At the turn of the 19th century, magic was in the air. It was an era dubbed the “Golden Age of Magic” and colorful posters lined streets promoting fantastical performances and grand personas. Inspired by the mystical culture, Chad Kimmel wanted his cidery to take on the essence of this enchanting period. “I wanted to create a cider company around an image, around a feeling, around a color scheme and an emotional kind of scheme,” Kimmel says. “So I picked magic.”
Along with his wife, Kimmel opened Grand Illusion Hard Cider, a cidery and wine bar in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in February. Like many craftsmen, he started as a homebrewer and basement winemaker. After stepping into the alcohol world by enrolling in enology classes, he quickly realized he either had to know a lot about wine or have a lot of money to invest in the grapes — and Pennsylvania wasn’t the easiest place to grow a vineyard.
Instead Kimmel recognized the cider revolution and decided to jump on it, particularly because Carlisle sits just above Adams County, one of the largest apple producing regions in the nation. He also noticed his changing community; craft breweries and distilleries were starting to set up shop in his town. Inspired by the book “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” by Malcolm Gladwell, he wanted to find a way he could contribute to his community by tapping into an underrepresented market, one between big cities Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
“In my own naive way, I thought, ‘let’s try and create the Portland, Oregon, of Pennsylvania by creating a synergy of beer [and] of cider,’” Kimmel says. “I’ve met someone who’s trying to bring a distillery in. This is happening all over the place, and I just thought [we could] mobilize the resources that we have.”
Grand Illusion was born out of this momentum; to create something that would complement other businesses in the Carlisle community. Today the cidery and wine bar serves as an experience more than just a place to buy good cider. Kimmel describes it as a hybrid: a bar, a taproom and a restaurant. It’s a place you can bring your kids to hang out with the cidery’s house magician on Monday evenings, but also a somewhere to have a conversation about the cider and local makers. The 26 taps pour house cider as well as other Pennsylvania ciders, beers, and wines.
For Kimmel, it was essential he create an establishment before production. “Let me create a place, like an epicenter where people will come,” he explains. “I’m going to sell the majority through the door. That’s the goal.”
Getting the space up and running didn’t slow cider production either; it was only a matter of five short weeks after the grand opening before they were pouring their own and now the team is working on the first batch of cider to be canned come April 5.
“Make it like wine and sell it like beer,” says Kimmel on his business model. Blue Illusion, a blueberry lavender cider, is the lucky first canning, but four other ciders will soon make a debut.
With some hard work, good cider and a touch a magic, Grand Illusion has found its place in Carlisle and the cider world.