There’s no place for apple juice concentrate at Bull City Ciderworks.
The Durham-based bar opened its Greensboro location on Jan. 15, attracting customers with its ciders defined by notes of true apple flavor.
“A driving force of what we’re doing is showcasing cider that isn’t sugary or super sweet,” says owner John Clowney, referencing ciders sweetened with concentrate or high-fructose corn syrup. “It tastes more like apple juice than sugar,” he says.
After searching for a location for a year and a half, Clowney chose the red venue on State Street that once housed Gibb’s Hundred Brewing Company, citing its close proximity to downtown, strong merchants in the area and the attractiveness of the building’s red exterior. The building got a makeover, receiving new countertops, fresh paint and a custom Bull City mural of a gray bull enjoying a bottle of cider with the Greensboro skyline in the back. The flowers, beets, apples and honey in the mural represent the different flavor additions to various ciders. It’s the second expansion of Ciderworks in the Triad, the first being in Lexington, which produces the bottled products sold in stores.
For the bar, settling in Greensboro was easy, despite the pandemic.
“Both the soft opening and grand opening has gone really well despite COVID,” says Clowney.
He says the Ciderworks was in a good financial position to be able to expand because of its popularity, and that doesn’t seem to be stopping.
“We’ve been pleased with the turnout from the Triad so far,” Clowney says.
To follow state protocols set by COVID, the bar brings in additional security on weekends for crowd control. Table placement sometimes goes beyond the standard, resting six or more feet apart indoors, with more seating available outside. All bartenders and patrons are required to wear masks. To provide even more safety, sanitizer stations are located in various spots in the space.
Although the bar serves beer and wine, it specializes in cider to stand out from the competition.
“When we were getting started, there wasn’t really a lot of cider knowledge or exposure in the market,” Clowney says.
That’s due to prohibition — the banning of the production, movement and sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920-33. Apple orchards were cut down and burned to prevent the production of hard ciders. Once prohibition ended, apple usage was strictly for eating, with beer becoming the drink of choice. In recent years, producers of alcoholic beverages have spent time perfecting recipes to create the hard cider the nation once enjoyed. Clowney says that his company sometimes adds a twist with different fruits and vegetables like beets.
“It’s got a pretty color and unique flavor profile I really like,” Clowney says of the bar’s purple Beetnik cider.
The bar also experiments with honey, candy corn and ginger to create unique flavors.
“Cherry tart is a crowd favorite,” Clowney says.
His favorite, however, is Bright Leaf, a drier cider that’s not as sweet as most due to secondary fermentation — the conversion of sugars into ethanol a second time.
After successful soft and grand openings, Clowney believes the bar’s different approach to serving alcoholic beverages — focusing on cider made with natural ingredients and sweeteners while serving beer and wine for those with different tastes — will lead to it becoming a permanent fixture in the Gate City.
“We just thought there was an opportunity to do something better than what was already being done,” he says.
Bull City Ciderworks is located at 504 State St. in Greensboro. To learn more, visit the bar’s Facebook page.