There may not be much room in the South End area these days for acres of apple orchards, but Red Clay Ciderworks (245 Clanton Rd.) is officially proud to call the area home. Located in the former Englishman’s furniture store, there are several nods to the previous tenant throughout, but Charlotte’s first cidery has taken great pains into transforming this space into their own.
The taproom itself boasts a great view into the stainless steel tanks in the brewing area, courtesy of a large glass wall behind the spatial bar. To your left, notice the board listing beverage offerings. Just beside that offer board, backers of a successful Kickstarter campaign are named individually and fashioned into an intricately-designed apple, as thanks for their support for taproom improvements.
A gorgeous shuffleboard table occupies much of the opposite wall, with larger communal tables joined by smaller tables fashioned from bourbon barrels arranged throughout the space.
After wildly successful grand opening events over the weekend, the staff’s still trying to catch their breath today.
The Carolina Brewmasters christened the space on Friday, a gentle crowd of 70 folks. The floodgates opened on Saturday, with at least 1,200 folks pre-buying drink tickets and soaking in the ambiance. Sunday was a free-for-all by comparison, but the staff feels comfortable if not completely moved by local support.
Pressed apple juice is regionally sourced from two Western North Carolina providers, with those liquid raw materials arriving in 250 gallon plastic totes. Red Clay paints with many colors, as each cider variety is crafted from a variety of apples that is pressed together and blended thusly.
I was fortunate to garner a sneak preview of upcoming flagship Hoppin’ Good Thyme, with great leafy hop notes complemented by an herbal caress of thyme and lavender. This offering will feature alongside other flagships Queen City Common and Southend Sweet.
Occasional offerings will also grace the tap lines. A bourbon-barrel variety will be on more often than not. Non-apple juice blends will rotate throughout the year depending on seasonal ingredient availability. Single-apple-varietal juices will also be fermented, allowing an educational component to your imbibing. A mulled cider shall appear in the cooler months, followed by a rum-barrel aged version intended to be rested in Belmont’s Muddy River Distillery’s cooperage.
While cider production is certainly the focus, Charlotte’s beer drinkers will not feel out of place. There are rotating guest taps, currently courtesy of Birdsong, D9, and Sugar Creek. Non-alcohol options are also abundant, with Lenny Boy’s Strawberry Kombucha and Pure Intentions Nitro Coffee on draft, plus Mooresville’s Uncle Scott’s Root Beer in bottles.
Writing articles usually goes much smoother when a pleasant libation is involved. Lightly carbonated with a delicate straw-hued body, the semi-dry Queen City Common finishes with just a kiss of apple sweetness before disappearing into a pleasant memory. Nor’ Easter, blended with cranberries, offers a nice tart finish and a gorgeous red hue. Southend Sweet rounds out my experience this evening, the same gorgeous coloration of Queen City Common but with a full-tongued lingering finish.
Red Clay Ciderworks is currently open, on Wednesday and Thursday from 4-9pm, Friday from 3-10pm, Saturday from 12-10pm, and Sunday from 12-6pm. In-house offerings are priced at $6, with guest beer taps at $5 and non-alcohol offerings less.