New cider tasting room now open in the Hilltop – and it’s family friendly
Tacoma, you’ve got one more cidery. Grit City Ciderworks is now open in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood.
The nano cidery that specializes in small-batch ciders comes from husband-wife team Kelsey and David Horne.
They’ve taken over a Hilltop storefront previously occupied by a kombucha producer.
Their Grit City Ciderworks tasting room opened last week with a trial run/soft opening. They’ll continue operating on Fridays and Saturdays for now.
GRIT CITY CIDERWORKS BASICS
As is true for a lot of cider makers, David Horne found his way to hard cider through beer brewing. He’s brewed for about a decade. While exploring the local brew scene, he kept running into a cider problem.
“I was getting turned on to all these ciders, and I didn’t like them. A lot of the ciders were a little too sweet. They were off-putting.”
He decided to try making his own ciders to see if he could come up with flavors and sweetness levels he found a little more palatable.
He learned he already had a head start as a home beer brewer. “I had an idea of the process. I transferred that knowledge in cider, but I took a class from OSU to make sure I wasn’t missing crucial information. I started making cider and experimenting and what I needed to do and improve upon.”
Once he got his recipes down, it was time to find a home.
GRIT CITY CIDERWORKS LOCATION
When they started talking about opening a cidery as a side gig, Kelsey and David thought about opening a cider brewing facility and tasting room in their South Tacoma home.
Their home’s zoning area proved problematic in their neighborhood setting – David Horne is on the Tacoma Planning Commission, so he’s very familiar with the city’s codes.
Knowing the limitations of their neighborhood, they started a mission of finding a neighborhood that would seem a good home for a neighborhood cidery and tasting room.
“We looked around South Tacoma Way, East Tacoma, random spots in North Tacoma,” he explained.
And then they found the Hilltop spot that formerly housed a kombucha producer. “The building really worked for what I wanted to do. Once I got to know the neighborhood a little better, everybody was very welcoming and excited for us after the kombucha place closed. I thought it was a really good fit.”
Nearby neighbors include the Broken Spoke, Le-Le, Bob’s Bar-B-Q Pit, 1022 South J, Zodiac Supper Club and the Eleven Eleven (which is reopening soon). They’re right in the middle of the Hilltop’s entertainment district.
Kelsey and David appreciate the density and walk-ability of the Hilltop neighborhood, as well as the light rail that is under construction in the neighborhood right now.
THE FLAVORS AND THE FRUIT
David and Kelsey live in South Tacoma now, but David happens to be from Wenatchee, the apple epicenter of the state. He didn’t grow up farming apples, but he spent his childhood immersed in apple culture. PLU brought him here. Kelsey is pursuing a masters degree right now at University of Washington Tacoma.
As they started exploring cider recipes they settled on a few different ideas. One is to source as much as their fruit locally as they can. While they bring apples across the mountain, they intend to source apples from this side of the mountains this fall during the apple season.
They also source the fruit flavorings locally. Like super local – in their backyard.
“Most of it is the fruits that we have in our yard,” said David. He said they picked the cherry, rhubarb and raspberries themselves.
David and Kelsey describe their style of cider as less sweet, but they will have sweeter ciders available. “The majority of the ciders I make are on the drier side. I try and mix it with the fruit flavors to get the right balance for a variety of palates,” he said.
Their rotation during opening week included a lemon-raspberry, mango, oaked cherry, strawberry-lime, strawberry-rosemary, blueberry and more. I spotted a limited release of a mango citra hop that will be a good crossover beverage for beer lovers.
FAMILY FRIENDLY TAPROOM
The Grit City Ciderworks space is kid friendly by design. Their daughter turns one in August and they envisioned a destination where they could comfortably bring her and also invite other families with kids to come taste.
“We go to all these places we want to drink at and we have to find a babysitter or someplace else to go,” explained David. “Having somewhere where you can have a kid and hang out for awhile and not be so restrictive is what we wanted to do.”
Expect eight ciders on tap. They’ll only carry Grit City Ciderworks ciders because their licensing requires they only sell their cider. They don’t serve a full menu of food, but they do have snacks available for purchase. Outside food is also welcome and if you’re dining on the Hilltop, grab an order of ribs from Bob’s Bar-B-Q Pit or a Vietnamese noodle salad from Le-Le.
Typically, they can fit 65 in their tasting room, but with Covid-19 restrictions, they’ve whittled that down quite a bit to about 35, and they currently don’t allow seating at the bar.
The cider brewing equipment is located in a tiny space downstairs from the tasting room, but the cider production area is not open to the public (mostly because the downstairs production area is so small).
They’ll be open weekends for now, from 4-9 p.m. Fridays and 3-9 p.m. Saturdays. Check their social media for updates and the current cider list. Links are below.
GRIT CITY CIDERWORKS
Where: 1016 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Tacoma
Hours: 4-9 p.m. Fridays and 3-9 p.m. Saturdays.
MORE CIDER IS COMING!!
FIERCE COUNTY CIDER EXPANDING
South Hill-based cidery Fierce County Cider is expanding to a tasting room in South Hill. They plan to open this summer. Read more here.
DID YOU HEAR THAT CIDER + CEDAR IS OPENING?
Also in Tacoma is cider taproom Cider + Cedar. It will open this summer with a focus on local cider producers. They also could be a furniture gallery. Read more here.