The Appeal of Hard Cider

Matt Galiani named his Morrisville cidery after the nickname he mysteriously acquired in high school: “Penguin.” His signature cider is Emperor’s Select, left, a dry, English-style cider.

Matt Galiani, the founder of Naughty Penguin Hard Cider, wants you to know that most hard cider doesn’t taste like apple juice.

“People should understand that there’s more than one way; there’s more than one cider, and all of them can be different,” he said. “They don’t all have to be sugar sweet.”

The Morrisville small-batch cidery is a one-man show, with Galiani brewing the cider, filling the growlers, and cleaning the 2,000-square-foot space. He launched his business in 2017, after several years of market research and many test batches of cider.

Naughty Penguin ciders are made primarily from Pink Lady apples. “When I was starting my venture, it was one of the first juices that I had,” says Matt Galiani. “And it was so delicious that I had to test it, and it just came out amazing.”

“In 2013 I was looking around for new places to drink and found that there was basically only Bull City in the area, which disheartened me a little bit, because I thought cider was wonderful,” he said.

That timing coincided with the craft brewing boom in the Triangle, which also raised the profile of small-batch hard cider, says Dave Tollefsen, one of the NC Beer Guys.

“Breweries grew exponentially starting in 2012, but not everyone is into drinking craft beer,” he said. “A lot of breweries are now carrying ciders and wines to cater to non-beer drinkers, which helps the cider market grow.”

“The best aspect of owning my own business, is that I have the final word,” says Naughty Penguin owner Matt Galiani. “If I want to make a cider, I can make it. If I don’t want to make the cider, I don’t have to.”

Many cideries are also experimenting with hops and other ingredients, Tollefsen says. Some ciders don’t even taste like apples.

Stephen Minervino of Durham discovered Naughty Penguin cider about two years ago, and he appreciates the friendly atmosphere at the local cidery.

“My wife and I love the original Misbeehaving flavor — wildflower,” he said. “The other flavors are excellent as well, with the Sinnamon being my second favorite and the Flamenguin a solid competitor.”

Galiani primarily uses juice from Pink Lady apples, sourced regionally from North Carolina and Virginia. The variety is sweet, but with enough tartness to provide a good flavor, he says.

Due to the coronavirus, the Naughty Penguin tasting room is closed indefinitely, but customers can swing by and pick up a growler. The ciders available on tap can vary, so it’s best to call ahead if your mouth is set on a particular brew.

“The best aspect of owning my own business, is that I have the final word,” Galiani said. “The downside would be, it’s all on one person’s shoulders. It’s a challenge, no matter what you do.”

1220 Copeland Oaks Drive, Morrisville
(919) 333-0801

More N.C. Ciders

Perhaps the Triangle’s best-known cidery, Bull City Ciderworks was established in 2013 in Durham and now has a location in Lexington, N.C., as well. The cidery produces a range of refreshing beverages, from its signature cider, the crisp and dry Off Main, to seasonal and experimental brews.

In 2015, Virginia-based Bold Rock Hard Cider opened a production facility in Mills River, N.C., and today the company produces 10 year-round and four seasonal craft ciders from apples sourced from the region. The Mills River Cidery welcomes visitors to its taproom and outdoor cider garden. Saturday and Sunday tours may be affected by the coronavirus, so call before visiting.

Botanist & Barrel is known for sour and spontaneously fermented ciders. The Cedar Grove cidery and winery uses a variety of apples and other locally sourced ingredients.

Pittsboro’s Chatham Cider Works makes small-batch cider from North Carolina apples.

Urban Orchard Cider Company, in Asheville, uses Henderson County apples to craft a variety of ciders, ranging in flavor profile from bone-dry to semisweet.

Red Clay Ciderworks, in Charlotte, was founded in 2015 by Jay and Deanna Bradish. The cidery produces five core beverages and a range of seasonal offerings.

GoodRoad Ciderworks, in Charlotte, is known for making hand-crafted dry ciders and artisan meads.

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