City’s first cider distillery awaits approval on new license

Kristina Karisch, Reporter

A new cider brewery is in the process of opening up in Evanston.

North Shore Cider Company will open at 707 Howard St. later this year and will sell craft cider in bottles and growler fills for off-premises consumption. The cider will be fermented and bottled on location, said the owner Chris Collins. Additionally, the space will contain a tasting room for potential buyers.

The cider brewing would be covered under a new liquor license class the City Council approved last month.

Collins said he plans to make the cider out of organic apple juice from Earth First Farms in Berrien Center, Michigan. In addition to juice from conventional apples, Collins will add crab apple juice, which adds “tartness and mouthfeel” to the cider.

“I expect this to be a good option for those who are looking for a gluten free (product),” Collins said.

Because cider is made from apples and not grain, it is naturally gluten free and seen as an alternative to craft beer. Once the product is ready, it will be sold wholesale and to local restaurants, bars and retail stores, Collins said.

North Shore Cider Company will join existing craft beer breweries in Evanston, such as Smylie Brothers Brewing Company and Temperance Beer Company. Collins said he is considering eventually expanding to a full bar, once his business is up and running, he said.

The city categorized the cider brewery under a new class of licenses, which acts the same as licenses for craft breweries and is geared for off-site consumption. Because cider is made of fruit, it is classified as wine in Evanston and must be licensed appropriately, said Theresa Whittington, the city’s liquor licensing manager.

The application for a license class and then the license itself passes through regulation with the Liquor Control Review Board.

After the license is applied for, it has to be recommended to the board, Whittington said. She added that after the official recommendation is made by the mayor and the liquor commissioner, an ordinance is introduced and the license can be voted on by City Council.

For North Shore Cider Company, the ordinance will be introduced to the council later this month, and a vote is planned for Nov. 14. If approved, the license itself will be issued within a week or two, Whittington said.

North Shore Cider Company’s location in the southeast portion of the city, close to Rogers Park, is a “huge” market, said Johanna Leonard, Evanston’s economic development division manager. She expects the brewery to be a big business draw in the area.

Craft cider itself is becoming more and more popular, Leonard said.

People are looking for more authentic shopping experiences again, like knowing who made their beer or brewed their cider, Leonard said. She added that North Shore Cider Company could fit into that experience and draw people to business in Evanston.

Collins said he is optimistic about opening his business in Evanston.

“Evanston is very supportive in terms of (developing) a food culture … a draw for people to come to Evanston,” Collins said. “North Shore Cider is planning to be a part of that.”

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Twitter: @kristinakarisch