HERMOSA — For as much buzz as cider is generating lately, Chicago is home to just one cidery.
But that lone cidery is growing.
In the spring, Right Bee Cider quietly moved out of its shared facility in suburban Lincolnwood into a huge Hermosa warehouse, 1830 N. Kostner Ave., which is five times the size of its original headquarters.
Since then, the owners — husband-and-wife-team Charlie Davis and Katie Morgan — have been busy expanding the business, bringing in state-of-the-art equipment, including three gigantic 60-barrel fermenters, and their friend and fellow brewer, Patrick O'Rorke, to run sales and marketing.
Right Bee Cider now uses three 60-barrel fermenters. [DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]
Until about six weeks ago, Right Bee was only available on draft at various bars and restaurants. Now the owners are bottling. [Provided]
Most recently, the team started bottling their cider for the first time, which means bottles of Right Bee are now sold at retailers like Binny's and Whole Foods. Up until about six weeks ago, Right Bee was only available on draft at various restaurants and bars throughout the Chicago area.
It's a major accomplishment for the duo, who started Right Bee as a part-time project in a small facility they shared with Davis' mother's container company, House of Cans.
It went from, "frost-bite, a cooler in alley in the middle of winter, cursing everybody and everything, to realizing there was something there," Davis said.
"We were putting so much work and effort into this and we decided that we're either going to do this right or we're not going to do it."
Between the two, Davis and O'Rorke have about 20 years of craft brewing experience. But Morgan, who works as a pediatric nurse, is the reason Right Bee Cider exists.
In 2012, Davis made a batch of apple cider as a means to win over Morgan, his crush at the time. He chose the name Right Bee Cider because it sounded like "right beside her."
"I noticed she liked cider, and I never made cider before, and she liked it and then we started dating. Then she felt obligated to marry me," Davis said with a laugh.
Charlie Davis and Katie Morgan of Right Bee Cider. [Provided]
That same cider is being produced today at the Hermosa facility. In fact, it's the only flavor Right Bee currently makes. The recipe includes culinary apples sourced from mills in Pennsylvania and New York, a small amount of honey from local company The Hive and a minimal amount of cane sugar.
"A lot of the commercial ciders that you get are really sweet and crystal clear. Our cider pours a little hazy, so it looks almost like a wheat beer. And it drinks dry, almost like a champagne," Davis said.
More flavors are likely coming soon. The Right Bee team is at work coming up with flavors for each season. Davis, for one, is hoping to make a watermelon-infused cider for summer.
Plans to open a taproom inside the massive Hermosa warehouse are also in the works, though not immediately. The Right Bee team wants to get retail distribution right first.
"We just got our feet under us from a manufacturing standpoint. We need to focus on this for a little bit," Davis said.
Right Bee is the one of the latest additions to a cider movement that has swept the Midwest in recent years. In 2014, cider became the fastest growing segment of the adult beverage industry, according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI. Though sales slowed down in 2015, the industry is continuing to see growth.
A bar entirely dedicated to the beverage, Northman Cider, opened in Chicago last year to much fanfare.
"Now there are different options and people understand what the product is, and I think that's what led to this resurgence. There are other people right behind us," Davis said.
For a list of places where you can find Right Bee Cider, visit the cidery's website.
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