I remember when I first visited the Pepper Distillery area, there wasn’t much in the rick house. Now, there are amazing businesses and Wise Bird Cider is one of them. I watched as the place took shape, remember their grand opening and have been a fan ever since. Tim and wife Greta are the amazing team behind Wise Bird. I had the chance to sit with Tim and learn more about their vision and about him as a person. What follows is our interview.
Were you born in Lexington or are you a transplant?
Technically I was born in Atlanta. If you ask my wife she’ll say I ‘m from Atlanta but I claim to be from Richmond, Virginia. We lived there when I was nine and that’s essentially where I had the formative years of my youth.
What brought you to Lexington?
I’ve been coming to visit Lexington for six or seven years, something around there. Greta’s sister had moved here to take a job with the University of Kentucky and we would come and visit. We would come once or twice a year and every time we came there was something new that had opened. Over time the city just grew on us. We were living in Washington DC and we were ready for a change and wanted to get out of big corporate jobs. Lexington checked all the boxes of what we were looking for and it was also a place where we felt like there was an opportunity to bring traditional style hard cider.
What do you like the most about Lexington?
I think it’s a couple of things for me. One is the community that we became part of has been just phenomenally supportive to us. And in some of the other places where I’ve live my life, I don’t feel like we would have had access to such a tight knit community. Just having a community that has come together so supportively of our business. And then the other thing is, you know we’re raising two boys, it’s a great place to raise two boys. You get kind of a combination of southern hospitality and small town charm. But it’s not really a small town because there’s a lot of intellectual and cultureal offering here to keep yourself engaged in.
Tell me about Wise Bird Cider
We make small bath traditional style hard cider made from the best apples we can get our hands on. So for us, that means, apple only. We don’d do added flavors like pineapple or cherry, our focus is on the apple and the apple only. And our ciders are more like wine than anything else so that you think of them like wine and think of them dry.
We do a dry, semi-dry and semi-sweet cider but our semi-sweet, which is our sweetest cider, is 3% residual sugar versus like an angry orchard cider that may be somewhere on the magnitude of 8 to 10% residual sugars.
What distinguishes you locally from other hard cider?
We stick to the apple. Most modern style ciders are fruit infused and they play around with herbs and spices and other foods. Our focus really is on using old heirloom apples that have the right balance of sugar acid and tannin, that once fermented can stand on it’s own.
What kind of events do you have here?
We do our regular recurring events like our yoga every Saturday morning at 10. We do trivia on Thursdays at seven. The third Thursday of the month is a themed trivia night. Quarterly we host On the Move Art Studio. We do a paint and pour where they will bring in and artist and all the art supplies for participants to come in and paint. The proceeds from that go directly to One the Move Art Studio which is a non-profit with the mission to essentially bring art to communities that otherwise wouldn’t have access. They are our main charitable organization right now.
About every other month, we’ve started a cider, cheese and charcuterie paring class with Renee Sonia Brewer from Wine + Market. We’re working on putting together a series of pop-up dinners where we’ll get chefs to come in and host a dinner paired with our cider.
The best place to find out about our events is Facebook.
Veering away from Wise Bird for a moment, what’s an interesting fact about you?
Well, my claim to fame is that I lived in Mexico for seven years from the mid 2000s to 2012 or so. And during that time, I was in a band. It’s like the universe conspired for the three Americans, “the three gringos”, living in Mexico who played instruments and played bluegrass, were able to meet and form a bluegrass band in Mexico City. We were the best blue grass band in Latin America. I think we can safely say we were the best, because we were probably the only.
We kind of worked ourselves into a niche because we could speak Spanish. And we could play bluegrass. The quality of the music wasn’t as important, it was the value of the cultural exchange that put us in this niche. The US State Department would hire us to play and send us all over Latin America to play bluegrass music and talk to audiences about the history of the music and the cultural similarities between our country and the countries we were visiting.
Going back to Wise Bird. This is more than just a job. You are the owner and the innovator behind it all. What do you like best about this business?
I definately love being in control. I wouldn’t say that I am in control of my time because I work a lot. But to be able to have kind of creative control over those hours I work is really, really rewarding. I think the other thing that I like is that I can make something tangible. Here our production timeline is three to four months to make a cider, but we get to make it. We’re making cider every day and it’s just so gratifying. To be able to have made for example, a bottle of cider or a glass of cider and to sit down and talk to a customer who’s never been here before and never had this style of cider before, and say they really don’t like cider. And after I explain the history and kind of the style differences and they taste it and they are like “oh my gosh, that is not what I was expecting at all, it’s amazing,” that is just incredibly gratifying.
It’s being able to make a product that is making lives better. I mean that’s kind of an idealistic way to think about it, and it is alcohol so it’s not like there’s a health benefit to it. But in the short term, it makes people feel better.