After a few years in the works, Threadbare Ciderhouse and Meadery opens next week, just in time for the height of fall. A project of the Grelli/Meyer clan that co-owns Wigle Whiskey, “threadbare” is a playful reference to John Chapman (a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed), who wandered the Midwest from his homestead in Pittsburgh spreading apple seeds and his religion, Swedenborgianism. His jovial spirit and ragged appearance appealed to the owners, and they named the cidery in his honor.
Threadbare found its home right down the street from the Wigle Barrelhouse & Whiskey Garden, in Spring Garden. The building is the former offices of a defunct tannery and offers plenty of space (and the ever-elusive-in-Pittsburgh off-street parking) for the business to expand. Barrels from Wigle have a new home in their storage space, while the rest of the ground floor houses an enormous walk-in and three fermenting tanks with space for a total of 12 and a bottling line. “We’ll be billing it much more like a wine,” says co-owner Meredith Grelli, referring to the 750-ml bottles they will sell it in. The cider house is classified as a “limited winery” under the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. Grelli and head cider-maker Brian Bolzan wanted to emphasize the origin and flavor notes of the apples in their product.
Bolzan, formerly of Jack’s Hard Cider, brings experience and a commitment to originality. The cidery is currently sourcing from four farms in the Western Pennsylvania region — Kistaco Farm, Soergel’s Orchard, Trax Farms and Godfrey Run Farm — and hope to be able to work in some unique varieties of apples in the future. Three core ciders — the dry cider, the dry-hopped cider and the farmhouse cider — will launch, and a variety of cider cocktails developed by Audra Kelly, general manager and director of the beverage programs for both Wigle Whiskey and Threadbare, will be available for those who want an extra kick. Each cider is around 7 or 8 percent. The cider will be force-carbonated with CO2, with the exception of the dry cider, which will be bottle-conditioned (which allows the yeast to naturally carbonate the cider after fermentation on the shelf). But the team looks forward to exploring still ciders down the line.
Chef Jay Wess, formerly of Dinette, has been doing some exploration of his own, developing a fermented-dough pizza crust from the yeast available at the cidery. His pizzas will be on offer with seasonal toppings (try the Meyer lemon pizza, if you can) along with charcuterie plates, and a few small plates with local sourcing when possible. A Weatherbury Farms polenta crust can fill in for those who desire a gluten-free pizza. Cider enthusiasts won’t have to wait long to get a taste. Catch the grand opening Fri., Oct. 20, to explore the new space, drink a cider, and listen to some live music. www.threadbarecider.com