Democracy Dies in Darkness

Going Out Guide

D.C.’s cider scene is blossoming. Here’s where to go and what to try.

August 10, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Winchester Cider Works' 522, a dry cider made with black currants, on tap at Capitol Cider House. (Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post/)

The Capitol Cider House opened its doors July 20 in Petworth, with 10 ciders on tap and a press that could potentially turn out 5,000 gallons of cider a year. This comes on the heels of Supreme Core opening a warehouse-sized facility near the National Arboretum in May. And to think, before Anxo opened in July 2016, there hadn’t been a commercial cider maker in Washington since Prohibition.

It sounds like a crowded field, but each cider-maker has a different approach and flavor profile and rarely steps on the others’ toes. (For now, anyway.) We’re still a few months from harvest season, but cider is hotter than ever. Here’s a quick guide to Washington’s three working cideries.

Capitol Cider House 

On a family vacation in New York's Finger Lakes region, Jared Fackrell got tired of going to wineries, so he and his wife went to a cidery instead. “I thought it would be like Woodchuck,” he says with a laugh. “It was anything but: dry and crisp like a white wine.” Now he’s the proprietor of D.C.’s newest cidery. “The focus is more on the barrel side,” he says, aging cider in oak previously used for red wine and spirits, “fortifying and mellowing the taste over time.” (Look for pommeau, similar to an apple port, at some point.)

The vibe: A cool neighborhood bar that happens to have 5,500 pounds of boxed fruit and a cider mill on hand. The large windows and colorful murals behind the bar brighten up a space that is otherwise strictly in reclaimed barn doors/corrugated metal/exposed concrete territory. A small patio facing Shepherd Street offers 20 more seats. There’s no TV, so pick up a board game near the front door and settle in. It’s also worth noting that the Cider House is a family-friendly spot: On a recent visit, one bar stool was occupied by a little girl playing with an Etch A Sketch. “I have two little boys, and when we had kids, we still wanted to come to places like this,” Fackrell says. “In practice, the family crowd ebbs and flows with naptime and bedtime.”

House ciders: The only housemade cider on tap is Quincy, a collaboration made with Frederick County’s Distillery Lane Ciderworks while Capitol Cider House was waiting to open. It’s bright, semi-dry and promising, and that bodes well for future releases. (Fackrell hopes the next offering will be ready by Labor Day.) Ten of the dozen taps are given over to ciders produced within 200 miles of the U.S. Capitol, including Winchester’s 522, a dry cider with a punch of black currant color and flavor, and Big Fish’s semisweet Church Hill Blush, an easy-sipping pink cider that could give rosé a run for its money. Most glasses are $8; a flight of four tasters ranges from $12 to $15.

Food: Sri Lankan street food purveyor Short Eats and empanada maker M’Panadas provide the snacks, which are prepared at Union Kitchen. The latter offers both regular and gluten-free options. “Cider and gluten-free go hand-in-hand, so we wanted to have our food menu go along with that,” Fackrell says. More vendors may be brought in for pop-up events in the future, such as a chicken-and-waffles truck for brunch.

Cider to go: If you find something you want to take home, a 32-ounce growler costs $29.

3930 Georgia Ave. NW. Open Thursday and Friday from 4 p.m. to midnight, Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

A flight of cider at Supreme Core Cider in Northeast D.C. (Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post/)

Supreme Core 

Will Sullivan and Kyle Crosby were Washington consultants who made their own cider at home. They met on an online forum for cider makers, figured out they were both in the District and started collaborating. After initially producing and canning their cider at Baltimore’s Charm City Meadworks, they’re now fermenting and aging cider at a facility in Northeast Washington.

[Supreme Core expands the D.C. cider scene]

The vibe: Spacious and industrial. You walk past rows of stainless steel tanks and an indoor cornhole setup to get to the bar. Wooden gin and bourbon barrels holding cider line one wall. Furnishings are sparse, a reminder that you’re drinking in the cinder block warehouse where cider is made.

