After almost 10 years of cider making, Jay and Deanna Bradish had been incubating the idea to start their own cidery. Generously sharing their garage-brewed products with family and friends, they’d tweaked recipes and felt confident in the quality and consistency of what they were producing.
A conversation with Windy Hill Orchards and Cider Mill in York, SC inspired them in early 2013 to attend CiderCon, an annual conference in Chicago where they sat through workshops on cider making, quality control, production processes and microbiology. They left that conference believing that opening a cidery in Charlotte was the next step.
Now, in a space on Clanton Road in Charlotte’s SouthEnd, they’re anticipating the new year will also bring the opening of their Red Clay Ciderworks, the first cidery in Charlotte. The 10,000 square foot building, previously Englishman’s Fine Furnishings, will be transformed into a production facility and tap room.
When Red Clay opens, they’ll offer Queen City Common, their flagship semi-dry cider, Hoppin’ Good Thyme , a dry hopped cider with thyme and herbs, and South End Sweet with natural juice. As soon as the fruit is in season, they’ll add Blackberry Bramble flavored with blackberries from Mitchem Farms in Lincoln County. The Boot Leggin’ Bourbon Barrel aged cider will round out Red Clay’s five year-round offerings. Seasonal and specialty one-off batches will also be found in the taproom throughout the year.
“I think my philosophy is simple,” Jay says of what drives his recipes. “Use local ingredients and services as much as possible and try to do the best I can with the fruit to bring out its best characteristics in the finished product.”
Between the Bradishs and a few investors, Red Clay had the costs of startup and opening covered until the search for their perfect space took longer than expected. What originally presented itself as a challenge is now an opportunity for members of the community to participate in the opening of Red Clay.
Jay and Deanna had been funding the projects of passionate entrepreneurs on Kickstarter, and launched their own campaign to cover the costs of a second brite tank and the construction of the tap room. As of press time, the campaign is at just over $15,000 to the $25,000 goal; but with the campaign ending November 19, they’re still looking for backers who, as Jays says, “believe in what we’re doing.”
Besides having helped the first cidery in Charlotte open its doors backers, based on funding level, will receive benefits from Red Clay swag to being able to design their own recipe for a small batch.
Each of Red Clay’s batches of cider is made with as many locally sourced ingredients as possible, including apples from Hendersonville and Lincolnton.
“The Carolina’s do not have much in the way of traditional English Cider apples so to make that type of cider you need to bring fruit in from outside the area,” Jay said. “Staying local we have mostly culinary and dessert apples, which make great cider, but you have to be a little more creative in your selection of apples to get as much of the desired cider characteristics as possible. We also have some great heritage apples that add complexity and help broaden the flavors you can get using local fruit.”
Jay also plans to join several other cideries in Asheville who, working with North Carolina State University, are cultivating additional varieties of apples that would grow well in the state.
To learn more about Red Clay Cidery, visit their website or check out the progress on their Kickstarter campaign.