Blame it on high rents or pushy zoning laws, but the most exciting drinking experiences growing in the 805 can currently be found in otherwise unremarkable industrial parks. Figueroa Mountain Brewing, brewLAB, and M. Special come immediately to mind for sharing this locational origin story, and now, on the west end of Carpinteria, there’s a libation joint joining the club. It’s called The Apiary, and there is absolutely nothing like it on the South Coast.
As pure a homespun passion project as you will find, The Apiary is the creation of Santa Barbara native Nole Cossart. A once-upon-a-time pro surfer turned emergency-room nurse turned yoga nut turned kombucha brewer, the endlessly curious, 27-year-old Cossart is shifting again. Over the past 10 months, Cossart — with help from the steady hands of his dad, artist and builder Kit Boise-Cossart, and his sweetheart/coconspirator, Rachna Hailey — has been slow cooking the transformation of a former office space on Carpinteria Avenue into a mead and cider taproom.
A tight budget and Nole Cossart’s lifelong DIY bent drive The Apiary’s aesthetic, which is a whimsical sort of rustic with hand-painted signs, antique curios, and repurposed bee boxes quietly pulling double duty as serving trays for tasters and the backdrop around the tap wall. There is even an old rotary phone tucked under the staircase for the sole purpose of ordering pizza.
The main event, of course, is the drink. Cossart and Hailey have been brewing up a storm, the upstairs of the taproom serving as ground zero for production, experimentation, quality control, and general mad-science antics. With honey from San Marcos Farms serving as the basis for the mead, and apples from Cuyama and Casitas Valley Farms at the heart of the ciders and cysers, The Apiary’s regularly rotating and often seasonally reflective menu of drinks just plain taste different than anything else around, without sacrificing one inch of deliciousness. Orange blossom cider, jasmine cysers, yerba maté and wildflower honey mead with Cascade hops, white sage mead, and a 100 percent wild fermented organic Gala apple cider (which packs quite a punch at 8.8 percent ABV) are but a few of Cossart’s latest.
“It started four or five years ago, when I was brewing Jun kombucha; I learned that you can basically turn any sugar into alcohol,” he explained. “I have just been following my curiosity ever since.”
Almost two years ago, he stumbled upon the brewLAB operation in Carpinteria, and a big old light bulb went off. “The potential of it all just opened up to me: that streamlined, high-quality, small-batch approach direct to the customer,” recalls Cossart. “I saw what they were doing with beer and knew it could work with mead and cider. I just decided to go for it.”
It’s been nearly two months since The Apiary opened, and if a recent Sunday was any indication, the place is well on its way. It’s all Cossart and Hailey all the time, so the hours for the tasting room are afternoons and evenings only on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In my short time sitting by the bar, I heard three separate people requesting a “take home” option (in the works) as well as Cossart’s plans to get taps at Rincon Brewery in Carpinteria and Sama Sama in Santa Barbara in the near future.
As for the swill itself? Well, the mind-bending effervescent flavors of their Rustique, a saison-style wildflower and avocado honey mead with Citra hops, gave me real pause when I first tasted it. A flavor that’s equal parts exotic and familiar, I immediately made myself the fourth patron in a row to request a “take home” option.
The Apiary (4191 Carpinteria Ave., Carpinteria) is open Friday-Saturday, 4-10 p.m., and Sunday, 2-8 p.m. See theapiary.co.