Nate Bosza has driven thousands of miles with a mission: take the bad taste for cider out of the mouths of Southern Californians.
“Down south,” as Bosza calls SoCal, “there’s no real following for cider like you have with the craft beer movement. It kind of has a bad name because it’s either a sorority girl drink or a really sugary drink.”
Not so in the Pacific Northwest, where cider is gaining popularity and becoming known as a craft beverage. Bosza hopes to bring these beverages to his native Southern California, changing the perception of cider and building a business in the process. Right now, Bosza runs BuyHardCider.com, an online specialty bottle shop for craft cider, but he hopes to expand into distribution in Southern California — and who knows what else.
He says his business plan is evolving as his trip progresses, and he’s not sure what the end result will be. “We had no clue what we were getting ourselves into,” Bosza says.
Bosza tasted his first hard cider at a chili cook-off and was hooked on the drink. But the more he learned about the booming industry — sales of U.S. hard ciders have grown from four million gallons in 2004 to over 17 million last year — the more Bosza saw a business opportunity.
“The whole industry is growing at an enormous rate and I realized Southern California has no real craft cider supply,” he says. Bosza quit his job at a real estate investment company to break into the cider business.
Bosza and his girlfriend, Allie Aronstam, departed Orange County on May 3 in a 1956 vintage trailer they recently restored. They’ve driven between 200 and 400 miles each day; when I caught up with them as they packed up their camp near Olympia, they’d driven 2,900 miles in 21 days and visited 14 cideries in California, Oregon, and Washington.
When we spoke, they’d visited Washington cideries Whiskey Barrel, Liberty Cider, Twilight Cider, Snowdrift, and Tieton Cider Works. From Washington, they’ll head up into Canada to visit some cideries there, too. They’ll go until they can’t stand being cramped in 15 feet of space without a bathroom. “It depends on how homesick we are or how uncomfortable we are,” Bosza says.
So far, the cideries have impressed.
“I’ve been blown away by all the companies. Some of these products are so different from anything we have down south,” Bosza says.
At the end of the trip, Bosza and Aronstam will host a homecoming party with friends. They’ll crack into the cases of Northwest cider they’ve been collecting, beginning the craft beverage’s inroads into Southern California.