When Derrick Cannon first started drinking, he gravitated towards cider because he didn’t like the taste of beer. The available alcoholic ciders he found—big names like Angry Orchard and Woodchuck on virtually every store shelf—were too sweet for his liking. However, those ciders sent him on a journey that ended with him creating Distinct Cider Room (Loisallee 46), Greenville’s premier Cider Bar and Cider.
After years of making cider at home and numerous trips to other cider regions such as North Carolina, Vermont and others, Cannon realized he wanted to take the next step.
“Greenville had beer and wine bars, but nothing for cider,” he said. Cannon, an avid CrossFitter, rented an old truck dock in 2015 to convert into a CrossFit gym. Then the question came to him: What do CrossFit athletes like to do after a workout? Have a drink.
“I told my fiancé (now wife) it was going to be a cool bar/gym thing,” Cannon said. “I wanted to make cider because everyone else drinks beer.”
Meanwhile over in Campobello at Fat Ass Heifer Cidery (10125 New Cut Road) John Macomson was busy taking a slightly different approach to making cider. The property that Fat Ass Heifer sits on also houses Macomson’s software business, which has existed since the mid-’90s, and Motlow Creek Ranch, a cattle ranch. After a land purchase that essentially doubled the property (and allowed the Cidererie the space to plant orchards), Macomson knew he wanted to work on converting the property into a recreational ranch that would combine both aspects of the farming that the property practiced. highlighted – cattle and apples .
“The cidry would be a great way to really take the joy I have in farming and bring it to a business venture,” said Macomson.
The distinctive name came about one weekend morning when Macomson came across a cow that wouldn’t follow directions. As it rumbled by, Macomson recalls thinking, “Damn, she’s plump.” Getting angry at the cow, he got angry and what came up was “Fatass Heifer,” and the name stuck.
“We wanted to come up with something different. We knew it was offbeat, but it would be an excellent way to tie what we’re doing with the cows to cider production,” he said.
Both cideries opened within a year. Macomson began the process in 2017 and opened in 2019, while Cannon opened its first taproom in 2018, offering a variety of ciders from other locales to athletes and curious drinkers at the time. As varied as their approaches to opening cider cellars, so are the ciders themselves. Cannon describes his cider styles as “a little different or offbeat,” such as his play on a wheat beer, Pom Chicka Wow – a pomegranate, Orange and coriander cider. This specialty cider began as a collaboration with Wandering Bard Meadery in Greenville, but since he bought a facility to make his own, he’s slowly expanded his lineup, adding distinctive ciders to his taproom, including Fall Vibes (apple, cinnamon, vanilla). Hip Hop Puree (cherry and pineapple puree with vanilla) and Cherry on Hop (dry hopped cider with dark cherries and citra hops).
Macomson’s approach to cidermaking also differs from what you typically find on store shelves, but for a different reason. Fat Ass ciders are primarily still – non-carbonated. “In the beginning we were still making cider because we didn’t have any keg equipment. All we had was enough equipment to produce batches from one cask and we didn’t have the equipment to produce carbonate.”
Macomson added that at the time they thought it would be a detriment to their products, but as they continued to develop their recipes.
“We didn’t do it on purpose, but once we tried them, we were like, ‘Damn, these are pretty awesome.'”
Now, Fat Ass offers some low-carbonation bottle-conditioned ciders that help balance the ciders’ overall profile. Their current offering includes ciders such as Sassy Black Baldie (cider sweetened with blackberry and blueberry juice) and Lemon Ginger, which use locally sourced apples, while their orchard of more than 4,000 trees grows to an age where they produce viable produce can cider apples.
Cannon and Macomson’s goals when it comes to growing their businesses — and by extension their cider knowledge — are similar. Both look forward to producing more cider over time, and both have ambitions to expand their facilities. For Cannon, that means opening more upstate distinct cider rooms. For Macomson, it turns Fat Ass into both a target cider — complete with an air-conditioned facility that allows them to be open more than one day a week — and producing enough apples to sell to other cider makers can .
The two cider producers also take the aspect of cider formation seriously. Before they opened, not many ciders were made in the upstate (Ciclops Cyderi and Brewery in Spartanburg was one of the exceptions). Now that palates are becoming more refined and consumers are more branching out (arguably thanks to the craft beer and craft cocktail movements of the past two decades), both cider makers see and understand the importance of their work. As two of the only black cider producers in the entire country, they have the opportunity not only to make artisanal ciders for the thirsty upstate masses, but also to initiate and possibly introduce new people to the category of ciders as a whole.
“I think a lot of people will come and it’s surprising how many people are unfamiliar with cider. You’ve heard of Angry Orchard or Woodchuck, but most stuff with that is kind of sweet, so I think a lot of people think that cider is just that,” Cannon said. “Coming here gives them a chance to see that there’s more to cider than that, and hopefully from there they’ll expand on that.”
For Macomson, hopefully educating about cider will lead to greater things for the category, especially when it comes to black consumers.
“With cider, like anything else, more of us will come into it. I would love to see a high profile celebrity come in and take on a part of this operation and give us worldwide exposure. If the Jay-Zs and Beyoncés want to listen and invest from the world, I’m all ears. We could make cider fashionable for us as a people,” he said, laughing.
Distinct Cider Room is open on Wednesdays from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Thursday and Friday from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.; and Saturdays from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Fat Ass Heifer Cidery is open on Saturdays from 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m