We spoke with Bill and Michelle Larken, the co-founders of Arsenal Cider House.
Born out of obsession, Arsenal Cider House was conceived in 2008. With the support of our awesome neighbors & community groups, Arsenal opened the doors to its flagship cidery in June of 2010 to a supportive and enthusiastic base of customers. (You know who you are!)
Arsenal Cider House and Wine Cellar is a U.S. Civil War thematic winery specializing in small-batch, hand-crafted hard apple cider, “cider style” fruit/grape wines, and mead. Opened just a few steps from the historic Allegheny Arsenal, our namesake, we have been dedicated to providing high-quality products and a bit of nostalgia for over 12 years.
As the first cidery in Western Pennsylvania and the first to sell wine in “beer kegs” and growlers in the State, Arsenal Cider has been an early pioneer in the craft hard cider industry. Pioneering products such as Hop Cider IPC, Grierson’s Ginger Hard Apple Cider, and Picket Bone Dry Hard Cider have made Arsenal an early industry leader. Satellite tap rooms soon followed at the orchards and farms whose apples are at the core of Arsenal’s products.
Hailing from Bloomfield, Bill graduated from Robert Morris University and spent 20+ years working in the financial sector. His obsessive personality took him through years of skydiving, real estate investment, and winemaking. Having never been a fan of hard cider, Bill was surprised when his skydiving mentor and friend, Pete Land, stopped by with some homemade hard cider. A new cider lover was born. Bill learned all he could and dove head-first into the “fermentative arts.” Alexis Hartung, a former proprietor of Country Wines and writer for Winemaker Magazine, taught Bill the finer details of red & white winemaking. Even after selling her business & through serious illness, Alexis helped Bill in the run up to the opening of Arsenal Cider House. Experimenting with different styles and techniques, Bill put together an Arsenal of products, sometimes combining those of beer, cider & winemaking. Bill continues to strive to provide new and unique products.
Originally from Polish Hill, Michelle graduated from Robert Morris University and spent 20 years teaching Montessori pre-school. Dragged kicking and screaming by her husband Bill, with, yet another obsession, Michelle hopped on board and now sees the light. All kidding aside, Michelle initially saw this as an opportunity to spend more time with her son Alex and the twins, Max & Lindsey, who were on the way at the time. Michelle spent countless hours preparing the tasting room for the public, including burning planks upon planks of wood with a map gas torch. Fortunately, the fire department’s assistance wasn’t needed.
You will usually see Bill running through the tasting room, murmuring something unintelligible. Michelle is the smiling, friendly face that you will typically see behind the counter when you visit the tasting room.
More recently, there’s been “movement along the western front.” After being urged to do so by Clevelanders who were regularly making the trip to our Pittsburgh location, Bill & Michelle visited the great City of Cleveland and its nightlife. They fell in love with it and just had to open a new tasting room and micro-production facility in Ohio City.
You can find out more about Arsenal Cider House at their website www.arsenalciderhouse.com where they sell all of our products online and will ship directly. We also have a cider of the month club available in 2 or 4-pack 750ml bottles of our new releases!