Cider drinkers hard-pressed to find quality, local options have something to celebrate in Crooked City Cider, a popular producer whose long-awaited taproom is now open. Founded by Dana Bushouse in 2014, Crooked City has been on tap at bars and restaurants across the area, earning a following for its not-too-sweet, naturally gluten-free ciders. Now customers can find Bushouse at 206 Broadway in Jack London Square, where she’s already pouring cider and will celebrate with a grand opening on February 23. But due to a recent production setback, Bushouse won’t be serving her own ciders for long.
The new 2,800 square foot space will feature 25 ciders on tap from various local producers initially including Crooked City, plus 10 beers to round out the menu. Ciders are divided into four categories: Sweet, semi-sweet, dry, and off dry. “Most of our consumers are learning which category best suits their taste buds,” say Bushouse.
For an off-dry option (dry with a little residual sugar), her favorite option is from Santa Cruz Cider Company, a fruited cider steeped with fresh strawberries. Imported options of note include Sidras Bereziartua Sagardoak, a sought-after, unsweetened cider from Spain.
Crooked City’s taproom space features communal seating indoors and an outdoor, dog-friendly patio. For entertainment besides dogs, visitors will find dart boards and pinball machines. The space inside is hung with two enlarged, black-and-white mugshots: Those are Bushouse’s great uncles, Peter and John Bushouse, who were prohibition era moonshiners.
While making cider is no longer illicit, Bushouse might draw inspiration from her relatives’ perseverance against the odds. Opening the taproom after construction delays is “a fairytale come true,” she says — but Crooked City just lost the lease on its production facility, the space where Bushouse has for years made her cider with raw juice from Apple Hill farms.
“It was terrible timing,” says Bushouse, whose landlord accepted a higher rent offer from a winemaker. Crooked City Cider Tao House is driving some of the ciders she’s set aside for her grand opening. But after that, Bushouse will focus on the taproom before searching for a new production space. Bushouse is also in talks with other cider makers about contract cider production, or a “custom crush.”
To eat, Crooked City will feature food from Rob Lam and Dino Vazquez of Oakland’s popular Perle Wine Bar and James Yu of Berkeley’s beloved Great China. They’ve formed a new partnership called Town Square, which is behind the offerings.
“[James and I] have always talked about doing something together,” says Rob Lam. “And we saw a lot of potential in this, and in Dana.”
Everything on the menu can be made gluten-free, including sandwiches and pizzas, and vegan options will be plentiful. Those pizzas will be square — hence the Town Square name — in a Sicilian style along the lines of SF’s Golden Boy. The oven is on its way, and breakfast and brunch options are in the works as well.
Crooked City arrives shortly after Redfield Cider, a new Rockridge bar and bottle shop creating a buzz around cider. It also lands in Jack London Square at a time when the neighborhood is booming with new beverage businesses.
“With Oakland United about to open, Temescal brewing opening a new production facility — the new Elbo Room, Beer Revolution... it’s more of a destination. Now you can go somewhere besides Uptown and get a full experience of what Oakland has to offer.”
Crooked City Cider Tap House hours are Monday to Thursday, 4 to 10 p.m., Friday from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., Saturday from 12 p.m., to 12 a.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.
This story has been updated to include a comment from Rob Lam