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Microbrewery worker leaves beer behind, opens Apis Meadery in Carnegie

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 11:33 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item
Dave Cerminara discusses his newest business venture at Penn Brewery in Pittsburgh.

A bar dedicated to ancient, honey-based wine is all the buzz in Carnegie.

David Cerminara, a brewer at the North Side's Penn Brewery, will open Apis Meadery in July, where he will brew and ferment mead, an alcohol created by fermenting honey with water and other fruits, spices or grain.

“The city doesn't have anything like this,” said Cerminara, 31. “We have a great cidery now – we need a great meadery. We have a million great breweries that keep popping up and getting better and better. This is the next step, I think.”

The meadery, at 212 East Main St. in Carnegie, is still in the renovation process. Though it will not open until July, Cerminara is beginning the brewing and fermenting process.

“When it opens, most will have been fermented three to five months,” he said. “Ideally, some would be up to a year, but you can't do that when you're working commercially. As we grow, we'll be able to have an aged series, an oak series.”

He said reaction has been mixed.

“You say ‘meadery,' and most people say, ‘Oh, what kind of salami are you going to sell?' and you have to say, ‘No, not meat, mead,'” he said. “The people who know what it is think it's great.”

Bill Larkin, owner of Arsenal Cider House in Lawrenceville, said markets for niche products like cider and mead are expanding.

“From a cider standpoint, the category has been growing. We've helped it tremendously,” he said. “We've converted a lot of people to cider drinkers, and I suspect Dave will convert a lot of people to mead drinkers.”

Cerminara said the location itself will have the feel of a wine or cider bar – patrons can get 750 milliliter bottles from the drafts at the bar. They can either drink in, or fill their bottle and leave.

“It's about coming and having conversation,” he said. “There are no TVs. It's not like a big sports bar – not that that's bad, but that's a whole different kind of place.”

Seating for about 35 will be available, but food will be limited to fruits and cheeses.

“I'm going for more of a sit down and talk to your friends kind of feel,” he said. “There's nothing like that, and there are so few of those around.”

Carnegie Mayor Jack Kobistek said he thinks Cerminara will find a good home for his meadery in Carnegie.

“I think it's going to be such a unique establishment that it will attract people from all over,” he said. “I'm excited about it myself — I can't wait to try it.”

Cerminara said the meadery will have six varieties on draft and one in a bottle that he will recommend aging. Of the six varieties, four will be seasonal, and there will be two varietals – basic, honey-based meads – that will remain static.

Despite the sit-down style of the meadery, he said he hopes most of his business will occur outside of the location. He said he has about 20 local contracts lined up with bars and restaurants throughout the city that are interested in selling and promoting the mead.

“I'm banking on selling a lot outside of the location,” he said. “The goal is to be in those places where people go to look for unique things like this.”

He said he is using locally sourced honey and fruit when possible, and he has commissioned a local artist to work on labels and art for the meadery.

Cerminara will leave his job at the Penn Brewery in the summer when the meadery opens. He said it is a big step for him.

“I've been brewing beer for so long, this is a big transition – a scary transition. But I feel like it's time,” he said. “I've given beer so much time. I love it and wouldn't give it up for anything – except for this.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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