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Follow Up Interview with the Owners of Hale & True

Posted by Admin PhillyLiving on Thursday, June 14th, 2018 at 9:17am.

The last we left off Risa & Kerry McKenzie, Owners of Hale & True were gearing up for their grand opening the last weekend in April. Since then it's been a whirlwind and we're so glad they had the time to catch up once again to fill us in on what's been happening at their cidery, how their opening weekend went, what ciders we can see when we stop by and so much more!

  • The grand opening was the weekend of April 27th, can you go into a bit of how this was for you both as the owners? How were you feeling, did it meet and exceed your expectations?
    • Opening weekend was incredible and so surreal! After working on our dream of starting a cidery for 5 years, seeing it become a reality and sharing it with the world feels amazing. It was so exciting to witness people come into the taproom and enjoy our cider and environment. The process of leading up to opening was tough, but the final result exceeded our expectations. We are so happy with both the cider and space. We didn't have to compromise our vision at all.
  • For the customers who visited you for opening weekend, or since the opening, what has the feedback been like?
    • The feedback has been really positive and we couldn't be happier. We see customers with a range of previous knowledge about cider - a lot of people come in who haven't had much cider or have only had sweet cider. It's super exciting to surprise people with the diversity and potential about cider and see how much they like it. We're creating new cider fans while making interesting ciders that existing cider lovers also really enjoy.
  • We would love to hear about the stories behind each of the ciders! (The Standard, Hail to the Hop, Lil’ Sunshine & Sail Away).
    • The Standard - Local PA apple juice fermented to dryness with a white wine yeast. Simple, but delicious. The purest expression of the apple!
    • Hail to the Hop - Dry-hopped with citra hops. The cider we have been making the longest, besides the standard. We've tried many different hops over the years but citra always remained our favorite, the bright citrus flavors work so well in cider. We served kegs of this at our wedding!
    • Lil' Sunshine - Cider with local wildflower honey and sweet orange peel. Kerry went out to the apiary to meet the beekeeper, who said the bees who make this honey actually end up pollinating a lot of apple trees in the same area we get our apples from. Such a cool circle of life!
    • Sail Away - Cider with pure mango. It is actually resting on top of mango puree in the tank we serve it from, allowing the cider to pick up fruity, tropical notes without too much sweetness. This cider is inspired by our honeymoon in Hawaii last year. It was mango season when we were there, and we were eating the best fresh mangos every day. We wanted to hold on to those memories and bring a little bit of those good vibes back to Philly.
  • Are the stories of each cider shared with the customers anywhere around the cidery or have the staff been educated in the story behind these to share with consumers?
    • The stories are not formally posted anywhere, but our staff is definitely educated! But even better, you can find me or Kerry in the taproom almost anytime we're open, and we love to answer questions and talk about our ciders.
  • Will the ciders change seasonally, or as needed based on consumption? Will “The Standard” be a staple on the menu? Additionally, will the bites from GKT change with the season or are these going to remain pretty consistent?
    • We will always have four core ciders one tap, and will soon be adding a fifth tap for experimental ciders. At the end of the summer, we will switch out one of the ciders for our fall/winter cider called "The Season," which has cranberry and maple added. Some items from our food menu will be changed out seasonally. And the Pickled Vegetables are always seasonal, the batches vary slightly depending on what vegetables are currently in season.
  • How did you establish the relationship with GKT, was it due to how close they are to Hale & True or had you known them previously? Do they carry & serve your cider?
    • We began the conversation with The Good King Tavern after signing our lease, though it has always been one of our favorite restaurants. They have been very helpful and collaborative! Right now, our cider is only available on-site in our taproom.
  • How did you choose the other offerings on the menu - the bottled cider, the wines, the beer?
    • Our PA brewery license allows us to serve other PA alcohol - which is fantastic with all of the great local products available! We did a lot of tasting to select products we were excited to serve. We are proud of our beer list and to offer some of our local favorites, including a Brewery ARS rotating tap. The bottled cider we serve is the Modern Still made by our friends at Dressler Estate - it is crafted to be enjoyed like a white wine and offers something different than our own ciders. We chose high-quality spirits that can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in simple cocktails (nothing bottom shelf here). That includes local amari from Rowhouse Spirits because we love the depth and complexity of amari. And we have Baba's Brew kombucha on draft because kombucha played a part in our journey - we were fermenting kombucha at home for years before we began fermenting cider!
  • The atmosphere looks amazing in Hale & True, very bright & airy! With the warmer weather here and people looking to enjoy it, is there any talks of offering outdoor seating or are there windows which can be opened?
    • Yes! The big windows open up and I love the atmosphere it creates on a beautiful day. Outdoor seating is also in the works. Not only will it be great for nice days, but we are excited to have a place for people to sit with their dogs! (We are big dog lovers.)

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