City Orchard in Houston, Texas, is yet to open, but has plans to take the local cider market by storm when it does. Before the end of the year, owners Patrick Kwiatkowski, Mat Smith and Clay Watson will introduce the city to only its second cidery, joining Houston Cider Co., which opened in early 2018.
The concept for City Orchard first came about in what Kwiatkowski describes as a serendipitous matter. Both he and Smith are from the Great Lakes region but were living in Houston at the time, each having gotten into cidermaking separately before meeting. Once the duo met, they knew their individual passions for cidermaking could sprout into a business.
For Smith, who was raised on a farm in New York where his family owns a commercial orchard, he says starting City Orchard is “a way to reconnect to my family history and be around the product.”
City Orchard’s central Houston location is large at 8,000-square-feet, with half of the space dedicated to production, the other half to a chic, urban taproom experience, featuring a massive bar area and plenty of tables for groups. “Our goal is to establish our brand through our tasting room,” Kwiatkowski says. “We don’t want it to feel like a Napa winery, but we wanted it to be a little fancier than an open-air brewery.”
The company will offer a variety of house ciders, plus beer and wine. “We want to make sure there is something for everyone,” Kwiatkowski says. “We’ll be making our own beer and sourcing wine through direct relationships around the country and world. That’s how we can turn people onto cider.”
The cider will come in three linesOrchard Blend Series which will be small-batch, experimental ciders made with heirloom apples and single varietals; the Apple Tree Series which are the easy-drinking and 100-percent apple; and the Cider Fresca Series of fruit-infused ciders.
“My original plan was to have a small space and make French-style cider,” Kwiatkowski says, noting how American cider experimentation with European cider apples and domestic apples has led to some of the best ciders he’s tasted. “Then I met Mat, which was a very lucky encounter, I wouldn’t be here without Mat… I think we’ve landed on a formula here.”
The cidery is currently sourcing its fruit from Smith’s family farm in New York, which both partners agree allows them to have a deep connection to the fruit. “Of the variables that go into a finished product, the quality of the fruit is the most important,” Kwiatkowski says.
For now, the team is focused on bringing top-tier cider to Houston and educating people in a city where cider is just starting to gain traction. Kwiatkowski and Smith want people to know that although the fruit isn’t grown in Texas, the final products still carry its pride. “Born in the Great Lakes, raised in Texas.”