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Bites: Fresh off the press 

I have yet to meet a beer I couldn’t drink. That said, I have drunk some pretty shameful beers (I’m pretty sure some of the drafts I had in college were created by breaking a mercury thermometer over a bottle of motor oil). So you can understand why when I do find a good beer I’m relegated to a gushing mess; thankfully, writing this column sometimes lets me shower 500 words’ worth of complimentary exclamations on the talented and lucky few who have pleased me with their booze offerings.

But lest you think I have a taste only for beer, let me tell you about the best thing I have discovered about adulthood, ever: hard cider.

It harkens back to careless, youthful days spent sucking down Martinelli’s on the swings, except now my cider requires me to have a designated driver and a valid, California driver license.

I have tasted the hard cider straight from the English tap, and I’m sorry to say that big-name, American cider efforts have failed to woo me.

But recently I sat down with Connor Meznarich, assistant cider maker at San Luis Obispo’s first local, hard cider makers, Bristols Cider.

People had been hounding me to throw down some of their mixed-apple hard cider, so Meznarich met up with me at the Kreuzberg empire’s Sidecar to help tell the story of SLO’s cider makers, and to check out the recent introductory keg put in at the restaurant.

“In 2011 we made roughly 650 gallons of cider,” Meznarich told me between sips of his perfectly dry, yet slightly sweet cider. “Last year we made over 2,000 gallons of cider. … We more than doubled our production, and we still want to make more.”

Bristols Cider is dry and full, just like the English do it, and that’s probably because an English man makes the stuff.

Neil Collins grew up in the West Country of England, and when he moved stateside, he found California was cider-dry. So in 1994 he started making small batches of his own from local apples under the Bristols name.

Bristols still uses local apples (from places like Gopher Glen Farms in Avila) to fuel its cider goodness. But now the company has grown, and Meznarich works with Neil and fellow brewer Ryan Pease to make original and exciting new concoctions.

“Right now we’re working on a batch [of cider] that has been fermented in old bourbon barrels, and we’re adding Brett yeast, which would normally not be used in the fermenting process, to create a new kind of cider,” Meznarich explained. “I just had some the other day, and it was incredible … too good to describe.”

Somehow none of Meznarich’s ideas or plans for Bristols seemed crazy to me, but that’s probably because at the time of our interview I was too deeply immersed in my plans to steal the keg from Sidecar.

Bristols Cider sells its cider in 22 oz. bottles at Lone Madrone Winery in Paso. For more info, visit

Calendar Editor Maeva Considine loves apples and booze and those two things together. Tell her your dreams, secrets, and food-related news at [email protected].

Readers Poll

Do you think the SLO County Board of Supervisors should have gone against their policy that states funding for independent special districts should not result in a net fiscal loss to the county?

  • A. Yes, the housing and job opportunity the Dana Reserve is bringing is important
  • B. No, it's giving special privileges to the Nipomo Community Services District
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