Cider wasn't always the apple of Jay Bradish's eye. Before he was introduced to the tantalizing and sometimes tart world of cider, he took up wine making. This was when he was in the U.S. Navy and stationed in Italy, where wine reigns supreme. But after returning to his home turf in Michigan, his attention shifted from grapes to apples. He honed his skills by letting friends and family be the guinea pigs for his concoctions.
"It got to a point that if we would go to a party and didn't have cider with us, people were disappointed," says Bradish. "That's part of what has led us to do this, because we knew we were making a good product."
The new cidery currently features roughly five different types of ciders, from dry to sweet and herbed to barrel-aged. As owner and brewer of Charlotte's first cidery, located off of Clanton Road, Bradish has got the help of his wife, sister and a longtime friend who relocated from Michigan for the opportunity.
The cidery's boot-shaped logo — and cute, foot-shaped flight boards — comes from the husband and wife's first encounters with North Carolina's red, clay-like mud, which they tracked through their home often after moving to Charlotte 15 years ago.
Creative Loafing: You were in Michigan, where apples and cideries are more prevalent, before moving to Charlotte. Can you tell me about that?
Jay Bradish: When we were growing up everybody had stories in Michigan about their grandpa having a barrel of hard cider in the barn. I mean apple orchards are everywhere. It's the third largest apple state, so there's a huge apple and cider culture already established there. They've got a lot of the old heritage apples that you can still regularly get a hold of, so they're a little more couture in the cider market than here.
You've got roughly six ciders on the menu now and plans for some wine in the fall/winter. What other things are in store for Red Clay Cider Works?
This year, we'll make an in-house blackberry wine from local black berries. We use that to blend into our blackberry cider, too. We're also going to carry some wine and we'll rotate a couple taps of local craft beer for anyone that doesn't want cider. We also have cooler space where we'll carry bottled ciders from across the country and overseas. That way, we can be a place where people can come to get cider from all over and we'll rotate guest taps of cider from some of the other local cideries in Raleigh and Asheville and elsewhere. We're really interested in doing events. For some of the overseas stuff, we'd like to get the distributor to come in and do a tasting of say, Spanish ciders and educate people because they are very complex and different from anything here. French cider is the same way and so we'll do things like that. Hopefully, we'll get lucky enough to get a cider maker from one of the guest cideries that we've got on tap, and we'll have them come in and do a tasting and talk about their ciders.
What type of cider does your palate prefer?
I really like the hops and I like anything barrel-aged. The more and more that I taste of the really bone-dry ciders that other people are making, I'm tending to shift that way myself. So, I'm liking the dry, hopped and complex types of ciders the best.