House ciders: Supreme Core’s ciders cover a spectrum of flavors, but there’s an engaging spirit of experimentation throughout. The 11 taps on a recent Saturday included the crisp Nother Mother, dry-hopped with IPA-friendly hops and rested on grapefruit zest; Midlanticky, which gets its zip from sea salt and lemon peels; and Cherry Bloom, a deep and tangy cider made by refermenting the house Micawber cider with champagne yeast and tart Michigan cherries. Frequent visits are rewarded: Every few weeks, Sullivan promises, “at least two or three” of the options will be new. A flight of four tasters is $12, full pints are $7.50 to $8.50.

Food: Food trucks park outside, and bags of chips are available at the bar.

Cider to go: Four-packs of cider, including Midlanticky and Nother Mother, range from $12 to $14.

2400 T St. NE. Open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.

The Anxo Cidery in Brightwood Park is expanding to the front of its building, where a new restaurant will serve breakfast and lunch and sell freshly roasted coffee from Lost Sock Roasters. (Farrah Skeiky/)

Anxo

When Anxo opened its Basque-inspired restaurant and cider bar in Truxton Circle in July 2016, no one else in the city had the same focus on cider — and no one had created a “Made in D.C.” cider featuring fruit foraged from city trees. The following year, the Anxo team opened a second, airier production facility and tasting room in Brightwood Park, expanding their output to 30,000 gallons.  

[Anxo’s new cidery serves Old World ciders and Basque-style snacks]

Now, they’re getting ready to expand again. Founder Sam Fitz says he’s about to sign a lease on a new D.C. cider-making facility that will allow Anxo to ramp up production to around 100,000 gallons each year, with 12 products going into cans before being sent as far afield as North Dakota and Nova Scotia. The new space will have a tavern license, Fitz says, but it will operate mostly as production and canning house.

The Kennedy Street tasting room is also expanding this year to add an all-day coffee shop, bar and restaurant at the front of its current building. “Farm to dive” is the theme, Fitz says. It will host freshly roasted coffee from D.C.’s Lost Sock Roasters and serve breakfast and lunch on weekdays. They’ll also pour two dozen craft beers. The cider house will continue to produce most of the cider served on tap at the two Anxo locations, around 20,000 gallons a year.

The vibe: The two locations are very different. The original Anxo is a semi-traditional bar and restaurant with a large, bustling patio. The first-floor bar, topped with plates of Basque-inspired small bites, or pintxos, pours cider, craft beer, vermouth and Spanish wines, while picnic tables outside encourage lingering. The Brightwood Park taproom is more laid-back, possibly due to its location tucked down an alley, or the random movies or documentaries playing on TVs. The building’s exposed brick feels warm without being too industrial.

House ciders: Anxo’s ciders are traditional without being boring. The signature Cidre Blanc is as simple as Gold Rush apples and sauvignon blanc yeast; its Grand Cru, a blend of ciders, is inspired by tannic West Country English ciders. 

What you’ll drink depends on which location you visit. The Florida Avenue location is stocked with a wide variety of ciders, including English styles from hand-pulled casks, Spanish varieties poured from height into a glass, and American craft ciders from across the country. Kennedy Street focuses on the breadth of Anxo’s housemade ciders, though craft beer and cocktails are offered, too. Glasses are $7 to $11; small pours of four ciders cost $12 to $15.

Food: At Florida Avenue, chef Alex Vallcorba’s menu focuses on pintxos from his native Spain, such as gazpacho, croquettes and smoked anchovies on toast. There are also fried pig ears, pan-roasted quail and selections of Spanish meats and cheeses. Kennedy Street is informal — think cheese and charcuterie plates, Spanish omelets, or simple Spanish sandwiches, prepped on a counter behind the bar.

Take it with you: All of Anxo’s ciders — the ones they make and the ones they just sell — are available to go, thanks to their liquor license. In-house ciders start at $12.99 for a four-pack or $7.99 for a 500-milliliter bottle.

Restaurant and bar: 300 Florida Ave. NW. Tasting room: 711 Kennedy St. NW.


Fritz Hahn has covered bars, drinks and nightlife for The Washington Post's Weekend section since 2003, but he also writes about a variety of local entertainment topics.

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