Welcome to the Swilled Blog. A blog created to give you all of the insights and updates on all things Swilled Dog (See what we did there?). We are so excited to be launching not only our blog and website but more importantly, our family-owned and operated hard cider company located in Franklin, WV. It has been quite a journey. From sourcing apples, testing numerous batches to find the perfect blends and flavors, designing and building out our cidery, crafting logos and labels, navigating the licensing and permitting process, planting apple orchards, and just good old fashioned hard work, we are on the cusp of bringing our ciders to the world. It won't be too much longer before our cider will be shared by more than just our close family and friends. Scared? Yes! Excited? Absolutely!
So how did we get here? Well, it's not difficult. We love cider. Our whole family loves cider, and as the cider industry has made a resurgence in recent years, our love for cider continues. Small batches of hard cider around our family never seem to go to waste. You can only imagine the family "volunteers" willing to sample test batches for our first Swilled Dog ciders. Let's just say if you are around our family, we always have plenty of cider handy and probably talk too much about hard cider (we know we do). So call it an obsession. We call it passion; we'll accept either. But as mentioned on our website, our mission is threefold: share our passion for hard cider, make an impact in the communities we serve, and have fun and promote sustainable happiness all along the way. To us, it doesn't get much better.
Now you may ask, "Swilled Dog?" or, "Where is Franklin, WV?". To some, one is probably more difficult to explain then the other, and no, we are not talking about our company's name. Franklin is a small, quiet town tucked into the heart of the Potomac Highlands region of West Virginia's Pendleton County. A 45 minute drive west of Harrisonburg, VA and an hour's drive east of Elkins, WV, sits a single stop light where US Route 33 and US Route 220 meet. It is here at this landmark, you can officially say you have arrived. No matter the direction from which you have arrived, you will have driven on some of the most beautiful and scenic roadways our state and our country have to offer. There isn't much to do in Franklin and Pendleton County, but if you enjoy the outdoors, the area will not disappoint. A rather unknown tradition of the region is the local hard cider (with the occasional apple jack) fermented every year by locals mostly in barrels stored in their cellars using fresh pressed local West Virginia apples. It is here that our family began learning about hard cider. Whether we experimented with our own batches, or we stumbled into and out of our friend's cellars, we became hooked. It didn't take long for our "pretty crazy" idea to launch a hard cider company to take hold across our entire family. It wasn't a question of if, but when.
Not only does our family love cider, but we love our dogs (and the occasional cat). So it only made sense to incorporate our love for dogs into our company name. The word "Swilled" (meaning to enthusiastically drink or consume heavily) was used to bring an old word back to life; much like the cider industry. You may or may not know, but hard cider was the drink of choice before prohibition. More Americans consumed hard cider then almost any other beverage. Cider's decline is well documented but is also much debated as to why it became nearly non-existent post-prohibition. A combination of events were probably to blame: heirloom variety and cider specific apples trees were cut down during the temperance movement, cider had a much longer fermentation and aging process then other beverages, immigrants introduced new beers and liquors, and even the evolution of the soda industry. But hard cider has a steep history in our country. Examples are numerous: frontiersman and pioneers planted cider specific apple trees and made hard cider to preserve apple juice for long journeys in the frontier, election day parties were held by George Washington full of hard cider where voters were "swilled" for their votes (he lost in 1755; coincidence or not, swilling did not occur that day), William Henry Harrison was portrayed as being a "hard cider-swilling war hero" during the election of 1840, John Adams was said to have started every day by "swilling" hard cider, and Thomas Jefferson's love for apple trees and hard cider showed at his estate at Monticello. Therefore for us, "Swilled" was perfect and was represented in our logo by the numerous apple cores on the ground in the orchard around our orchard dog.
Speaking of our logo and even our labels (details soon), a local artist from Franklin, WV, Michelle Sites, was instrumental in their creation. Her hand drawn art work turned out beautifully and is truly unique, and we are so excited to have her creativity shine through in our brand.
Our cider is much different than the most widely sold store bought brands of cider. Our approach is inspired by new age cider techniques with a blend of old traditions that we have all grown accustomed to enjoying. We also believe in transparency and keeping things simple. We do our best to source our apples and juice from local orchards. All of our flavored ciders use natural ingredients. Therefore on our initial lineup, you will see ciders that take you back to our roots and some that stretch our creativity. Whether it is producing semi-dry artisanal cider (Apple Bottom and WV Scrumpy 2016) or producing a new age flavored cider (Bunny Slope & Sweet Caramel), we want everyone to expand their thinking of hard cider. Yes, it is a drink that has quite the history, but it also is creating a new and exciting chapter as we speak. We look forward to being part of it.
As was mentioned in the beginning, our company has been on quite a journey. It takes a lot to launch a cider company. A lot of things were planned, and as in any business, unforeseen hurdles always seem to appear. However, it has been a complete family effort to get our company off of the ground. To us it’s not just having a hard cider company, but it’s about having fun and making an impact in the communities we serve. We have many events in store for 2017 and can’t wait to share them with you. We also can't thank everyone enough who has helped us out all along the way. The cider industry is a great community, and we can't wait to play our role in its continued growth. So as a consumer, please support all of us and help us continue this journey. We can't wait to share our cider and our story with you all along the way! Check back often to follow the ride.