The hard cider business in the U.S. has seen a significant uptick. Larger beer producers to smaller, artisanal companies focused solely on cider, are now offering customers a wide variety of choices, many of which are available at Upcider.
The gastropub on Polk Street has been open for about four months and now offers almost 100 different ciders on its menu. Owners Ozzie Gundogdu and Omer Cengiz wanted to open a business that was unique to San Francisco, not just a typical sports or wine bar. Following their love of cider, they decided that was the right direction to take the business.
“There isn’t a cider-specific bar in San Francisco. In fact, many bars don’t even carry cider as an option,” said Cengiz. “We wanted to use Upcider as a venue for people who love cider and to help educate those who might not be very familiar with it.”
Cengiz said the common misconception is that cider is just a sweet, apple-based drink with very little alcohol in it. While the alcohol part may be true (most ciders tend to have a similar alcohol content as beer, ranging from 4-8 percent), he said cider is truly a lot more than that.
“We carry a lot of different ciders from different parts of the country and the world. I think the ciders that are most easily recognizable, those that are mass produced, serve as a good starting point,” he said. “They are usually sweeter in nature. But then you get to smaller producers from around the country who are really making good, quality ciders. Ciders from England tend to be a bit more dry while those from France are very much like Champagne. And then you have the unique ciders from Basque countries, many of which are really hard to describe.”
In a neighborhood filled with wine bars, sports bars and dive bars, Cengiz and Gundogdu saw an opportunity to take advantage of an untapped, growing market. According to Euromonitor International, cider posted a 6 percent global volume growth in 2011. Cengiz said the big companies are seeing the potential with companies like Sam Adams launching Angry Orchard in late 2011. Heineken and Anheuser-Busch have also jumped in. “We’re always going to carry those larger producers because that’s what ‘s familiar to many new cider drinkers. But we also love to work with the smaller producers out there,” said Cengiz. “We’ve found a lot of the companies by doing research online but since we’ve opened, they’ve reached out to us as well. Companies like Tilted Shed Ciderworks in Forestville are doing great things. We currently carry their Lost Shed Cider. And Murray’s Cyder from Petaluma just contacted us so we’re now carrying their N Cider. It’s fun to work with these local producers because now, they finally have a place to showcase their wonderful products.”
Upcider also has smaller bites from a bar-centric menu. Cengiz said as they continue to enhance the cider list, he hopes to develop a menu that pairs with ciders.
Going through a brief cider tasting myself, I was amazed at the complexities and different flavors that each type of cider possessed. Some had a more earthy feel while others were that familiar sweet, apple flavor. “Those complexities are what make this great for us. We get a chance to explain all the nuances of each cider to our customers and hopefully, turn them on to something new and different that they’ll be able to enjoy.”
Upcider is located upstairs at 1160 Polk Street in San Francisco.