Pear season officially launched in late August, which means Tim Calvert of Pacific Grove CiderWorks is preparing to create next year’s batch of draft-style hard pear cider called “perry,” as well as a sparkling version to be used like Champagne. In time he’ll lay a portion of his hard cider bounty into French oak barrels to create his award-winning “Brandiperra,” possibly the world’s first pear port.
Calvert says he and his wife, Christie Monson, searched and couldn’t find anyone in the world commercially producing a pear port, which is similar to the idea of Pommeau – partially fermented apple juice mixed with apple brandy to make a sweet after-dinner drink. (For wine port, meanwhile, partially fermented grape juice is combined with brandy.)
Calvert mixes partially fermented pear cider with pear brandy distilled using his cider. The mixture then spends three years in oak barrels in the casket room of P.G. CiderWorks’ small production facility and tasting room located just up the street from Asilomar State Beach.
How Calvert, a former veterinarian, got to this spot making hard pear cider and Brandiperra is a story as roundabout as a pear itself, although there was always a strand pulling him in this direction. His great-great-grandfather had an apple ranch in mountainous Placer County, and Calvert is certain he pressed cider from the harvest in order to preserve the juice.
Thirty years ago Calvert purchased that ranch house and rebuilt it. Within the past few years he and his family have begun reconditioning the 150-year-old apple trees and planting more trees. “A 150-year-old tree looks pretty weird, especially if it hasn’t had any care for about 80 years,” he says.
Calvert started making ciders as a hobby about 30 years ago as well, sharing with family and friends. He was making hard ciders with pears when his niece asked if he could make a sparkling cider to use instead of Champagne for her wedding reception. “He made 300 bottles of this and everyone went crazy so he thought this could be better than a hobby,” Monson says.
Around 10 years ago he opened up a cider tasting room and retail store in Colfax, selling ciders from around the world. “It was wonderful, we learned a lot about what people liked,” he says. “It just happened to be the perfect way to research ciders if you’re going to make them.” He later closed the store to focus on producing his own ciders commercially.
Monson brought Calvert to P.G. The two were high school sweethearts who went their separate ways. After a divorce, Calvert looked Monson up on social media and later they were wed on the beach. The decision to settle in P.G. was dictated by the business. “The climate of Pacific Grove is near-perfect for oak barrel aging stuff,” he says. “The humidity and low temperatures are great.”
The plan was to open the tasting room in early 2020, but the Covid-19 pandemic intervened. In the meantime, P.G. CiderWorks sold its ciders and the Brandiperra that had been aging in barrels near Asilomar since 2016 to local liquor stores and restaurants. They sent off a bottle of the 2016 Brandiperra to the U.S. Open Cider Championships in Cincinnati and, much to their delight, it won the gold medal.
Currently on sale are the 2016 and 2017 Brandiperra, the hard pear cider, sparkling pear cider and a hard apple cider called Dry Saison Cider that uses saison yeast used in brewing beers. Calvert doesn’t add sugars, sugar water, or fruit concentrates. “They’re all made like my great-great-grandfather used to make, just juice, add some yeast and stand back, it’s not really that simple but that’s the basics of how you make it,” he says.
That no one else in the world seems to be making pear port gives Calvert a sense of pride. “So maybe 500 years from now when you’re looking at the history of port, you’ll find Portugal, for the history of Pommeau you’ll find maybe France and the history of Brandiperra, oh, Pacific Grove,” he jokes. “We’re not too worried about that but it is a cool thought.”
PACIFIC GROVE CIDERWORKS is open noon-5pm on Saturdays, noon-4pm some Sundays, and by appointment. 2030 Sunset Dr., Pacific Grove. pgciderworks.com