Alisha Kelly / Head Brewer, Ciclops Cyderi & Brewery, Spartanburg, South Carolina
When talk turns to beer, Alisha Kelly is used to people assuming her husband has the knowledge.
“They tend to address him more than me and my husband says, ‘Ask her what she does for work,’ recounts Alisha, the head brewer at Ciclops Cyderi & Brewery in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Originally a ‘damn Yankee,’ as they call her down South, and more recently a Californian, Alisha brings a brewing degree from the University of California, San Diego, to her role. Until recently, she’d only used aseptic purées to flavor beer. Ciclops’ Oh My Guava! is a Belgian farmhouse-inspired saison flavored with The Perfect Purée Pink Guava Puree. “Figuring out the proportions was fun and with a saison it was more about building up the flavor profile, saying ‘I’m not quite getting a lot of the guava yet so let’s add some more,’ ” she says. “Now I have plans to use Strawberry in a milkshake IPA.”
So far, Alisha is the only one on the brew side of the growing operation at Ciclops. Founded in 2015 by the husband and wife team of Cindy (the name behind ‘Ciclops’) and Kolby Garrison, Ciclops has been co-owned by Cindy and Jill Edwards since Kolby died in 2018. Kolby’s motto, ‘Making absurd the norm,’ still shapes Ciclops’ culture. His fun-loving way of not taking himself too seriously and building community around beer endures with weekly trivia and karaoke nights and the regulars’ Mug Club, a wall in the taproom of numbered mugs made by a local ceramicist.
Ciclops originated when Kolby started making cider at home for Cindy. Within a year someone else’s dream of opening a taphouse became their dream. Core beers span a classic German Austrinken styled after the beers at Brewery Weihenstephan in Bavaria, the oldest brewery in the world; a milk stout with locally roasted coffee; an English stout; and American-style IPA’s. Thirty taps also rotate a guest list of local and regional brewers. While it’s not common for a brewery and cidery to co-exist under the same roof, the formula works at Ciclops. The Perfect Purée helps Alisha flavor both operations including Blackberry and Sour Appletini flavored ciders and one of this summer’s top sellers—the fruity, refreshing Eyeland Punch cider with Pink Guava Puree, Apricot Puree, Blood Orange Concentrate, Passion Fruit Concentrate and Carmelized Pineapple Concentrate. “That went really fast,” she says. “It was like a fruit salad.”
Reading recommendations from the Perfect Purée’s growing community of brewers helped Alisha’s conversion to fresh purées.
“You always wonder how much flavor impact it will lend to the product,” she says. So far she’s had the most success using purées in the secondary stage by transferring the beer into the brite and adding the fruit.
“My preferred method of adding it has been to pour in the purée as I simultaneously purge with CO2 from the bottom. This minimizes the introduction of oxygen while also mixing the purée into the beer,” she says.
Her “dosing rate” depends on what style she’s brewing. For a sour IPA with Strawberry Puree and Lychee Puree, she started conservatively and gradually added more Strawberry Puree until she was satisfied the fruit was being showcased.
“I feel it becomes a matter of taste testing the product to determine the flavor profile you’re looking for. It comes down to trial and error,” Alisha says. “The biggest recommendation I have is add less because you can always add more to achieve the result you’re looking for.”
Brewing cider and beer is more like apples to oranges. “Brewing beer doesn’t translate to brewing cider. The sugars in fruit are completely different from the sugars in grain,” Alisha explains. “You get a large tote of apple juice and it’s all about fermentation. It’s a flip-flop for me but cider does seem like it’s more popular in the south.”
The profile of the cider base dictates how she flavors it. “Let’s say your cider is a dry base, you can choose to either add in some sweetness or add a fruit with a more tart profile to accentuate that dry nature. The fun part is splitting the same batch and using different purées to create more flavor varieties from the same base source,” she says.
Less tricky is seltzer, which Alisha says is easy to make. Heard! The Rainbow seltzer with Passion Fruit Concentrate, Blood Orange Concentrate, Apricot Puree and Carmelized Pineapple Concentrate was released by Pub Manager Holden McGinnis to celebrate Pride Week. Because the seltzer base is bland, Alisha recommends going heavy on purée to achieve a distinct flavor profile.
Alisha moved to South Carolina from Southern California, where after earning her degree she interned at Refuge Brewery in Temecula, whose owners developed the Ss Brewtech System. Along the way, she couldn’t help but notice that the craft beer movement is dominated by men.
“I chose a field where you’re not taken seriously or you have to prove yourself,” she says.
She and her husband were ready to leave California and identified the Greenville area because it’s been compared to Asheville, North Carolina, as a growing craft beer destination. She became friends with Nicole Cendrowski, the owner of Fireforge Crafted Beer in Greenville and one of the hosts of the international Pink Boots Collaboration Brew Day to celebrate women in the fermentable beverage industry. Nicole shared Alisha’s credentials with brewery owners to help her find Ciclops.
“Ciclops is female-owned so I think that’s why they wanted a female brewer,” Alisha says.