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Durham’s Black Twig Cider House bought by Colorado cider maker

Black Twig Cider House, a cider-focused restaurant, celebrates its first year Saturday, April 1, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with local cider on draft, bottles and in the txtox (a Spanish cider barrel where people can get samples of cider in 2- to 4-ounce pours).
Black Twig Cider House, a cider-focused restaurant, celebrates its first year Saturday, April 1, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with local cider on draft, bottles and in the txtox (a Spanish cider barrel where people can get samples of cider in 2- to 4-ounce pours). BLACK TWIG CIDER HOUSE

Pioneering cider bar Black Twig Cider House has a new owner and soon will have a new name.

Local restaurateur Mattie Beason announced Tuesday he has sold the Durham establishment to Colorado cider maker Stem Ciders.

The Denver-based cidery intends to rename the bar — the first outside of Colorado — the Northern Spy.

Black Twig began in 2007 as the wine bar Six Plates, which Beason also owned but turned into the cider house in 2015. Craft cider is the lesser-known sibling of the craft beer revolution, but Black Twig offered fans one of the few cider-centric menus in the area.

Beason also hosted the annual Txotxfest (also called TxakoliFest), a cider festival named for the txotx, or the funky Spanish ciders poured straight from the namesake barrel.

In an interview, Beason said the sale completes his recent effort to get out of the restaurant business. Last year he sold his south Durham neighborhood bar Mattie B’s Public House and initially was part of the group opening food truck hub County Fare before divesting from the project.

He said the Stem Ciders deal came about after he first reached out to them about a job. Beason is now Stem’s East Coast sales rep.

“I’ve known the Stem folks for five years; I happened to be in Denver and went to their opening night party and we’ve been good friends ever since,” Beason told The News & Observer. “I wanted to move into distribution and reached out first about a job, and then we talked about the idea of them expanding and taking over Black Twig.”

In a press release from Stem, the new owners plan to reopen this spring with a new menu and more beer options mixed in with cider. The new Northern Spy also will dedicate about half its space to its bottle shop.

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Denver-based Stem Ciders has bought Black Twig Cider House in Durham. It will rename the bar the Northern Spy. It’s their first bar outside Colorado. Stem Ciders

The Northern Spy takes its name from a variety of apple, one of Stem’s favorite cider-making varieties, said Courtney O’Rourke, the company’s director of marketing. The restaurant and cider bar will reopen in April or May, O’Rourke said, with a menu that’s still being developed.

North Carolina’s craft beer scene is one of the busiest in the country, but Beason said outside the Pacific Northwest, cider is still something of an afterthought, generally only taking up one or two taps in bars. Beason said his own passion for cider drove the opening of Black Twig, where the offerings were broad and largely devoted to the tart, dry and funky ciders.

“It’s not as hard as it used to be, but you’re still fighting the idea you only need one cider on the menu,” Beason said. “Obviously I tend to disagree with people on that.”

Stem Ciders can be found in North Carolina, Beason said, but that they should move into other East Coast states soon. The company has a lineup of canned and bottled ciders ranging from sweet to dry, some mixed with fruit or hops. Northern Spy will be Stem’s third location. All Stem ciders are made entirely from pressed and fermented fruit juice, O’Rourke said.

“There’s a lot of bad cider out there,” O’Rourke said, “made from concentrates with colors and fillings and additions. Our ciders are 100 percent fresh pressed juice.”

The space is at 2812 Erwin Road, Suite 104. In October, a post on Black Twig’s Facebook page said it would be closed indefinitely for renovation.

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Drew Jackson writes about restaurants and dining for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, covering the food scene in the Triangle and North Carolina.


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