Durham, N.C. — Rule No. 1: Not all cider is sweet, syrupy, alcoholic apple juice.
“There are bunches of people who are like, ‘I don’t really like cider,’” says Black Twig Cider House co-owner Mattie Beason. “And I’m like, ‘No, what you don’t like is what I don’t carry.’”
Take the El Chavo from Michigan-based Blake’s Hard Cider, one of more than 90 bottle/can options available in addition to six frequently rotating taps. An intricate combination of mango and habanero fuses sweet and spicy with underlying tart apple flavor all in one sip.
“Putting something like this cider in front of somebody and saying, ‘You like it spicy with a little bit of a punch? Taste this.’ And seeing people’s eyes light up and go, ‘What? That’s cider? Nobody told me that was an option for cider.’ That’s been the most fun, seeing people just sort of get it.”
It’s a concept that has been in the works for nearly five years, according to Mattie. But the timing had to be just right to launch this “hardcore cider house,” the first the area has seen.
“We had to have access to the right cider and the right amount of cider to be able to really make a dent in people’s minds. There are now enough ciders distributed in the state that I can curate a list I can get excited about. As soon as I hit that point, I was like, ‘OK, John [Eisensmith, Black Twig co-owner], let’s pull the trigger on this.’” Rather than starting a new restaurant – the pair are also partners in Mattie B’s Public House – they revamped their Six Plates Wine Bar in March.
A new menu features primarily Firsthand Foods’ sausages on Guglhupf buns – simply because “pork and apples are awesome together.”
Mattie has one more rule – if you’re not sure what you want, ask for cider-certified Manager Amy Loria. “She knows what she’s doing.”
Editors Note: This story originally appeared in Durham Magazine.
Join Chef Mattie Beason for two events at TASTE 2017: a cider-making class and tasting and a gluten-free dinner with Tim Lyons of Primal, both on Friday, April 21. Tickets are available online. TASTE 2017 is brought to you by Durham Magazine, Chapel Hill Magazine and Johnson Lexus. WRAL Out and About is a sponsor of TASTE 2017.