Pittsboro's Chatham Cider Works inspiration stems from childhood
Opening this past January, Chatham Cider Works is located inside the confides of the Chatham Beverage District – a unique "compound-esque" location in Pittsboro that houses Fair Game Beverage Company and Starrlight Mead and its newly opened tasting room. It is there you'll find the husband and wife team of Maureen Ahmad and Jim Crawford making their passion – dry-style hard ciders. We recently caught up with head cider maker, Ahmad, and asked her a few questions about cider in general.
There are so many different types and ingredients one can put into cider – from other fruits, hops, barrel-aging, etc. Tell us a little bit about your favorite ingredients you’ve put in ciders. And where do you get your inspiration in creating these ciders?
We've kept it simple and over the last year have worked to perfect a couple of different styles. We barrel-age our Highway 64, and we use foraged fruit for our Backyard Blend. The inspiration for the barrel came straight from childhood! Jim grew up with a barrel of hard cider every season in the family barn in Pennsylvania (that the kids were supposed to leave alone).
There are a variety of apples to work with in making cider. What’s your favorite to use and why?
We love the foraged fruit we use in Backyard Blend. We can identify about a third of it – and the rest is crabs, deer apples and neighborhood apples. It's always funky and tannic and delicious.
Some people will say cider is similar to wine because it doesn’t contain malt like beer. But cider is served in tulips or pint glasses and poured on tap just like beer. What is your take on this subject?
Our cider ranges from 7 to 10 percent and it's all bubbly. I don't love it in pint glasses. I like either a flute or tulip so you get the bubble, enjoy the aroma and not warm it with your hands.
Hard cider has been gaining a lot of traction here in the U.S. lately. Can you explain why so many people are reaching for a cider today who might not have picked up a cider years ago?
Because it's delicious! Americans used to drink hard cider all the time. Cider connects us to farms, to growing seasons, to terroir. We're coming back to something that we knew and loved once upon a time – and that's a good thing.
What do you love most about cider making?
I love prepping or juicing outside and having bees and butterflies angle in for a sip. They love the smell of apples as much as I do.
What can we expect from Chatham Cider Works as the new year approaches? Any new releases you can share with us? Upcoming events?
We're working hard with our neighbors at the Chatham Beverage District in Pittsboro to create a destination for people who love craft beverages. We'll be partnering on events to bring people to Chatham County, including Mead Day, Death Faire and Pepperfest. We promise the cider will be cold and plentiful!
Learn more about Chatham Cider Works by visiting the website here.