Have you ever had a hard apple cider dry hopped with Cascade and Centennial hops? How about one rich in local terroir, made from pressed fruit grown in the San Bernardino Mountains? Or what about any of the number of new-wave versions of America’s historic boozy beverage, some fermented with wild yeast, others infused with adjuncts like prickly pear, charcoal and sage? If your palate has not yet had the pleasure of such fascinating liquids, get thee to Long Beach’s Great Society, the only place in Southern California that takes cider and mead as seriously as the gastropubs take beer.
It’s the first time that a local bar has dedicated an entire taplist to the current innovations happening in the world of fermented apples and honey, and it’s a glorious place where the gluten-free crowd and curious drinkers alike can finally explore the wide range of flavors being made by small-batch cideries and meaderies up and down the West Coast. It’s all a far cry from the sweet-and-sappy liquid candies of Angry Orchard and Stella Artois’ Cidre you see on supermarket shelves. .
And when you do go beyond the Bud Lights of cider – made easy by Great Society’s ever-rotating taps and endless bottle selection — you’ll discover a small but intense scene of cider makers that’s been running parallel (albeit at a much smaller scale) to craft beer for years. Now is their time to rise up from the afterthought offerings at the bottom of beer menus and take control of the respect that is rightfully theirs.
Locally, there’s Honest Abe in nearby Gardena (they have a barrel-aged one!) and 101 Cider in Westlake Village farther north (try the Piña Menta!). Beyond that, there’s Troy in San Francisco, Golden State in Sebastopol, Wandering Aengus in Oregon and more. On the mead end, Golden Coast Mead in Oceanside is SoCal’s only makers of the ancient honey-based drink, but there are plenty of other contemporary meaderies, from Nectar Creek in Oregon to Sky River in Washington and beyond.
In addition to curating tap takeovers, special one-off pours and other events to rally together the nascent "cider nation," Great Society's owners Otto and Brenda Radtke (Otto is the former general manager of import-centric Alpine Village in Torrance) have also put together an eclectic menu of small plates, grilled skewers, salads and burgers to help balance out the endless taster flights you're bound to drink here. It's all a nice change for the architecturally striking East Village building that's been sitting in a prime corner location for half a century, but for some reason was plagued by mediocre diner after lame restaurant, each one closing after only a few years of the neighborhood tolerating its dullness.
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Where does all this cider and mead love leave beer? Right at the bottom of the menu where cider had been relegated for so long. But the Ratke’s aren’t trying to be mean. There are 10 bottles and cans that fit the weirdness, from Solarc’s Belgian-style gruit Dunes to Clown Shoes’ imperial stout with ancho chilis. Enjoy!
601 E. Broadway Long Beach; (562) 270-5625; greatsocietycider.com