For Adam Chinchiolo, the California native behind Far West Cider Company, 2016 was a labor of love.
A longtime homebrewing fanatic, Chinchiolo trading his advertising career in order to pursue his passion, starting the traditional way: by tinkering in his Outer Richmond garage. In March, he moved cider production to a facility in the city of Richmond, and you can now find his cider on the menu at San Francisco culinary destinations such as State Bird Provisions.
Also, his first child was born.
"A lot of 'first rodeo experiences," he said.
Less than a month into 2017, Far West Cider is off to a promising start. Last weekend, the company accepted a Good Food Award for its Orchard Blend No. 1, a cider made from Cripps Pink, Gold Rush, and Granny Smith apples.
The apples come from Chinchiolo Farms, the fourth-generation apple and cherry orchard in the San Joaquin Valley run by Chinchiolo's father and brother. As a 14-year-old, Chinchiolo was put to work over the summer cutting fire blight from infected trees, an experience that established his aversion to a life spent on the orchard. "My mom pretty much yelled at my dad: Never do that to him again," he said. "So that was the end of farming for me."
In college, Chinchiolo cultivated an interest that would one day dovetail with the family business: homebrewing.
He kept at it through 10 years of work in the advertising industry. And when, in 2011, his wife landed a job in Australia, Chinchiolo took the opportunity to immerse himself in Sydney's cider scene.
The Australian ciders—less sweet and more effervescent than their American counterparts—pulled Chinchiolo out of his beer obsession and got him thinking about the family farm. In 2013, with a few failed but instructive test batches under his belt, Chinchiolo returned to San Francisco and began building Far West Cider.
He brewed the initial batches in his garage on 24th Avenue, posing a unique domestic challenge. "The whole garage and most of the lower part of our place smelled like a winery, which, you know, some people think is good, some people think is bad. It’s definitely a very distinctive smell,” he said. "I have a very understanding wife."
With feedback from adventurous taste-testers and advice from the experts at San Francisco Brewcraft on Clement Street, Chinchiolo refined his process and deepened his passion. Far West Cider moved to Richmond in March 2016, and in June received a license to sell.
The apples are pressed at the farm—2-3 tons at a time—and from there Chinchiolo transports the juice to the Richmond facility using his trusty van: "a really shady black Astro," as he fondly puts it. The juice ferments for a month, ages for one to four months, and then is blended, carbonated, and bottled.
Chinchiolo enjoys working in Richmond. He shares the facility with three wineries, and appreciates having those seasoned pros as a resource, especially as he's come to realize that brewing cider is more like making white wine than beer. But he hopes that Far West Cider can open a location in San Francisco soon. "We'd love to open up a tasting room," he said.
If you're looking to sample Chinchiolo's product in San Francisco, look out for Far West Cider on the menu at State Bird Provisions, The Progress, Richmond Republic Draught House, and Fiorella. It's also available for purchase at Healthy Spirits on Clement, Cassava on Balboa, and handful of other bars and markets throughout the city.
And for those who find themselves in Richmond, Far West Cider's tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday, at 1325 Canal Blvd.
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