Charlie Davis and Katie Morgan, the owners of Right Bee Cider in Chicago, have gotten used to hearing the same reaction from first time customers: “I’m not usually a cider person, but I like this.” It gets Katie every time. Because she knows there’s a stigma attached to American ciders—that they must be cloyingly sweet—and she loves changing their minds.
“People have an idea in their head about cider. But just like beer and wine, it’s not just beer or wine—there are all different kinds,” Katie says, adding cider is the same way. “Wine doesn’t taste like grape juice. Cider doesn’t have to taste like apple juice. Cider could be for you, you just haven’t had the right kind yet.”
Right Bee Cider is on a mission to shift that perception with their semi-dry hard apple cider. It’s one of the reasons we’ve wanted to work with Jeni’s longtime friends Charlie and Katie for years. And why we are so excited to have made this partnership a reality this summer with the release of light and refreshing Hard Cider Sorbet—the exact thing you want to enjoy on a hot summer day.
If you’re not familiar with Right Bee Cider—Chicago’s first cidery since Prohibition—we’ve rounded up a few things we think you should know.
(BONUS! We’re throwing a party with Right Bee Cider at Kaiser Tiger in Chicago on Wednesday, July 26. Jeni and the folks from Right Bee will be there with plenty of ice cream and cider. RSVP here.)
1. They make a dry cider that rivals the best in Europe.
“It’s very simple,” Katie says. “We make cider that we like to drink.” Right Bee’s signature cider is a semi-dry, unfiltered hard cider made with just a few ingredients: fresh apple must (never a concentrate), a tiny amount of organic sugar, and local honey sourced from Chicago apiaries. Every bottle has less than 3 grams of sugar, which means no crazy sweetness, just fresh fermented apple fizziness.
2. Charlie and Katie are scrappy entrepreneurs who know how to hustle.
“We started with very little upstart capital. We’re still a two-person operation,” Katie says. During their first days, they were warming fermenting tanks with space heaters and self-distributing out of a yellow pickup truck they bought off Craigslist. Even their logo—a sketch Katie made in PowerPoint—is a testament to their get-it-done attitude.
All their hard work is definitely paying off. Right Bee now works with seven distributors and is on tap at roughly 50 bars and restaurants throughout Chicago, plus for sale in bottles at a number of grocery stores. For the last year, they’ve made their home in a new 5,000-square-foot warehouse, and hope to have a bottle shop soon.
3. They have the best origin story.
Let’s set the scene: Charlie had been a professional brewer for seven years. Katie, who studied abroad in the United Kingdom, had an affinity for English-style ciders. Charlie, noticing Katie drank a lot of cider, surprised her with a special cider on her birthday.
“When he brought out the unmarked bottle, I was like, ‘Oh no. I’m going to have to act like I like this,’ ” Kate recalls. “But then he opened it and I was like, ‘Whoa. He nailed it!’ It was nice and light and crisp, not overwhelmingly sweet.”
The two started dating soon after, and were married in May 2014. After two years of talk and preparations, inspired by the first cider Charlie made Katie, they launched Right Bee Cider in November 2014. Right Bee is named for its point of inspiration—right beside her or Right Bee Cider.