Fermented crushed fruit is growing in its popularity -- not only nationally, but also locally. In this week's Central Coast Living, cider is under the spotlight as the Fourth Annual Cider Festival kicks off this weekend.
Take a quick trip up to Atascadero and you will find Bristols Cider House isn't particularly young. While it is 25 this year, the cider game is especially youthful.
"We take some stuff from the beer industry. Take some stuff from the wine industry," said Neil Collins, owner. "And it's so new right now, we don't have any really rigid traditions or things we believe we can or can't do. So we're free to play."
Living in that playground has prompted a number of cidermakers to plant their roots on the Central Coast. Now 15 different companies, all with their own take on a hard cider, will celebrate the blooming industry with its fourth festival in Atascadero.
Seeing someone try a cider for the first time is like "the reaction when a good punch line lands in a joke, you get to watch how people respond to something they weren't expecting," cidermaker Erich Fleck said.
"You see a lot of surprise and excitement," said Raven Lukehart, owner of Gopher Glen Apple Farm. "And so a lot of people come in and say I don't like cider, and then they try it and they are like 'this is totally different that what I've experienced' and I think we see a lot of converted cider drinkers."
Both Lukehart and Collins say the local industry has grown considerably in just the last five years.
"Each of our ciders are distinctly different. It happens from the apples we pick and I think a lot of the other producers, it's just more like a bunch of fans getting together," Fleck said.
The focus now is bringing in new flavors to take hold for the next five years and beyond.
"You're starting to see a trend where cidermakers are going back to their roots. And they're looking for specialty apple varietals and they are featuring that single varietal," Ravenhart said.
Cidermakers, Collins says, are a community resembling the best things of beer and winemaking. Now they're looking to make the Central Coast a destination for fermented fruit.
"Maybe it already is," Collins said with a smile. "That's the intent of the cider festival is to draw attention to the fact that there are some really serious minded people here making serious ciders."
The Central Coast Cider Festival on Saturday is already sold out, but tickets are still available for a brunch festival on Sunday which will give attendees another chance for some delicious cider.
You can find tickets at the Central Coast Cider Festival website and what is included in each event.