Photo: Mark Williams Hoelscher, @mwhphoto
Photo: Mark Williams Hoelscher, @mwhphoto

Capitol Cider House Brings Local Flavor to the District’s Burgeoning Cider Scene

A revisiting of Mid-Atlantic roots, Capitol Cider House’s local influence can be felt at every touch point, from the product it sources to the design aesthetic in the Georgia Avenue space. The Petworth newcomer opened three months ago and has been a welcome addition to the booming neighborhood.

Speaking of being neighborly, there’s a heavy emphasis on all things local with a commitment to sourcing within a 200-mile radius of the U.S. Capitol Building. The industrial space is outfitted with reclaimed wood pieces and splashes of patriotic red, white and blue – with a back-wall mural executed by DC creatives No Kings Collective. The open layout features community seating with high tops scattered throughout the main space, a smaller private room dubbed the “Brewer’s Table” and an outdoor patio.

Founder Jared Fackrell first started experimenting with cider two years ago after a family trip to the Finger Lakes in New York. There, he and his wife found themselves at a cider house where they were struck by the complexity of flavors, crispness and wine-like taste of the ciders they sampled. They returned to DC joking about creating their own cider, prompting Fackrell to purchase a how-to book on cider production.

The jokes materialized into a hobby where, armed with his Amazon Books purchase, prior homebrewing knowledge (he had brewed beer years ago) and self-built equipment, Fackrell set off on a course that would eventually lead to opening Capitol Cider House.

DC’s newest cidery arrives at a time when local and regional cideries are on the rise in popularity and growth. According to the United States Association of Cider Makers, dollar sales of craft cider increased 39 percent in 2016 when compared to 2015 and in the past year, market share grew 30 percent for regional ciders.

As members of a CSA (community supported agriculture), Fackrell and his wife saw the value of reconnecting with food and knowing where produce comes from – a big driver behind his devotion to keeping that local flair for Capitol Cider House. When asked what he thinks is the driving force behind the renewed interest in cider both regionally and nationally, Fackrell notes, “Part of it stems from this reconnection of where your food is coming from. Folks are starting to revalue the taste of something over the appearance.”

The local curiosity of knowing where food products are sourced and how they are made is evident come pressing time at the cidery. Every Monday through Wednesday, the team clears the main space for apple processing: furniture is pushed back, sleeves are rolled up and 3,000 pounds of apples are pressed. Passersbys can get a not so behind-the-scenes look at what goes into this process courtesy of the floor-to-ceiling window storefront. Fackrell notes that many a curious pedestrian has stopped to peer in, press a nose to the glass and take a video, helping to demystify how it all works.

With two cideries already on the DC scene, Capitol Cider House’s approach is distinct from its counterparts. Those with a palate geared toward craft beers will likely be intrigued by Ivy City’s Supreme Core offerings, whereas guests with a penchant for Spanish wines or Basque-style cider will find appealing options at DC’s first cidery, Anxo. In contrast, Capitol Cider House will focus on the barrel-aging process to produce smaller-batch ciders, fortifying them to create an apple, port-like product.

Twelve taps behind the bar feature 10 ciders, including Anxo and Supreme Core, with the remaining two saved for mead and beer. The menu also includes over 30 bottled ciders. Not sure where to start? Opt for a flight of four ciders chosen at the drinker’s discretion or preselected by the cidermaker.

As for food, the cidery partnered up with Union Kitchen alums to bring local, homegrown fare to the table. Guests will find Sri Lankan street food in the form of roti and sambol from Ten Tigers Parlour’s Short Eats pop-up, as well as a slew of Colombian-style empanadas from M’Panadas. Additionally, the food menu includes cheese plates and hot dogs with hamburgers coming soon.

In the next few months, expect another collaboration with Distillery Lane Ciderworks near Frederick, Maryland (Fackrell worked with the distillery to produce his first house cider Quincey, which has since poured its last drop), cold weather cider options (think mulled versions perfect for the impending cooler temperatures) and more house products added to the tap list.

Sunday jazz brunch is a recent endeavor that will likely become a mainstay, a nostalgic nod to Fackrell’s days as an undergrad in New Orleans. Customers can expect more food pop-ups, events with guest bartenders showcasing cider in cocktails and other fun collaborations.

Three months in, the neighborhood’s reception of Capitol Cider House has been warm and welcoming – the bar even has a group of regulars. But Fackrell isn’t ready to slow down yet. With the apple harvest coming up, he’s already thinking ahead and excited about  producing cider and “introducing more of our products under the tap list.”

To those still unsure about the cider craze?

“I would offer that most people who come in here and don’t know anything about cider who are willing to at least try, some of them will walk out with a different impression – the same way that I walked out up in New York.”

Visit Capitol Cider House on Thursday and Friday from 4 p.m. to midnight, Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Learn more at www.capitolciderhouse.com and follow the cidery on social media at @capciderhouse.

Capitol Cider House: 3930 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; 202-621-0982; www.capitolciderhouse.com