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Exclusive Interview: The Power Couple Behind Hale & True, Bella Vista's First Cidery

Posted by Admin PhillyLiving on Tuesday, April 24th, 2018 at 4:21pm.

Philadelphia has its fair share of breweries and micro-breweries, however, what are those who aren't into the typical IPA or Belgian to do? That's where the new owners of Hale & True, Risa & Kerry McKenzie have focused their efforts - those who aren't into beer or looking for something a little different. We checked in with the McKenzie's to get some detail on Hale & True, tucked between Society Hill & Hawthorne on South 7th Street, to learn more about the process of making cider, how they got into the business, what we can expect when we visit Hale & True...and of course, when they're opening their doors! Here's what Risa & Kerry had to say about their cidery:

We’ve read you used to make cider out of your apartment, can you go more in depth about that and the process of making cider?

Kerry & Risa: When we decided to make our first batch of cider, we did what anyone would do - we googled how to do it! We really only had to buy a couple things: an airlock to let the C02 escape from the fermenting cider, a packet of dry yeast, and a gallon of unpasteurized apple cider. After it was done fermenting, we put a little bit of sugar in some glass bottles, poured the fermented cider in, capped the bottles, and then waited two weeks for it to carbonate. After trying that first cider, Risa and I fell in love with the process. Well, for me, maybe the best word would be obsessed. I bought multiple books on how to make cider and we decided to make a batch from start to finish. We ordered a ton of additional equipment like an apple press, 5-gallon carboys, and a whole slew of other things.

We got in touch with a local orchard and placed an order for 300 pounds of apples. We drove all the equipment to my parent's house and had a huge pressing party. We ground up the apples with a homemade scratter, pressed them with our apple press, and then we had about 15 gallons of juice that we took home to our tiny old city apartment to ferment.

When had you said, enough with making it in our home and made the decision to begin to look for a space to make, sell and share your talents with the community?

Kerry & Risa: Pretty much as soon as we made that first batch of cider, Hale & True was born. Risa had always wanted to start her own business, and after doing a lot of research, we decided there was a real opportunity to make it in the cider world. For years, we did our due diligence, talking to local cider makers, volunteering at a cidery called Frecon Farms, and writing a business plan that kept evolving over and over. About a year and a half ago we started looking for a space, and in May, 2017 we signed the lease for our location.

Where do you source your apples for the cider & how long is the process for you from the time the apples arrive, to the time someone can enjoy a cold one?

Kerry & Risa: We will work with a few different local orchards, but will primarily get our apples from Weaver's Orchard in Morgantown, PA. They are able to send us a list of available apple varieties, and we can specify a blend of apples that they press and put into 275 gallon totes. The reason a blend of apples is so important is to establish a balance between sugar, acid, and tannins. Most apples grown today don't really have everything we want to make a good cider, but with a blend, we can achieve that balance.

What drew you to this neighborhood and more specifically this location?

Kerry & Risa: I know it sounds cliche, but as soon as we walked into the building, we knew we had to set up shop here. The high ceilings and giant glass windows made it a perfect spot to set up our cidery. On top of that, Bella Vista is just a beautiful and friendly neighborhood. There are so many great restaurants and businesses in the area, and we thought a cidery would be a great complement to the neighborhood. Also, Risa and I live in a row home in South Philly, so we really wanted to stay close to our home.

This is something Philadelphia has not seen quite yet, we have our fair share of breweries but not a cider specific establishment, how has your experience been breaking into an untapped market?

Nearly everyone we talk to is so excited that we're bringing a cidery to Philly. I have a very good feeling that Philly is ready to really embrace cider, and we're so excited to have the opportunity to show people the potential and diversity of cider.

What can we expect the interior of Hale & True to look like? What do you envision for the ambiance or environment for guests?

Kerry & Risa: We wanted the interior to feel warm and comfortable while being a little more upscale than you might see in an average tasting room. Nearly all the furniture was built by Sweetwater Wood Design, who happens to be my dad and brother! They used salvaged cypress for the bar top and the banquet seating, and salvaged redwood for the tables. We envision people wanting to hang out for a leisurely few hours while sharing a few ciders and having some good conversation.

Will guests be able to tour the facilities where you create the cider? If so, will this be by appointment or scheduled tour only? And will those looking to take a tour be charged an entrance fee?

Kerry & Risa: Either Risa or I will generally be at the Taproom when we're open, and as long as we're not too busy, we'd be happy to give a tour of the production room. I can rarely pass up an opportunity to talk about cider and how it's made. We may do appointments or scheduled tours in the future, but for now, it will be more casual.

Will you be serving light bites to accompany the drink offerings? And while cider is the focus of your establishment, will there be additional drink options?

Kerry & Risa: We partnered with The Good King Tavern to create a menu of some really delicious light bites. If people are looking for a larger dinner, they can head on over to The Good King Tavern right across the street, or visit any number of fantastic restaurants within walking distance.

Day drinking is becoming increasingly more common especially with the warmer weather, will the hours of Hale & True allow for consumers to enjoy your cider earlier in the day?

Kerry & Risa: On Saturday and Sunday, we'll open our doors at 12, so people are more than welcome to get some day drinking in at the Taproom.

We’re anxiously awaiting the opening day, has there been a more concrete open day released quite yet? If not, are there soft openings or events where eager customers can experience Hale & True cider?

Kerry & Risa: We're just finishing up some final touches and making as much cider as possible before opening day. We don't have anything concrete, but be on the lookout for an opening before May 1!

There you have it, we are only days away from the opening of Hale & True, we're just awaiting the word and we will be there! Cider for All! 
A very special thank you to Kerry & Risa for taking the time to teach us more about the process of making cider, the history of their company & for bringing such a unique offering to Philadelphia!

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