Toast to fall with Naperville's 2 Fools and Chicago's Right Bee craft ciders
If you were going to raise a glass to a fall day of golden sunshine and a blaze of tree color, what would it be?
There's really only one beverage to complement the season's splendor, a crisp taste of fall lovingly made with the bounty of the apple harvest: craft cider.
Two cideries dominate Chicago and the suburbs: 2 Fools Cider in Naperville and Right Bee Cider in the city's Hermosa neighborhood.
Rotating specialties throughout the year make hard cider drinking not just a rite of autumn. But don't miss out on the lineup of fall-flavored ciders in this fleeting time of year.
Right Bee and 2 Fools have opened their taprooms to serve locally produced ciders to socially distant patrons in search of a slice of normalcy during the pandemic. Their flagship ciders also are distributed widely to grocery retailers, tasting even better after an afternoon of leaf peeping or raking the yard.
2 Fools Cider
Where: 1665 Quincy Ave., #155, Naperville, in an industrial park across the street from Solemn Oath Brewery. Nearby, Noon Whistle Brewing last month launched a new production center and tap room in Naperville.
"We've got our cidery, Noon Whistle Brewing and Solemn Oath Brewery all within two blocks of each other, so I think it's going to be a huge destination place," said Doug Will, 2 Fools head sales representative.
Founders: Longtime home brewers Jeremy Smith and Monte Summers opened 2 Fools in 2016.
Production: The core brands are the dry hard apple cider, tart cherry, rosé and Pinehopple, all with 6.9% ABV. The latter features pineapple, blood orange and hops. The effervescent rosé is the most popular, with a note of blueberry, Will said.
Seasonal favorites: 2 Fools traditionally launches the Apple Sauced, an apple cinnamon cider with 10% ABV. Also, try the cranberry ginger.
Taproom: With 10 taps, the tasting room also serves a rotating guest beer from a brewery that carries 2 Fools ciders as a gluten-free alternative for their own customers.
"You can bring home all the four-packs of the core brands when we have them available, but we also have howlers and growlers of anything you want from the tap room," Will said.
Outdoor patio: 2 Fools is extending the patio season into the cold weather months with outdoor tents, eight picnic tables and heaters.
"We can only host 20 people inside, and the rest is out on the patio, so during the winter we need to keep our patronage up," Will said.
Taproom hours: 3-9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; noon to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.
Tours: Available by request.
Retailers: Binny's, Mariano's, Jewel and independent liquor stores.
Right Bee Cider
Where: A former Schwinn bike building at 1830 N. Kostner Ave., Chicago.
Founders: Husband-and-wife team Charlie Davis and Katie Morgan.
Back story: A CliffsNotes version appears on the label art, but Morgan tells it the way only she can. It begins when Davis and Morgan were mutual friends, and it's a story of how his cider won her over.
A professional brewer at the time, Davis had significant background knowledge in fermentation. He knew Morgan liked hard ciders, so he made her one for her birthday.
Morgan expected it to taste overpoweringly sweet, as many ciders did at the time.
"But it was perfect. It was nice and light and dry and lovely, and then I married him," she said.
Six months after their wedding, that surprise cider gift blossomed into a cidery in 2014 -- Chicago's first since Prohibition. Six years later, the couple has two kids, a taproom and a community built around their ciders, all on the dry end of the spectrum.
"We know we love a more pure, simple, clean, refreshing and crisp cider, and that's what we make," Morgan said.
The name: Sounds like "Right Beside Her," alluding to the story of the couple's relationship.
Taproom: Right Bee reopened the tasting room with limited capacity last week after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot loosened COVID-19 restrictions on bars and restaurants.
"We'll be following all the mask rules and distancing and guidelines that the city has," Morgan said.
Made with fermented apples, the dry and the slightly sweeter semi-dry are their most widely distributed ciders. Limited releases and taproom exclusives are available for carryout in growlers or howlers.
"Those rotating taps are constantly changing, so every time you visit the taproom, the menu might be a little bit different," Morgan said.
Seasonal favorites: Clementine, a smooth and warming cider with clementine, hibiscus, cinnamon and rose hip. "It just makes me think of a cozy fall day," Morgan said.
Taproom vibe: Kid-friendly and dog-friendly. Bring your own food. A come-as-you-are, relaxed atmosphere.
"We always had a dream for our cider to bring other people together, just like it did for us, and it really has done that," Morgan said.
Taproom hours: 4-8 p.m. Fridays; 2-6 p.m. Saturdays; and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays.
Tours: Looking to resume in early 2021.
Retailers: Binny's, Whole Foods, Jewel and other independent liquor stores. Right Bee distributes throughout the state, so if someone can't find it, Morgan says reach out directly to the cidery at (773) 234-4654.