The East Bay cider scene got a significant boost this month when Redfield Cider Bar & Bottle Shop opened in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood. The shop opened for business Jan. 6.
Redfield is operated by husband-and-wife duo Olivia Maki and Mike Reis, who live in Berkeley. Both Maki and Reis have strong backgrounds in the food and beverage industry. Reis had worked as a cicerone at San Francisco’s Monk’s Kettle and the now-closed Abbot’s Cellar. Maki has worked in marketing and communications for farms and agricultural businesses, and led educational programs for Bi-Rite Market.
“We didn’t have a great spot to go and drink cider,” said Maki. “So we decided to just do it ourselves. And we thought given our backgrounds and our strengths, that we would be a good team to be able to do it, and do it well.”
The shop offers a curated selection of ciders from around the world, with 113 craft varietals available for purchase by the bottle and another 10 ciders available on draft. For patrons looking for something to nibble alongside their glass, Redfield offers a snack menu of cheese, charcuterie, as well as a prosciutto sandwich, mixed green salad and kuku (a sort of Persian frittata) from Oyna Natural Foods out of La Cocina in San Francisco. For those looking to switch up the rotation, Redfield also has a select wine menu and offers six beers on draft.
“I think maybe six years ago if you’d asked me what I’d like to be doing, I’d have said opening a business just like this but with beer,” said Reis. “But this area is very well served with beer establishments, and at the same time cider has gotten better and better, especially here in California over the past few years.”
California is the third most active cider making state, according to Cyder Market, with many cideries in the northern part of the state. In fact, before Sonoma County was wine country, it was cider country. And in the last few years, an increasing number of Bay Area cider makers and cider houses have appeared on the scene, including Far West Cider in Richmond, Crooked City cidery in Oakland, The Cider Junction bottle shop in San Jose and Upcider gastropub in San Francisco. The trend might be described as something of a cider renaissance.
Maki and Reis look to honor the heritage of cider culture at Redfield. Their glassware is inspired by the traditional pints of Asturias and the Basque country in Spain, while the shop takes its name from a New World variety of cider apple.
The Redfield apple is a bit of an outlier. The fruit is red-fleshed, rather than white, yellow or cream colored, and is high in tannins and pectins. Most ciders are a blend of apple varieties, but Redfield apples have the right combination of sugars and bitter compounds to make for a complex cider on their own. From the moment she tasted a glass of Redfield cider, from West County Cider, Maki was smitten. She keeps a photo of a cut fruit as the background on her phone.
Cider culture is growing, but it’s certainly not as developed in the Bay Area, or the U.S. as a whole, as it is in the UK, France or Spain. The lengthy heritage of Old World cideries assures a certain quality. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a French cider I didn’t like,” said Maki.
Many Old World-style ciders aren’t available domestically because the U.S. doesn’t produce enough cider apples, and it can take up to 10 years for a newly-planted tree to fruit. However, the flipside of that limitation means that domestic producers have become more creative with how they make cider. Because cider makers in the U.S. and Canada have less of an established history, they are more likely to experiment with flavors and textures.
“You’ll see people who are adding hops to cider or different fruits,” said Maki. “Other producers are working really hard to think of cider more like wine, really expressing the fruit characteristics, thinking about tannins, acidity and creating nuanced beverages that really speak to terroir.”
For example, Redfield offers a black currant cider from Finnriver Farm & Cidery in Chimacum, Washington, which is a blend of apples and black currants. More unusually, Redfield also offers bottles of Spirit of the Woods, a cider infused with gin botanicals, from Revel Cider in Guelph, Ontario.
East Bay drinkers understand beer doesn’t just mean lager, and wine doesn’t just mean cabernet sauvignon, yet many still see cider as a one-note beverage. At Redfield, Maki and Reis showcase the diversity of cider both via selection and by educating customers on the history of different varieties and the processes that go into making cider.
Education remains an important component of Redfield. The pair met while taking a class at 18 Reasons in San Francisco, Bi-Rite’s nonprofit that seeks to deepen people’s relationship with food and community.
“We have a pretty specific mission with what we’re trying to do with this space,” said Maki. That mission isn’t just getting more people to drink cider, but to help customers see cider as a more complex beverage, and one that’s not always sweet. “We want to talk about cider and increase cider education everywhere.”
Mostly that means providing some background from behind the bar as they pour out a glass for a customer. But the two also launched a podcast, Redfield Radio, where they go into detail on some of the more particular aspects of cider. “There’s only so much communication and education you can do in an interaction across the bar, especially when it’s busy,” said Reis.
“We thought the podcast would be a great platform to talk about our thoughts around cider, our ideals, how we see the industry growing and changing,” said Maki.
“There’s a wide range of what the apple can do in a bottle and in a glass.”
Redfield Cider Bar & Bottleshop is open noon to 11 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; noon to midnight, Friday and Saturday.