The Cleveland cider scene has a lot to thank Griffin Cider Works’ president and cider master Richard Read for. Since 2010, his British-inspired ciders have been a staple to the city’s cider lovers’ palates, and just last summer, the British ex-pat opened Cleveland’s first cider bar, Griffin Cider House.
Successes aside, Read works to maintain a sense of tradition, which he conveyed to me while in transit from the market to his production space to create his annual batch of Saint Patrick’s Day cider.
“I made my first batch of cider when I was 14,” remembers Read. “I got some apples and pears and did the basics. I needed a potato masher to mash them up and I used the wild yeast that was already on the fruit.”
Years after his first experience with the potato masher—and many more batches of cider later—Read moved to Ohio, where he now serves a scrumpy-style cider designed to taste like that of his home village cider in Herefordshire, England. “We’ve had a lot of Brits try the cider convinced it was from England,” says Read, whose new locale has required him to create his ciders with entirely different varieties than are found in the United Kingdom.
Alongside the popular English-style ciders served at the cider house is an array of British pub fare, which guests can nosh on for an exceptionally authentic atmosphere. Scotch eggs and Cornish pasties (meat- and vegetable-filled pastries) can be found on the menu. The cidery will also be playing rugby on their televisions in February, so Read expects both Brits and Irish to make appearances during the season.
While Read enjoys the company of fellow British accents and the flavor of home that accompanies them, he is not afraid to branch out. The near future holds an extra-dry farmhouse cider in store for the Griffin, as well as a possible Spanish-style cider.
“One of our barrels went in a completely different direction than the others, it tasted so similar to Spanish cider,” explains Read, whose current mission is to solve the mystery of that lone barrel. “Some people will try to back-grow yeasts from other people’s cider, but we’re gonna do it the hard way. Extract what’s alive and get it to work again.”
Detecting and re-creating the “mess-ups” is possible for someone like Read, who has been embracing the unknown since he mashed his first batch of fruit. “Sometimes (the mess-ups) produce some pretty amazing results,” he says.
Considering his beginnings with cidermaking, it’s no surprise that Read is not only willing to experiment for prolonged amounts of time to get the recipe just right, but relishes in the opportunity to do so.
“It is possible to be too clean, too sterile,” Read says. “You’re dealing with nature, and she follows her own set of rules.”
As for that Saint Patrick’s Day cider? Read reveals juniper and elderflower as two starring ingredients in the “Connaught Ranger,” next to apples, of course. The festive blend is just one thing we have to look forward to from Griffin Cider Works.