New: Central Coast Cider Festival

Try a host of tawny elixirs in Atascadero in early May.

THAT AMBER, APPLE-Y BREW: The Golden State is rich in gold-libation'd gatherings that put the focus on foam, as in beer, as in the best quality brews that are staples of California's top-notch craft breweries. But another brew is on the rise-and-rise, a distinct but friendly cousin, if you will, to ale, but with whole fruit-forward profile. It's cider of which we speak, that apple-amazing, powerful-to-the-palate beverage that isn't just a deeper drink for autumn or winter. If beautiful core-centered, seed-sweet apples are about, it is time for cider, whether the calendar says it is fall or spring. A spring fling of the most flavorful sort is just ahead, in Atascadero. If the notion of hard cider plus the pretty Central Coast town make you think of Bristols Cider, well, you've raised the right glass: Neil Collins, the cider pro behind Bristols, wanted "to celebrate the local cider movement," on that continues to grow as wineries step beyond the grape and get to know the many sippable sides to the apple. Mr. Collins is also a vintner at Lone Madrone and Table Creek, so call the Central Coast Cider Festival, which will happen on Saturday, May 7, a treat for those gourmands of both vino and beverages that began with something sweet plucked from the branch of a tree. The pre-sale begins on...

MARCH 15, when tickets'll go for fifty bucks (the end date on that deal is April 1). After the first of April, tickets are available for sixty dollars. That ticket will put you front-and-center before about 15 to 20 regional cider makers, including Tin City Cider of Templeton, not to mention Scar of the Sea and See Canyon. The Atascadero Lake Pavilion is the place, and a traditional pig roast, with Chef Jeffrey Scott of Vineyard Events at the helm, will lend the day its centerpiece feast. Music, that Atascadero charm, and apple-y bevs that would do California's craft brews and fine wines proud will fill the first Saturday in May, a day that's quite far from fall (further proving that a stellar cider is a year-round sip).

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