Much new is on tap at Arsenal Cider -- both literally and figuratively, both on and off the premises.
In March, Bill Larkin quit his day job in accounting to join his wife, Michelle Larkin, full time in the Lawrenceville-based enterprise they opened in June 2010. The product line has burgeoned from two hard ciders to eight, including peach, grape and blueberry. And starting this past spring, the cider -- essentially, fruit wine -- is no longer available only by the growler, onsite: Some varieties are now dispensed at local establishments including New Amsterdam, in Lawrenceville, and Fat Heads South Shore Saloon, on the South Side.
Fat Heads serves three Arsenal ciders, including Picket's Bone-Dry Apple, with its skeleton-hand pull. Distributing there is "a big deal for us," says Bill Larkin.
And Fat Heads bartender Amy Shaw says the cider is "definitely going over well" with customers -- especially those seeking something lighter-tasting than beer.
Particularly distinctive are those dry ciders, sharp and lively to the taste. "Dry fruit wines are almost unheard of," says Bill Larkin. But "we have a following of people who love our bone-dry products."
At Arsenal, my fellow taste-testers were most taken with the Off-Dry Fighting Ellec, the Oaked Picket's and the Zu-Zu Blueberry. (All the names are Civil War-themed, in honor of neighborhood history.)
Arsenal Cider growlers are $20-22 (refills are $13.25-16.50). Other forthcoming flavors include pear and catawba.
300 39th St., Lawrenceville. 412-260-6968 or www.arsenalciderhouse.com