In some ways, Meriwether Cider’s history stretches much further back than the two years they’ve been in business. The Leadbetter family, who owns the business, are direct descendants of Meriwether Lewis, the first explorer to cross the Continental Divide into Idaho. They named their cider company after Lewis because when they started out, they were embarking on a new adventure.
Gig and Ann Leadbetter are equal partners with their daughters, Molly and and Kate. The entire family has served as wildland firefighters, and when Gig and Ann decided to retire from their roles as college professors, Molly and Kate were firefighters ready to hang up their axes. After a successful Kickstarter campaign to launch the business, they built a regular following at farmers’ markets and opened their taproom on Chinden Boulevard. This summer, they’re opening their second retail location as a cider house in downtown Boise.
Cider is an alcoholic drink made from crushed apples that are fermented. Its popularity rode the wave of craft beer, making it the world’s fastest growing beverage category over the last decade. In 2012, Boston Beer Company, which sells Sam Adams, launched their Angry Orchard cider label. Even beverage giant Anheuser-Busch InBev markets a cider under Stella Artois. Molly Leadbetter, Meriwether’s marketing arm, credits these giants for making cider go mainstream.
“Don’t let anybody diss Angry Orchard, because they put the millions into marketing that cider needed,” Molly explained. “None of us would exist if they didn’t say, ‘No, no. This is a thing now.’”
The cider house, which is the first of its kind in Idaho, will open this summer on the corner of 9th and Bannock streets, in the space formerly occupied by Portsche’s Jewelry Boutique. The 20-tap bar will showcase Meriwether’s signature ciders, as well as their seasonal creations and ciders from around the state, country and world. The range of options will allow guests to choose their own flights so they can sample many different types of cider. Bottled ciders will also be available for purchase to enjoy at home or on site.
Their Foothills semi-dry and blackberry boom are best-sellers, and some of their most interesting seasonals include a hopped cider, heritage crab apple, and a bourbon-barrel-aged maple that is aptly named Hardwood. The Leadbetters hope to release a special cider for opening day, as well, which they project to be in June.
The family’s original taproom on Chinden will remain open, but the Leadbetters see the downtown taproom as an opportunity to educate the masses on cider and its place in their beverage lineup. The staff will all be certified cider educators by the United States Association of Cider Makers. Part of their task has and will be showing imbibers that cider isn’t a beer or wine replacement, but just another category.
“Our whole philosophy behind the cider house is it’s not just going to be our ciders,” said Gig Leadbetter, the head cider maker. “It’s going to be informing Boise that there is more than one style of cider out there. There’s French, Spanish and English ciders, and we are going to try and present all of those different styles of cider to Boise and really educate and introduce them to the world. Ann and I were both professors, and it’s hard to get away from that teaching aspect.”
The 9th and Bannock space will also include an upper level, which will be available to reserve for private events, as well as a narrow patio along Bannock Street. The garage-style windows will open for an indoor/outdoor experience, and the modern design will reflect the family’s mission for promoting cider’s future.