Turning Heads: Pivot Brewing
As Kentucky’s first dedicated cider brewery, Lexington-based Pivot Brewing hopes to dismantle misconceptions about hard cider—especially among customers who consider themselves avowed beer-only drinkers.
“We are still getting a lot of people coming in who have only been exposed to mass-market ciders, and once we are able to show them more of the range of what we can do [with craft ciders], a lot of people are quite surprised,” says owner Kevin Compton, who opened Pivot in late October 2016.
Situated on Lexington’s bustling Delaware Avenue—an up-and-coming corridor that blends both residences and storefronts—Pivot Brewing has quickly become a community center of sorts for the neighborhood, a place where folks feel comfortable stopping in for a drink with friends, or even with their dog and kids.
A well-used corner of Pivot’s community room offers a train table, games and activity books for children. The spacious area, which is just off the main taproom and available for rent, has been the site of birthday parties, showers, political campaign launches and even an engagement. “That was the intent of the space, and it’s been nice to see it develop the way that it has,” Compton says.
“We try to do things that we think people are going to enjoy and have fun with,” says Bevin Morgan, Pivot’s director of sales and marketing, whose husband, Ben Morgan, is Pivot’s head brewer. That means a jam-packed weekly calendar of community-building activities, from PiYo and Yoga classes to pet-friendly “Yappy Hours” and “Wednesdays on Wax” events, where patrons can compare, play and share their vinyl record collections.
In short, the 10-member staff at Pivot focus as much attention on connecting people as crafting a great product, because Compton feels the two goals go hand-in-hand. “My mantra is, ‘If you can’t enjoy people’s company over a beer or cider, then you’re doing something wrong,’” he says.
Cider + Beer
While some aspects of cider-making are similar to craft beer production, others are more akin to winemaking, Compton says. Like wines, the flavor profiles of finished ciders can range from very dry to very sweet, depending on the type of apples chosen, how long they’re fermented, the type of yeast used and whether or not other natural flavors are added.
At Pivot, where at least 12 ciders are on tap daily, you can choose an apple-only cider or an apple cider infused with supplemental flavors such as mint, pears, ginger, cherries, oranges and more, depending on what’s on the menu.
Pivot’s top-seller is Vintage, a straight apple cider, which Compton calls “very wine-like.” Another customer favorite is Kentucky Sunrise, which includes cherry and pear notes as well.
Always, though, the goal is a cider that’s smooth and sophisticated. “If you can immediately name all of the flavor components in one of our ciders, then I think there’s a fundamental problem in its design,” Compton says.
For devoted beer fans, Pivot also produces its own line of craft beers including Bad Penny IPA, Gold Coast Amber and an ever-expanding list of ales and lagers. For head brewer Ben Morgan, the blend of art and science involved in crafting a new product is always a thrill: “You get to be creative and watch it work or not work. We’ve been pretty fortunate so far in that everything we’ve done so far has been pretty well received,” he says.
Coordinating cider production around apple crops as they become available takes careful planning, especially when dealing with the volume Compton and his team require. (It takes 36,000 pounds of apples to produce enough cider to fill one of Pivot’s 3,000-gallon tanks.) “You’re not buying grain, which you can throw in a bag and store for months,” Compton says. “So it does keep you on your toes.”
Many of Pivot’s apples come from Eckert’s-Boyd Orchard in Versailles. In particular, Compton prizes Eckert’s Arkansas Black and Stayman Winesap varieties as ideal cider-making apples— thanks to their aging characteristics, tannin makeup and ability to provide a strong base palate, he says.
And, after pressing, nothing goes to waste. Area chicken and cattle farmers stop by to pick up the dried apple pulp as a treat for their flocks and herds. “They tell us the cows will pretty much knock them over to get to it,” Compton says. “It helps us, too, since we’d have no easy way to dispose of the pulp otherwise.”
That sense of cooperative partnership extends to Pivot’s relationship with Lexington’s other thriving craft breweries, Bevin Morgan says. Pivot is part of Lexington’s Brewgrass Trail—which encourages patrons to stop at participating craft breweries in order to have a passport stamped. The success of the program has boosted business and forged a close-knit camaraderie among local brewers.
“The more we can mirror a craft-brew community like what they’ve been able to build down in Asheville, the better for all of us, and the better for Lexington,” Compton says.
1400 Delaware Ave. Lexington KY 40505