Nestled in a nondescript business park, Twisted Horn Mead & Cider built an out-of-this-world tasting room featuring a mead hall inspired by Norse mythology. With a knack for creating inventive and modern recipes for old world style mead and cider, Twisted Horn is the perfect destination for craft beer lovers who are looking for something new to try.
Twisted Horn Mead & Cider: From Fantasy to Reality
Vince Obarski (head mead maker) and Michael McCague’s (head cider maker) friendship stemmed, in large part, to their passion for homebrewing. Michael had been brewing all types of beer, cider, wine, and mead for about 12 years. “Mike was an avid beer brewer and I was an avid beer drinker,” Vince said of their serendipitous connection. Eventually, Michael invited Vince to attend a brew club he belonged to.
“I tried a couple of batches. We totally failed miserably and years later I talked to [Mike] about getting into a brew club,” Vince continued. “Mead takes a lot of time and processes to make. It’s the oldest, simplest thing to make, but there’s a lot more to it than it sounds,” he said about the mead-making process.
Vince’s obsession with mead, in reality, dated further back than his chance meeting with Michael. “I was first introduced to mead when I was in Norway when I was in the military. I drank it for the first time there and was enthralled with it,” Vince said of his revelatory experience.
His love for mead dates even further to when he used to play Dungeons and Dragons as a kid and didn’t know what mead was. “I saw it when I was gearing up for my next [Dungeons and Dragons] adventure, but I never knew what it was,” he continued.
Mead and Cider: The New Frontier In Craft Drinks
“Mead is a honey wine, so it’s fermented honey which is cut with water and then you can tailor it from there,” Mike explained. “When I speak to people, they think I’m saying “meat.” They think I have a butcher shop,” he said on people’s confusion about the fermented honey wine.
When asked why he didn’t think mead was more prevalent in the craft beer world, Vince explained that agricultural improvements and practices coupled with the rising cost of honey and the availability of cheaper crops to make home brews made mead fall out of favor with many home brewers. In terms of cider, prohibition forced many farmers to cut down their apple orchards.
“Mead is typically seen as something that’s syrupy or something that’s really strong,” Mike says. That’s because mead usually sits between 12 and 20 percent ABV. “We’re taking the tact of a session mead which is 7 to 9 [ABV]. It’s not overly sweet, but it still has full flavor to it,” said Michael of their focus on drinkable meads and ciders.
Made From Locally-Sourced Honey and Fruit
“If you have really good ingredients you’re going to come out with something that’s going to be a superior product,” Vince said about the importance of using fresh ingredients. When asked what makes the perfect mead, Vince said that experimentation is key. Sometimes the flavors or balance of them don’t work. Other times he stumbles on to something that turns out to be really good.
“Our focus is on real flavors. We use real fruit or juice, no artificial anything,” Vince explains. “Meads take weeks or months to get the flavor to come in the way you want it. Taking the time to have it mature properly is key. It takes about a month to three months for cider” he continued.
Vince especially loves to use specific varietal honeys he gets from Temecula Valley Honey. Every specific varietal honey features a unique flavor that come from bees pollinating in certain areas. Instead of using generic ingredients that have little to no flavor characteristics, Vince works with orange blossom, star thistle, mountain sage, wildflower, and buckwheat varietal honeys.
Mead and Cider On Tap
If Twisted Horn were to have a standout mead it would have to be Simon’s Journey, which is a strawberry kiwi mead that uses an orange blossom honey to impart notes of citrus. At 9.5% ABV, it’s delicious and drinkable compared to heavier, traditional meads.
Toby’s Tale is another customer-favorite. It’s cherry-flavored, light, and refreshing mead that is a perfect Southern California drink. Try the Winterhaven if you’re looking for tropical flavors. It’s a seasonal mead made with fresh pineapples and papayas.
As for ciders, one of their most popular choices on tap is the Mischief Maker. It’s a semi-sweet no-frills cider that is dangerously easy to drink and also extremely flavorful. Another popular cider is the Hidden Stones cider, a recent addition with peach flavors and a spicy ginger root.
Stop by to try their newest reserve cider, the “Draco,” which is a mojito-inspired, fresh-pressed cider. You can taste notes of sweet fresh mint, sugar, and lime juice for a balanced of sweet, dry, and tart. “In terms of demand, we’ll be bringing back the chocolate raspberry cider. When we did experimental batches, it disappeared,” said Michael of popular flavors they’re thinking of bringing back.
Visit Their Norse-Inspired Drinking Hall
When people think of drinking mead or cider, they usually conjure up images of Vikings drinking their mead from a horn, like something taken out of Game of Thrones. Vince’s vision for his tap room, stemmed from his love for history and fantasy.
He was excited at the idea that they could do a lot of wood reclamation in the tap room to evoke a rustic feel along with an edgy, Viking-inspired atmosphere. After Michael traveled to Norway, he had first-hand experience and inspiration from authentic Norwegian mead halls.
In fact, Twisted Horn’s mead hall is modeled after a mead hall in Norway. The first moment you walk into their tasting room you’re surrounded by Norwegian birch branches arching over your head. Mood lighting goes through the branches to create an even more mythological world.
Make your way through the forest-like atmosphere into the bar-section where you can choose from a variety of meads and ciders. They even make homemade sodas like their birch bark root beer for those who are looking for something non-alcoholic.
Why Should You Go To Twisted Horn?
Twisted Horn Mead & Cider is for “people who are used to the beer circuit, but are looking for something different,” said Vince. Stop by on Saturdays when they bring in food trucks or bring your own food anytime. Twisted Horn also welcomes friendly dogs on leashes at their location.
If you want to drink from their horns, you’ll have to join Odin’s Warriors, which is a mug club for serious mead and cider drinkers. Join Odin’s Warriors Viking, Victory, or Valhalla level membership to receive perks including notifications on pre-releases, honey tasting specials, merchandise discounts, and specials on bottles and kegs.
Twisted Horn Mead & Cider
- Address: 1042 La Mirada Ct, Vista, CA 92081
- Phone: (760) 295-5888
- Thursday: 4 PM – 8 PM
- Friday: 4 PM – 9 PM
- Saturday: 2 PM – 9 PM
- Sunday: 2 PM – 6 PM
- Click here for more information