Original 13 Ciderworks Coming to Kensington This Fall

Original 13 Ciderworks in Kensington, we'll call this the before.

Original 13 Ciderworks in Kensington, the before shot.

Here in the city, we are lucky to have a handful of breweries that make really great beer, but do we have a place that produces wine, cider, perries (pear wine), and mead? Not yet, but in a few months we will. Original 13 Ciderworks is opening on 1526 North American Street in Kensington and by late summer, you’ll be able to stop by their tasting room to try their fruity creations.

Like a lot of hobbies, president of Original 13, John Kowchak, picked up hard cider making from a family tradition. His grandfather, Charles, grew up in the mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania and brewed hard cider for his family and neighbors. Years later, John picked up the hobby and grew to love it. After earning an MBA in Entrepreneurship at Drexel University and graduating from the Cider and Perry Academy in the UK, Kowchak founded Original 13. Also on the Original 13 team is Kowchak’s business partner, vice president of operations, and “mechanical genius” Travis Frehafer, and Franco Fusaro, Consigliere and events manager.

Their cider brand was created in 2014 under the name of Sir Charles, and Sir Charles Hard Cider, the English-style, semi-dry cider named after Kowchak’s grandfather, is their primary brew. There’s also their flavored cider, Hail, Cyser, but there are plenty of more beverages are to come.

It’s been a long ride to open a production location and taproom for the team since Original 13 was founded. For any company that produces and sells alcohol in Pennsylvania, there are a lot of legal hurdles to get through on the state and federal level.

To sum things up, Original 13 is both a brewery and a winery. Under state law, cider is considered beer if it clocks in under 5.5% ABV, and so they need a state brewery license so they can sell their ciders to distributors. At a federal level, though, Original 13 is a winery, because the feds will only grant a location one designation. With a winery license, Original 13 can brew ciders, wines, perries, and mead over an ABV of 5.5%. Confusing, I know. But this is Pennsylvania.

Then there’s finances. Kowchak and Frehafer managed to fund a good chunk of the money themselves, but about $135,000 of it came from outside investors. In a couple weeks, they should hear back from the Philadelphia Commerce Department to see if their application for a grant has been accepted.

Original 13 is a registered B-Corporation, meaning that they meet the standards of “environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”

How are they meeting these standards? Kowchak says that they are taking many steps to being as “green” as possible. If you haven’t noticed, more cans are showing up on shelves rather than bottles because of the smaller carbon footprint, which is why they plan on distributing their cider in cans. They are also opting to use steam as a cleaning method for the equipment rather than chemicals, and eventually want their facilities to be completely solar powered.

When traditional cideries come to mind, images of quaint farm land and apple trees come to mind—but not for Original 13. Kowchak says they want their taproom to be “very reminiscent of Philadelphia” with a more industrial look and are considering bringing in street artists to create murals for the interior. “This is Philly, and we’re gonna do things like they’re done in Philly.”

Most of the fruit used for the beverages will be sourced from PA, and will be as local as they can get, but there are also some ideas like making a blueberry cider with fresh New Jersey berries. Kowchak also has an idea of creating a cider from apples grown from each of the original 13 colonies, which is where he got the inspiration for the company name (the founding fathers really loved hard cider).

Right now, the Original 13 team are awaiting their federal licenses (which should come soon) and then they can order their equipment and get things moving. The tasting room is predicted to open around October, and they plan on distributing their products shortly before it opens.

So pretty soon, aside from stopping by the many breweries in the city, you can head to Original 13 for an in-house pressed, Philadelphia-style cider.

Original 13 Ciderworks [Foobooz]