Those looking for an accessible alcoholic reprieve from Philly Beer Week need only cast a bleary-eyed glance across history, to the noble era of our Founding Fathers ... by way of Northeast Philly. That's where Revolution Cider, the only commercial apple cider made in Philadelphia, recently began production.
Brothers Gideon and Jonathan Gradman, born in Connecticut and raised in Pittsburgh, founded Revolution in 2009 and began cider-making this spring. Jonathan, who studied history at Brandeis University and later completed the Master Brewer's Program at UC–Davis, was fascinated by the cider traditions of the early Americans and heavily researched the process.
The Gradmans' resultant Frankford cidery is "a true small-batch operation," according to Gideon, who oversees sales and marketing. "We really are trying to emulate the methods and the style of colonial cider." That means Revolution cranks out only a few hundred gallons of product at a time, naturally conditioning the 6.5 percent ABV beverage to a sparkle in 12-ounce beer bottles. They're sourcing apples from Weavers Orchard in Morgantown, using a blend of varieties to achieve a product comparable to the cider-with-a-bite enjoyed by Adams, Revere, Washington, Franklin (all of whom are jokingly credited as Revolution’s “co-founders”) and their cravat-wearing ilk.
Cider often requires "apples you might not eat," says Gideon of their Weavers-derived raw ingredients. "The apples at the grocery store might not make a very good cider. Apples that are tart, sour or acidic are not necessarily great to taste raw, but can add a lot of flavor characteristics to cider."
The product itself, currently available at Philly venues like Supper, Tria, Biba and Watkins Drinkery, pours a cloudy, sun-yellow hue — similar in appearance to a Belgian wit, with maybe the slightest tint of apple green. It's assertively effervescent to start, but if you let it sit and relax for a few, the unadulterated flavors — apple (more peel than juice) and a little funk (bottle-conditioning produces a small amount of sediment) — really come through.
Revolution's biggest point of appeal, however, is something it lacks — sweetness. Colonial ciderphiles liked their stuff bone-dry, and that's how the Gradmans like theirs, too. Put it to the test this Monday at MidAtlantic, which will host Revolution Cider for a happy hour complete with paired bites from the kitchen.