REVIEW: Grand Illusion Hard Cider

Have you been to Grand Illusion in Carlisle yet? The time is now.

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Grand Illusion Hard Cider puts apples first.

Grand Illusion Hard Cider Carlisle PA

As Carlisle’s first and only cider bar, Grand Illusion offers another outlet for local imbibers beyond the city’s flourishing craft beer culture.

Finding a lineup of creative, exciting cider is never easy. You’re usually looking at the same few options wherever you go.

The funny thing, there is a wealth of quality cider available in our own backyard (Ploughman Cider, Big Hill Ciderworks, both out of Adams County, are two great picks). Pennsylvania is fourth in the country in apple production, much of it just south in what’s known as the “Fruit Belt.”

However, quality ciders are produced throughout the state at 56(!) cideries, and you have the unique opportunity to try many of them in one visit to Grand Illusion.

Grand Illusion’s lineup features their own line of craft cider alongside a variety of hard-to-find ciders from producers across the state.

And while cider may be the focus, their tasting room in downtown Carlisle offers much more.

One cider, one wine, one beer

You can have it all.

Craft ciders make up the majority of the tap list, but Grand Illusion also offers a rotating menu of Pennsylvania craft beer and wine – sometimes even mead.

Grab a seat at the bar, find a spot in their cozy downstairs seating area, or check out the two seating areas upstairs, complete with a bar.

Pro tip: Get a flight!

Grand Illusion Hard Cider Carlisle PA

Grand Illusion’s flights are completely customizable.

Choose any combination of cider, wine, beer, or non-alcoholic soda (the Reading Soda Works sodas also are available as a flight for kids!) for up to six pours.

We primarily chose ciders, but I threw in two beers from Shy Bear Brewing and St. Boniface Craft Brewing Co., while Jimi opted for mead from Colony Meadery and a wine from Pinnacle Ridge Winery.

During our visit, Grand Illusion featured four of their own ciders on tap, and between us, we tried all but the Blue Illusion, mainly because we have had it before and know we like it.

Street Magic – YES! A wonderful, hoppy cider with a bit of pucker from the grapefruit. Definitely hoppier than I expected and any IPA lover should go for this. I took home a 6-pack of cans!

Mystic Citra Pineapple – Fruity, floral, and refreshing. A touch of sweetness from the pineapple, but a punch of citrus from dry-hopping with Citra and Cascade hops.

Anniversary Cider – If you put ginger in it, you have our attention. Created for their first anniversary in February, this cider uses just the right amount of fresh ginger and pears for sweetness.

Looking for something … else? Grand Illusion also offers a small menu of original cider-based cocktails for your enjoyment.

It is worth noting, as a toddler mom, that Grand Illusion is family friendly. In addition to the soda flight, a kids food menu is available, and we saw children of varying ages on our visit.

Creative food

Choose that flight, then turn your attention to Grand Illusion’s new food menu.

For a tasting room, the menu is just the right size (and rather impressive given the limited kitchen space!). It offers shareable options, plus a variety of flatbreads, sandwiches, and salads to please most.

Shareable plates

Grand Illusion Hard Cider Carlisle PA

Pretzel Flight

This is the adventurous dipper’s dream. You get a flight of three pretzels rubbed with salt, spicy cajun seasoning, and Italian herbs plus Fat Tire beer cheese, sweet dijon mustard, and roasted garlic parmesan sauce for dipping.

Street Taco Trio

These three mini-pita-packed tacos could easily be a small meal. Pork carnitas tacos topped with cabbage, shredded Colby Jack, and smoked paprika ranch. Served with a side of chips and corn salsa.

Other shareables include a meat and cheese board, Buffalo Chicken Dip, Carnitas Nachos, and Artichoke and Asiago Dip.

Flatbreads

Grand Illusion Hard Cider Carlisle PA

Buffalo Chicken Flatbread

This quickly caught our attention and came highly recommended by the staff as well. A crunchy crust topped with buffalo cheese spread, roasted chicken, sweet peppers, mozzarella, and a drizzle of ranch.

Their flatbread menu features eight flatbreads from classics like Traditional Margherita and Three Cheese to creative twists like Cuban and Steakburger.

Wraps

Wraps are the newest addition to Grand Illusion’s menu. Personally, wraps rarely make my “must try” list, but I’m glad I did in this case.

Grand Illusion Hard Cider Carlisle PA

Smokehouse BBQ

This the perfect lunch plate. It was the favorite of the trip.

Pulled pork, apple slaw, onion straws, Sriracha Bourbon BBQ sauce in a wrap with your choice of chips and corn salsa or house-made apple slaw. Go for the salsa — the slaw is already delicious inside your wrap, and the corn salsa has a nice smokiness.

#SundayBrunch

You know the antidote to Sunday Scaries is Sunday Funday: Brunch.

Grand Illusion’s brunch runs every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with its own sweet and savory menu that brunch is known for.

Have fun with a Waffle Flight served with a variety of toppings or grab a Breakfast Flatbread topped with cheese, bacon, cranberries, and apples.

Other brunch plates include the Grand Parfait, Spinach & Tomato Parfait, and a Quiche Loraine.

Grand events

From weekly happenings to special events like Murder Mystery Shows from local theatre companies, and fun tasting nights, there’s always something going down at Grand Illusion. Be sure to follow them on Facebook for updates on what’s happening!

Grand Illusion Hard Cider Carlisle PA

Weekly events

  • Magic Mondays – Staying true to their name, Grand Illusion hosts a house magician every Monday for a night of family-friendly table magic.
  • Fridays at 5 Contest – Every Friday is your chance to win! Grand Illusion posts a question on their Facebook page every Friday and the first person to answer correctly wins a pretzel flight!

For the future, Grand Illusion has plans to expand its in-house cider making program and add a delivery service for food and six-packs of their cider.


Be sure you’re following Grand Illusion on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay in the know on new ciders, events, and more!

Grand Illusion Hard Cider is open 4-10 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 4-11 p.m on Friday, 12-11 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Sara Bozich
Author: Sara Bozich

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