It's All About the Apples: Philly-Style
The archetypal image of a cidery may be a small, rustic tasting room tucked into a charmingly dilapidated barn, just a few dozen feet away from the orchards where the apples were harvested. And there are definitely plenty of bucolic spots like this in Pennsylvania, which are worth a trip for the break from life’s hectic pace alone.
But urban cideries are also on the rise, especially in Philadelphia, where two new ones have opened in the last year (Hale & True and Kurant Cider). Obviously, there’s not enough space in the city to grow or forage apples for a production cidery’s needs, so where do Philly’s urban cideries turn to source juice? The answer, of course, is the farms in the surrounding region — you really don’t need to travel far outside of the city limits to find yourself in rolling, green farmland.
Here are where three of our Philadelphia-based member cideries are getting their apples:
• For its line of Sir Charles Ciders, Original XIII Ciderworks sources juice primarily from Zeigler’s in Lansdale, which provides this urban cidery with a consistent blend of fresh-pressed juice. The blend is mostly made of Northern Spy, Golden Delicious, Gala, Cortland, Honeycrisp and Granny Smith apples, and the ratios are adjusted to maintain consistent Brix and acid levels.
“We decided to work with Zeigler’s because they’re local,” said Original XIII’s owner, John Kowchack. “And because American cider drinkers see cider more akin to beer than wine and insist that cider is produced consistently from one batch to another, without seasonal variation.”
Visit Original XIII’s tasting room (with a full bar and a great food menu), located in Philly’s Olde Kensington neighborhood, to try one of its many cider varieties made with Pennsylvania apples. 1526 N. American St., Philadelphia; (215) 765-7000.
• Hale & True opened its doors in Philly’s Bella Vista area (right off South Street) in 2018, and has been winning over the city’s residents with its well-balanced, thoughtful modern ciders ever since. Co-owner Kerry McKenzie recalls how Hale & True kicked off its relationship with Weaver’s Orchard of Morgantown:
“We met Ed Weaver, who owns Weaver’s Orchard, through Philly Foodworks, a farm share that Risa [McKenzie’s wife and Hale & True’s other co-owner] and I worked for on a freelance basis. Weaver’s Orchard supplied apples to Philly Foodworks, so when we started pressing our own cider, we would buy a few hundred pounds of apples from them. That’s when we started experimenting with fermenting different varieties and blends of apples,” he said.
Currently, Weaver’s does a custom blend of fresh-pressed apple cider for Hale & True, and while the varieties of apples vary from batch to batch, cider-friendly culinary apples like Gold Rush, Stayman and Jonathan are usually in the mix. Other varieties that make appearances are McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Gala and Cameo, among others.
When it comes to working with Weaver’s owner, Ed, Kerry has many good things to say.
“He cares so much about his apples and how they are grown, and he teaches me a lot every time I go out to the orchard,” he noted. “He’s also very interested in cider making, so he’s always trying to learn about which apples make the best cider. Weaver’s is just a great, local business run by people who are truly passionate about what they’re doing. We’re lucky to work with them, and proud to support them!”
Visit Hale & True’s cidery and taproom Wednesday through Sunday not only for cider, but also beer, wine, cocktails and small plates from The Good King Tavern. 613 South 7th St., Philadelphia; (267) 639-4334.
• In Fishtown, Kurant Cider’s owner, Joe Getz, sources its apples from all over Pennsylvania through a broker, including Zeigler’s. Right now, Kurant is at the production point where Joe is ordering tanker trucks of juice for delivery. Each tanker is about 5,500 gallons of juice! For the apples, Kurant specifies a blend with Zeigler’s for its base juice.
“We gave them a target starting gravity, total acidity and a few other notes to dial in a consistent base,” Joe said. “The actual apples used in our standard base juice blend for our core brands like Bees, Earth, Arose and Spice rotate slightly seasonally, but always fall within our base parameters.”
This juice blend is comprised of a number of culinary apples, such as Honeycrisp, Russet varieties, Granny Smith and Red and Golden Delicious.
“Some of those orchards make their own ciders, but they’re nice enough to sell us apples when they have a large enough crop!” Joe added. “Our Viejo cider, for example, is made from 100 percent Winchester apples provided by Big Hill Orchards.”
Visit Kurant Brew & Brew for ciders plus locally sourced beers on draft, Pennsylvania-produced spirits and wines by the glass and locally sourced hot dogs in the evening. Enjoy ReAnimator Coffee and pastries daily until 5 p.m. 436 East Girard Ave., Philadelphia; (267) 928-3620.
Just because these cideries are located in a dense metro area doesn’t mean they’re cut off from farm-grown apples! Thanks to win-win relationships with local farmers and orchardists, urban cideries are able to make high-quality products with high-quality Pennsylvania apples.