The 9th Annual Hop ‘n Barley Festival was held at the idyllic Skypark in Scotts Valley. The festival was open to all to enjoy – no gates – parking was free. Tasting booths dotted the green in a big U with over 50 different brands of beer and cider. No limitations on how much one could taste, as long as you picked up your skinny tasting cup at the ticket tent. Here I’ll focus on cider, making this the Hop n Barley, cider edition.
Those in the know were smart and brought their lawn tents, so they could hunker down for a few hours and enjoy the festival blissfully while avoiding heat stroke. Two music stages with local talent played most of the afternoon from reggae to bluegrass. Food trucks and food tents were plentiful, catering to local tastes. There was even a mini VW car show with car enthusiasts showing off their custom beetles, vans, and Karmann-Ghias. Dogs were welcome, too, which topped off the tone of this being truly a Santa Cruz Mountain event.
I was excited about this festival because it was the first I found in my journey to discover more about cider. The event showcased a large variety of brands that you do not normally see in major liquor and grocery stores.
With only a hat, my phone – and frequent stops under the public shade tent for relief from the heat – I was very happy with my first big cider tasting event. Pepper Ciders, Cherry Ciders, and Barrel-Aged Ciders appeared to be the most popular experiments amongst these cider brands. I felt some were better for summer drinking, and others perhaps better for winter time. But, there were five that really struck my palate.
Krazy Farm Cider HotAF – Habeñero Cider – a great aperitif or after meal cider. Complex, layered, slightly sweet with a dry heat.
Mission-Trail Cider Company – Lawyers Plums and Money Jerkum (see definition below) – A beautiful plum jerkum, with a touch of vanilla. (Not listed on their website. They do a lot of this.)
Stoked Cider Co. – “Baja Sunburn” a blend of mango, habañero, and agave – Almost like biting into green chile cornbread – milky and smooth – full of flavor. Unique, but I could also enjoy a glass of it with a BBQ or Texmex meal.
Humboldt Cider Company’s Cherry Cider. Their use of Montmorency Cherries created a pronounced cherry cider, nothing is hidden here.
The cutest brand, definitely was Tanuki Cider, if you enjoy sour ales, you may also enjoy their sour cider, too.
Next year, I look forward to bringing my own shade tent, lawn chairs, and perhaps my furry companion to this all out welcoming tasting fest. For now, I am very excited to discover more of the ciders from these cider companies in the coming months.