Cheese and cider pairings en route
My good friends Olivia Maki and Mike Reis just opened a cider bar and bottle shop this weekend in Rockridge Oakland! In honor of their cider love (and ordinary love, too, these guys are married!), I’m sharing this interview with the duo. In it you’ll not only discover what cool cider nerds they are, you’ll also learn about their top 3 cheese and cider pairing.
Redfield Cider, I can’t wait to visit!
Yours is a love story as much as it is a cider story. I was actually at one of the first nights you guys started hanging out- Olivia, you were managing a farmhouse beer and farmstead cheese class Nicole Erny and I were teaching, and Mike came to the class. I think he was late. Which, now that I think about it, was pretty smooth so he could offer to stay later to hang out and “help you clean up.” Niiiice, Mike. When did your love story become a cider story?
Olivia: It’s true! You were there at the very beginning of our love story – a story that started around a love of food and drink and continues in a similar thread to this day. Mike really introduced me to cider – I can’t remember ever drinking it in college or when I first moved the Bay Area. I liked cider immediately and we then began making our own cider at home and doing some urban gleaning around Oakland and Berkeley. It pretty quickly became an obsession.
Mike: I first began thinking about cider seriously when I was working at Monk’s Kettle in San Francisco and did a tasting with Scott and Ellen from Tilted Shed up in Sebastopol. Their ciders were truly an “aha” moment for me. I began to understand the depth and range that cider can offer when it’s made with care, time, and quality ingredients. It seemed like a natural extension of Liv and my (already food and drink filled) lives together to learn about, drink, and make cider together.
Why is now the perfect time to open a cider bottle shop and tasting bar?
Olivia: For starters, there is crazy growth in the cider industry right now between sales, new cideries opening, and general interest in the beverage.
Mike: And it is crazy to us that the Bay Area doesn’t have an established “cider scene.” Seattle, Chicago, New York and Portland all seem to be a bit more developed, cider-wise, and we live in a place that prides itself on its food and beverage scene. We’re opening the bar and shop that we’ve been wanting to go to for years.
Why do you think beer and wine are the first things that most people think of when they hear “cheese pairing?” History? Culture? Habit? Why should this be different?
Olivia: That’s a really good question. Cider and cheese can be such an incredible pairing but even for me that’s not necessarily what pops into my head first either. I think it could boil down to culture and habit – beer and wine are what usually get all the attention. Especially wine and cheese. I remember doing beer and cheese classes with you at 18 Reasons a few years ago and there was even some explanation around how unusual that might be–cider is even more obscure than that.
What have you learned about cheese and cider pairings over the years that you think we should know too? Any surprises?
Mike: Cider is so incredibly versatile and can hang with a wide range of cheeses. I think Perries [pear cider] in general pair well with cheese – they have a naturally occurring sugar in them called sorbitol that doesn’t fully ferment out and a little sweetness can be nice to play with.
Olivia: Beyond that – English cider is really fun to pair with cheese. Traditional English cider is typically made using a native-yeast fermentation, so you can get some earthy, barnyardy flavors that sing next to cheese.
Olivia, and Mike, answer the below question separately. No cheating! What are each of your top 3 cheese and cider pairings (and will any of your cider picks be on your shelves when you open?). Your faves can overlap, but only if on accident!
Olivia: Dragon’s Head Perry with Mt Tam blending together bright and fruity with creamy; Dunkerton’s Black Fox with Tarentaise or an English Cheddar; Eden Heirloom Blend Ice Cider with anything… but if I really had to choose something like Willoughby would be jamming.
Mike: Eden’s Ice Ciders are crazy good with a powerful blue cheese like Stilton. The sweetness plays off some of the caramelly aged character of the cheese and helps temper some of the blue cheese funk. You can also find some great pairings by looking at what cheeses they eat in the world’s great cider cultures. Camembert and Normandy Poiré (pear-based cider) is a layup, and Basque Idiazabal sheep’s milk cheese tastes great alongside a pour of funky sagardoa.
Olivia- you are a farmer at heart. You even volunteered on a Vermont farm next to Jasper Hill Creamery a few years ago (which Mike joined you on briefly). How does this affect your take on cider? And… what was it like working next to Jasper Hill?
Olivia: Total farmer at heart. One of these days I hope to get back to it! To me, cider is an agricultural product and I get so excited about cidermakers that focus on fruit characteristics and terroir. I also get inspired by cidermakers who are also farmers and are thinking about soil health, responsible water usage, minimizing inputs and spraying, and planning ahead for climate change. Working next to Jasper Hill when I was in Vermont was really just a treat. I got to know a few folks who worked there and immediately felt a friendship with their crew. I have so much respect for what they are doing and their cheeses are some of my absolute favorites.
What are 3 things you wish everyone knew about cider but didn’t? And could we have learned this on your cider podcast?
Olivia: For me, it is some basic things like the fact that cider is not a subset of beer and that you don’t “brew” it. Cider is pressed and fermented similar to wine.
Mike: For me, I think it would also be teaching cider drinkers how to find the best cider they can. That’s a question that we get asked A LOT and that we did answer in an episode of our podcast. It would take a while to explain so you might just have to go and give it a listen.
Where are you located?!
Olivia: We just opened last weekend! Come visit us at 5815 College Avenue in Rockridge!