A resurgence of West Virginia culture has fermented into fruition

Making another artisan product for West Virginian’s to be proud of, Will Lewis and Josh Bennett bring you Hawk Knob Cidery and Meadery. Exquisitely made hard ciders, and perhaps the world’s first purposefully fermented alcoholic beverage mead (basically a wine made from honey), are being produced from historical heirloom apple strains right here in Lewisburg at the old Watts Roost Winery facility. (Photo credit Lisa Elmaleh)
Making another artisan product for West Virginian’s to be proud of, Will Lewis and Josh Bennett bring you Hawk Knob Cidery and Meadery. Exquisitely made hard ciders, and perhaps the world’s first purposefully fermented alcoholic beverage mead (basically a wine made from honey), are being produced from historical heirloom apple strains right here in Lewisburg at the old Watts Roost Winery facility. (Photo credit Lisa Elmaleh)

By David Esteppe

Combining a passion for claiming the truly West Virginian cultural tradition of cider making with the natural resource of an exceptional heirloom apple genetic base. Greenbrier Valley’s Josh Bennett and Will Lewis own and operate the state’s first cidery right here in Lewisburg. They present you Hawk Knob Cidery and Meadery (HNCM).

Bennett says, “Cidery is a large layer of our heritage in West Virginia, and yet the art of cider making is raging in other parts of the country. We have spent the past year making great strides in bringing this artisan beverage back to its proper place on the stage, and we are doing it better than just about anyone. I say this with confidence, because Will and I have done our research.”

The guys at HKCM are currently running a Kickstarter campaign in order to enhance their business reach.

“We’ve come a long way. After eight years of dreaming and two years of hard work, we have finally released four styles of traditional hard cider with meads soon to come. We built up a full bottling line at our facility and have a full inventory of truly unique, artisanal product that we want to get out to you all. We need the most help in setting up our tasting room and supporting our self-distribution efforts. It is quite costly to sell product through a distributor. Under our license we are allowed to self-distribute and that is what we plan to do for the first two years in order to get the business up and going. The funds we are raising will go toward our distribution vehicle as well as other aspects of self-distribution, to include setting up our tasting room for the public with a tap system,” say Bennett and Lewis via the Kickstarter page.

At press time, 68 people have donated almost $6,000 towards a goal of $22,000. The campaign runs through Mar. 27.

Unlike commercial ciders and meads. Hawk Knob adds no sugars, sulfites or concentrates to create their product. Their hard ciders and meads are made totally from the products of West Virginia farmers, using strains of apples dating back to the 1700s. Most of the commercially produced hard ciders come from the same three or four apple varieties, with no focus on quality or sophistication.

Bennett’s farm in Pocahontas County is currently growing the very old varietals as part of their resurgence of artisan hard cider making. The names Black Twig, Arkansas Black and Father Abraham are varietals of apples that are no longer threat of extinction in the state. They are again being grown and made into this very West Virginia spirit. “We plan to end up with a huge network of West Virginia farmers supplying the fruit for our products. We must continue to focus on our local and state production of added value goods to grow our state’s economy. It is what we are best at in this state,” added Bennett.

Most of the 2014 vintage cider has sold out. The 2015 vintage will be prepared and shipped out in April and May. Hawk Knob Cidery and Meadery products are served at Hill and Holler, the Irish Pub. Stardust Cafe, and the General Lewis Inn. They are also available at Spirits and Wine. The Loft and HealthSmart.

Visit www.HawkKnob.com for a thoroughly informative history and state of things hard cider and mead in West Virginia.

Visit www.kickstartcr.com and search Hawk Knob Cidery and Meadery to see an award winning video about the operation, and to give Bennett and Lewis any support that you wish. As Kickstarter campaigns go, if the whole goal isn”t reached, then none of the money will get to where it needs to go.

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