
Harris brings pre-filled crowlers with him to North Park, pre-ordered through Serpentine’s web site by locals who no longer have to drive to Miramar to re-stock on the brand’s popular guava cider. Harris is even following through with his seasonal new releases, including pomegranate mint, or juniper sage with lime zest.
A crowler of Serpentine Cider being passed through window of new North Park location.
Photo courtesy of Serpentine Cider
Serpentine wasn’t the only one planning a big opening when American life changed in mid-March. In fact, its Miramar suitemate, Lost Cause Meadery, had just spend the winter moving production from their shared brewing space, into its own new location in Bay Park (5328 Banks St Suite B). A grand opening had been scheduled for March 28.
“It couldn’t have been worse timing for us,” says meadmaker Billy Beltz, “We put every cent into this space.”
Lost Cause spent most of 2019 preparing for this moment and has had to switch gears to recapture some of the business it’s losing during this shutdown. And it's sitting on plenty of mead, as Beltz explains: “We had built up inventory to be ready for this huge raging party.”
Most of his meads age well, so the new location now has thirty barrels filled with mead — at least ten more than he’d anticipated at this point. But for the current moment, Lost Cause updated its web site to accept mead orders, including assorted bottles bundled into “self quarantine packs,” available for pick up at the new Bay Park location.
Those orders may also be shipped, nationwide. In that regard, Beltz ultimately finds a silver lining that keeps him feeling optimistic about making it through this shutdown: The Lost Cause brand has had more than two years to make a name for itself, including plenty of fans out of state.
Good Omen Mead hasn’t yet had that chance. A mead homebrewer going back more than a decade, founder Brian LaMere originally planned to launch Good Omen six years ago. Delays have come in many forms, including a motorcycle accident, the unexpected arrival of two foster children in need, and the false start of an Escondido booze cooperative in conjunction with a new brewery and distillery, among other businesses.
However, a standalone Good Omen property was due to arrive this spring: an ambitious, 14,000-square-foot property in the center of Escondido’s historic downtown (141 East Grand Avenue), licensed to host live music, comedy, dancing, and even an on-site card room.
LaMere’s points out his wife is a virologist at UCSD, so as early as January his family was taking the covid crisis seriously, planting a home garden and bracing for yet another delay to the mead business.
That said, Good Omen has 16,000 liters of mead ready to go into bottles, including plenty of the sherry-like mead LaMere is known for, plus session and sour meads made by gold-medal-winning mead-maker Chris Herr, who recently joined Good Omen after several years of innovative brewing at Oceanside’s Golden Coast Mead.
Good Omen may not be able to bring its Escondido vision to life just yet, but that won’t stop LaMere from bringing its product to market. For the first time, bottles will be available to order and ship through its web site beginning in May.