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Central Coast Cider Festival comes to Atascadero 

Tasting of cider at Bristols Cider in Atascadero.

Tasting of cider at Bristols Cider in Atascadero.

Tickets for May 7 event go on sale in March

– In an area that is becoming known for its wine, food, and craft beer, the Central Coast will now have its own cider festival too. The first ever Central Coast Cider Festival will be held on Saturday, May 7 at Atascadero Pavilion on the Lake.

“We will feature a walk around cider tasting, traditional pig roast and live music,” said Stacie Jacob of Solterra Strategies.

The idea of a cider festival came from Neil Collins, owner of Bristols Cider and winemaker at Las Tablas Winery and Lone Madrone Winery. Jacob said her company, Solterra Strategies, has worked with Collins for his two businesses, Bristols and Lone Madrone, and she decided to undertake the festival because it’s something that fits the region.

“He’s really the visionary, we’re just here to put it all together,” Jacob said.

Bristols Cider owners Neil Collins owner behind the counter at his Atascadero cider house. Photo by Heather Young

Bristols Cider owners Neil Collins owner behind the counter at his Atascadero cider house. Photo by Heather Young

Jacob and Collins have also partnered with Andrew Jones of Tin City Cider, Atascadero Tourism Business Improvement District and Atascadero Chamber of Commerce.

Because Bristols Cider is located in Atascadero, she thought Atascadero would be the perfect location for the festival. She then took a proposal to Atascadero Tourism Business Improvement District at the end of 2015. The board approved a $35,000 commitment to the festival over the course of three years. For 2016, the district will give the festival $14,500, in 2017 $11,000 and in 2018 $9,500. If the event does not happen the second or third year for some reason, Jacob said the district will not give any money. Jacob anticipates a growth over the three years bringing total attendance to 750 to 1,000 people. For the first year, she said goal is 300 to 350 attendees.

“This isn’t new in terms of our world, but because it’s cider, I think it’ll have a buzz and attraction,” Jacob said. “We find that our target audience is craft beverage enthusiasts, health and fitness gurus, foodies and millennials.”

“It’s a growing thing everywhere,” Collins said. “It’s growing at an alarming rate. It’s an exciting industry because no one’s figured out what it is. Is it wine? Is it champagne? Is it beer?”

Collins himself has a variety of ciders, some are sparkling and sweet, some are flat and not-so-sweet and served at room temperatures and some have different fruit or vegetables added. “There are no rules like there are with wine. There’s lots of room for people to explore,” Collins said.

The cider festival will have 15 to 20 cider producers, which Jacob said will be mostly from around the Central Coast and possibly from other areas of California. Collins said there are eight to 10 cider producers around the county. One thing Jacob learned about ciders is that there is nothing standard about them. Each producer has different packaging, different sizing and different flavor profiles.

“It’s like wine,” Jacob said, adding that the varietal of apple, as well as where it’s sourced from and who makes the cider, affects the final product.

In Bristols, England, where Collins is from, there is traditionally a pig roast at cider festivals, so a local caterer will roast a pig to go along with the cider tastings. Collins said that in England the pig traditionally roasted at cider festivals are Gloucester Old Spots, also known as “orchard pigs.”

What Collins said interesting, and exciting, about the cider festival is that it will be one of the first times that local cider producers will be in the same place at the same time. For most of them, making cider is a side project on top of their full-time day job.

Additionally, there could be cider master dinners in advance of the festival.

Tickets will go on sale March 15 at a special early bird price and will be $50 to $65, though Jacob said it hasn’t been decided yet. Also, the time of the event has not yet been determined, but it will be in the early evening. To find out more, go to the festival’s website, Facebook page or Twitter feed.

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