A Pleasant Challenge to the Palate: Tin City Cider Company
Our long-time readers know we are acutely interested in all things fermented—be it wine (our favorite) or other spirits. So when we tripped over Tin City Cider Company, we were intrigued.
Everything Tin City Cider makes is based on hard apple cider. The main difference between non-alcohol apple cider and hard cider is the presence of yeast for fermentation. There are many varieties of apples that can be used to make hard cider, and choice of apple is the very first choice the cider-maker must make.
The founders of Tin City Cider all have a background in winemaking. The trio, Curt Schalchlin, Mikey Giugni and Andrew Jones use apples, hops, strawberries, cherries, lemons, passionfruit and oranges grown in California. There are seasonal blends that are produced only when certain fruits are available to the cider makers, so the menu can change slightly. Caveat: some of these special ciders are produced in very limited quantities, so the only way you can get them is to join their cider club.
Honestly, our palates had no idea what to expect when we visited the tasting room on a cold January day. Our tasting attendant, Melissa, also works as the event planner, and yes, there are fun events at Tin City Cider several evenings every week, was friendly and informative. Tasting fees are $12 a person, with a generous 3 ounce pour.
Warning: this stuff is NOT for kids and although several of the ciders don’t taste of alcohol at all, the alcohol content is higher than the average beer. It’s very lightly carbonated, a residual effect of the yeast used to get the fermentation process going. There is no sugar left in these ciders, so they are lower in calories than some adult beverages, and are also gluten-free. Due to the absence of sugar, the likelihood of hangover is diminished (not that we are suggesting you every drink to excess!). You could easily mistake any of these ciders for a fluid that can reduce dehydration after a very hot day. We recommend you don’t use them solely for that reason.
The very first cider we tried was the Original. It is created by the dry hop process, which means that unlike beer, which is usually made with hops that have been boiled before being added to the mixture, the hops are tossed into the already fermented apple cider, and allowed to share their flavors with the cider. It’s fermented in barrels, just like wine. Made with tart green apples and served cold, it’s very refreshing, goes down easily and has an alcohol content of 7.5%. We are going to give this one a try in a braised chicken recipe.
Next up was Strawberry Fields. It is one of those seasonally-produced ciders, with fresh strawberries grown in Oxnard. We couldn’t help think this cider would be so awesome used as a turkey brine, or better yet, alongside an apple strudel or summery strawberry cake. It goes down deceptively easy (alcohol content 7.5%) and immediately makes you wish for a warm summer night. Keep out of reach of children. This one goes down very easily, and we characterized it as being a “party in your mouth.” We reserve that term for something truly fun, but we found ourselves using this phrase a lot during our visit!
“Goldie” is a cider that’s aged in new French oak, and combined with a Santa Ynez-sourced chardonnay. With 10% alcohol, it’s the highest content cider. There’s a touch of vanilla on the palate, no doubt thanks to the chardonnay wine. Even if you don’t like chardonnay, you will like this.
Another seasonal offering is Liliko’i, the Hawaiian word for passionfruit. It’s cider with passionfruit that’s been sourced from nearby Cambria. This is another that goes down deceptively easily, and contains 8.5% alcohol.
Probably the most popular cider is Templetucky. Aged in barrels that were previously used to age bourbon, Templetucky is made with Mandarin hops and blood orange rind from oranges grown in Cambria. A leftover flavor profile from the barrels is of course the bourbonn flavor as well as a bit of caramel. At 9.5%, this is definitely an adult beverage and does taste like one, but still goes down easily.
Weissland has the same basic flavor profile as Templetucky, but is actually made with a blonde wort for a stronger beer-like flavor profile. Wort is what’s produced after a barley and hops have been combined and boiled in a temperature-specific process, but prior to the addition of yeast for fermentation to begin. Its alcohol content is identical to Templetucky at 9.5%.
Main Squeeze is another of those goes down deceptively easily ciders. At 7% alcohol, it’s a bit more forgiving if you slam it down quickly, which you will do because of its fun, citrusy flavor. Made with lemonade that’s made from Cambria-sourced lemons, it’s a fun thirst-quencher—and yes, another party on the palate.
Another thirst-quencher is Bocce Club Saison, made with cherries sourced from Lodi. This goes down as easily as Strawberry Fields, Liliko’i or Main Squeeze. We immediately thought, “What a fun sangria this would make, put into a pretty punch bowl, decorated with orange slices and fresh halved, pitted cherries!" Like Main Squeeze, it is 7% alcohol content, and yes, a party on the palate.
We did not get to taste Cadus, which is cider made with Huell melon hops. It’s currently in barrels, and will be ready for release in the next month.
Tin City ciders are available on tap in kegs, pitchers or by the glass (to be enjoyed onsite), cans or refillable 750 milliliter Growler bottles. After you initial purchase, you can come back to Tin City Cider and refill your bottle—$10 for a refill of Original, $15 for any other variety.
There’s an active slate of events at Tin City Cider. Art & Soul Painting Workshops are scheduled for selected Tuesdays. There’s Trivia Thursdays, complete with single-dish food cooked onsite. Recent offerings have included comforting grilled cheese sandwiches, bread bowl stew or pulled pork sandwiches. On Fridays there’s live music.
One of the upcoming special events is a “Puppy Adoption Day,” with Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo onsite from 1 to 4 p.m. with cuddly adoptable puppies (you can’t go home with your puppy, but applications will be taken and you’ll be instructed to go to Woods Humane to pick up your new family member in a few days!).
Cider Club membership brings you the benefits of three releases per year consisting of four packs of limited production specialty ciders, 20% off retail prices and invitations to release parties and special sales.
Tin City Cider is very easily accessible, just off of Highway 101 south of Paso Robles. If you are looking for something unexpected and refreshing, with zero hint of having to use the right language in describing what you are tasting, definitely visit Tin City Cider! Open six days a week (closed on Mondays), you will have a fun tasting room experience and definitely expand your horizons in regard to what can be made with different varieties of fermented apples!
Are you going to check out Tin City Cider next time you find yourself on 101?
A special thank you to Tin City Cider for providing photos for this post.