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How a former theater producer staged her dream cider bar on the Coastside

OceanCiders offers an eclectic outdoor experience for cider lovers at Pillar Point Harbor.
Cider and a view of the harbor at OceanCiders in Half Moon Bay on September 3, 2023. Photo by Devin Roberts.

Meredith Kasyan’s first love has always been the theater. In 1999, Kasyan moved to the Bay Area to pursue her passion, organizing productions at the Dragon Productions Theater Company – a Redwood City-based nonprofit theater organization that shuttered in 2022 – until 2018, when retirement was on the horizon.

In this new chapter of her life, Kasyan felt desperate for the type of change that could be triggered by something drastic, perhaps an international move. Instead, she decided to move to the Coastside to become a seasider, inspiring a new business in which she would not be operating a stage but rather a cider trailer. The name would be SeaCider, a reference to the new life to which Kasyan was adjusting. 

“Nobody was offering cider tastings with a really cozy atmosphere right on the water, which was right where I wanted to hang out. So I decided I would create this thing for myself and for the community,” Kasyan said.

The original concept was straightforward: a cider tasting room with a welcoming vibe, ciders from California distributors and, hopefully, an ocean view. While there are a number of breweries on the coast, Kasyan noticed that dedicated hard cider bars are harder to come by. At first, Kasyan sought a brick-and-mortar location in her new hometown of Half Moon Bay, but none of the places she looked at captured her vision. 

Instead, a lot that had stood vacant for 20 years in El Granada caught her attention. The San Mateo County Harbor District owned the lot, and Kasyan spent nine months in 2022 obtaining proper permits and sketching out a cider pop-up that would occupy the lot. But roadblocks kept deterring Kasyan’s cider dreams from coming to fruition. One of them was an issue over her business’s original name SeaCider, which faced a trademark infringement from a farm in British Columbia under the same name. Thus, SeaCider was renamed to OceanCiders. The larger issues dealt with the physical lot itself, such as the lack of water rights available in El Granada. 

“We came to a brick wall that we couldn’t get over,” Kasyan said.

OceanCiders owner Meredith Kasyan on September 3, 2023. Photo by Devin Roberts.

With a background in show business, Kasyan is more than familiar with handling setbacks and last-minute changes. Just when she was ready to close the curtain on cider, the Harbor District offered her an alternate outdoor location adjacent to Princeton’s Pillar Point Harbor. OceanCiders pivoted yet again and in October 2022, Kasyan got back to work on her cider outpost. 

Building out OceanCiders took the theater phrase “the show must go on” to a new level. Kasyan did not want to operate her business out of any trailer but rather a custom one that was constructed in Mexico City. She commissioned the trailer in spring 2022 to be built to her liking since she would be the one pouring ciders, grabbing cider cans from coolers and handing out snacks to patrons. 

The saga of obtaining the trailer was “worthy of a mini series,” Kasyan said. Pandemic-related supply chain issues delayed the trailer’s construction. Then, the construction company responsible for the trailer refused to fully complete the project, holding it in Mexico City. The help of a “miracle worker” and advocate for Kasyan in Mexico City convinced the company to send the trailer to its rightful owner despite its unfinished nature, crossing the border in August and finally arriving in Princeton.

Despite the misfortunes, Kasyan’s patience paid off. She tapped into her creative side, curating an eclectic atmosphere through the use of repurposed furniture she scavenged, with vast ocean and mountainous views surrounding the site. 

OceanCiders’ soft opening over Labor Day weekend comes at a time of upheaval for the cider industry locally, as Redwood Coast Cider, South City Cider and Red Branch all closed in the past year. But Kasyan was not deterred by the cidery shutdowns that were caused by pandemic-related losses and rent increases. She said her business model differs greatly from these taprooms and offers a unique cider tasting experience that you can’t find anywhere else in the area. 

The staff at The Cider Junction in San Jose helped Kasyan as she learned the ropes of operating a cider taproom. Just like Cider Junction, OceanCiders sources its offerings from cideries up and down the California coast. Santa Cruz’s Scrumpy Cider and Mendocino County’s Gowan’s Heirloom Cider are just a few of the cideries Kasyan plans to feature. OceanCiders has a rotation of six ciders on tap, various canned ciders, cider cocktails and cider slushies. 

Pretzel served at OceanCiders in Half Moon Bay on September 3, 2023. Photo by Devin Roberts.

A love of cider led to Kasyan’s development of a cider cheese dip recipe, which is paired with warm soft pretzels. S’mores kits are available for patrons seated at the space’s fire pits, and gluten-free snacks like nuts and fruit chips are also available for purchase (Kasyan emphasized the accessibility of cider for gluten-free individuals and wanted to accommodate all dietary needs.)

Signage at OceanCiders reads, “Outside food? Yeah! Outside booze? No!” to serve as encouragement for guests to bring a picnic to pair with their pints of cider. Given the lot’s expansive outdoor area, Kasyan foresees local food trucks popping up alongside her cider trailer from time to time.  

Kasyan’s background operating a theater means she’s familiar with running a multiuse space. OceanCiders hosts live music and can serve as a venue for a variety of events, whether that be weddings or meetings for local nonprofits Kasyan is involved with, such as the Surfrider Foundation. 

“I’m trying to make this place better than when I got there,” Kasyan said.

OceanCiders, 2 Pillar Point Harbor Blvd., Half Moon Bay. Open Wednesday-Friday from 3-8 p.m. and noon to 8 p.m. on weekends barring inclement weather to those 21 and over.

The post How a former theater producer staged her dream cider bar on the Coastside appeared first on The Six Fifty.

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