Something’s a-brewing in Downtown Lebanon. And that something is cider.
At December’s First Friday event, Under The Bridge cidery was officially opened to the public. Since then, it has been open every Saturday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m for walk-ins.
LebTown spoke with Under The Bridge cidermaker, founder, and co-owner Kevin Smith about the cidery.
Smith’s interest in cider goes back many years. When he and other co-owner Dave Poole were in the Coast Guard, Smith sought out opportunities to try local ciders.
“Cider has been something that I’ve always liked. My partner and I were both in the service together, both in the Coast Guard, and when I had a port call, me and whoever else was on the ship with me would often go to a bar and look for ciders because it’s something different.
When Smith was out of the service in 2009, he took up the hobby of home-brewing beer. Once he realized he could make cider, he began experimenting with flavors and recipes. Over time, he got closer and closer to the 200-gallon annual home-brewing limit.
“I realized that there’s a huge homebrew community in the area, and there was nobody really doing cider with any regularity,” said Smith. “There’s enough people making beer, I didn’t need to be another one, so I kind of started that way in cider: playing with different juices and yeasts and everything else there is to do with it.”
Around three years ago, Smith and Poole decided to pursue cider-making as a business, the beginnings of Under The Bridge cidery. Two years ago, they first leased the building at 750 Cumberland St.
Since then, Smith and Poole have received federal and state licenses for their business. They are currently in the works of getting local licenses with the City of Lebanon authorizing them to sell by-the-glass for on-premises consumption. They anticipate being able to sell cider by-the-glass in the next few weeks.
As of now, Under The Bridge is mostly selling kegs of cider to local businesses such as the Batdorf and the Bluebird and filling growlers for walk-in customers. On Saturdays, walk-ins can have free samples of cider (of which there is currently nine varieties) and fill growlers with cider. Customers can bring in their own growlers or purchase 32-ounce growler glasses for $5. 32-ounce growler fills cost $10, while 64-ounce growler fills cost $20.
In the future, Smith is not interested in selling food on-premises. Instead, mentioning the many restaurants in the area, he plans to open up a hangout space for customers to eat outside food and drink cider.
“We’re going to be doing basically the exact opposite of a restaurant that does BYOB: we are going to be providing the cider, the drinks, and people are free to bring in their own food,” said Smith.
Smith described his goals for the front of the building as being “an indoor hangout space for outdoor patio activities.” He plans to set up cornhole boards, even possibly setting up a league, so that locals can play traditional outdoor games inside during the winter months. He also will set up tables for board games and eventually host board game nights.
“We’ll have two or three tables for board games, and then just a hangout spot, a place to come on in, have some cider, sit around,” said Smith. “We’ll have the heat on, the lights up, and you kind of just enjoy yourself.”
About the Cider
As of now, Smith estimates that Under The Bridge holds around 1,500 gallons of cider in various stages of ferment, typically making small batches of a few hundred gallons at a time. Cider production typically takes around six months, from start to finish.
“We can’t turn around product as fast as a brewery can turn out beer, but we’re not restricted with timelines like wine is: wine can take years and years,” said Smith.
Under The Bridge’s cider is gluten-free and includes no sulfites, preservatives, or artificial flavors.
“If it says cranberry, we use a whole lot of cranberries and it tastes like a cranberry,” Smith explained as an example. “They’re all very true to fruit, they’re not fake.
“There are people who are expecting cloyingly sweet, sugary, syrupy because they’ve had it once or twice before. This isn’t that, this is a very true, honest, and real taste.”
Smith described Under The Bridge’s cider as being a modern style of cider. Its “Aloha Hola” hard cider, for instance, contains pineapple and cayenne, and other cider flavors include blood orange, pink guava, mint, and more.
“Once I really dug deep into what cider is, I found that it’s a very fascinating product: there are so many different variations on it and it’s kind of like the craft beer industry was a few years ago and to this day still is,” said Smith. “You can do anything you want with it. You don’t have to stay with just a fermented apple.”
One recipe even uses hops, the ingredient used in many beers. However, Under The Bridge’s catalog describes it as “not one bit Bitter,” and Smith emphasized that the flavor has little in common with hoppy beer.
“One of the things that I’ve found is that educating the consumers is a lot of this job, of the sales side,” said Smith. “Most people come in and they see hopped and they think they already know what’s it’s going to taste like because they’ve had a hoppy beer, and it’s absolutely not the same.”
A few currently available ciders include “Strawberry Fields,” “Orange Crush,” “Bittersweet Symphony” (Dry Hopped Cider), and “Behind Blue Eyes” (Blueberry Cider). Interested in tasting one of these or another flavor? Check out Under The Bridge any Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
If you go…
Under the Bridge is located at 750 Cumberland St. Currently it is open Saturdays from noon to 3:00 p.m. for tastings and on First Fridays from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Follow them on Facebook to stay updated as their business continues growing.
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