You're going to like these apples—and pears and berries.
Entrance just ahead. don't give up, reads the sign next to the block-long industrial building. Excellent advice, it turns out, and if you follow it you'll find yourself on a patio filled with flowering vines, umbrella-shaded tables, and people sipping pints of hard apple cider. Located in Sebastopol, Calif.—in the middle of Sonoma's wine country—Ace-in-the-Hole is America's first (and just about only) cider pub.
Inside, with its 36-foot bar and cheery yellow walls covered with antique photos from Sonoma's century-old apple-growing industry, the pub is a lively hybrid of saloon, restaurant, and tasting room for Ace Cider. The brand and the pub are the brainchildren of Jeffrey House, owner of Thames America, which imports specialty beers. Those brews—from Welsh ESB to Golden Promise Organic Ale—are available at the pub.
Try an Ace Cider sampler called the Four Aces: apple; apple honey (made with Sonoma wildflower honey); pear (apple and pear); and berry (apple and a blend of raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries). Each of these four natural and delicious drinks—with about 5 percent alcohol and 120 calories per 16 ounces—is uniquely seductive. But don't worry about never tasting them again after you leave. Ace Ciders are served on tap at some 100 locations throughout the Bay Area and are sold nationally at beverage outlets. Pear is the best-selling flavor.
Plan your trip to Ace-in-the-Hole for a Friday or Saturday night, when you can enjoy live entertainment by local folk-singers and acoustic musicians. Ace-in-the-Hole serves a varied menu of pub-style food, from meat pies and sausage rolls to homemade pizza and chicken curries. Ask to see the brewery behind the pub, where the four ciders are produced in shining steel vats with names like Scrumpy and Big Bertha.
Ace-in-the-Hole is located about three miles north of downtown Sebastopol at the intersection of Highway 116 and Graton Road. The pub is open seven days a week. Information: (707) 829-1223, www.acecider.com .
Photography by Melissa Barnes
This article was first published in January 2004. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.