Starting a Hard Cider Company - Part I

Much like in any other new venture in any other industry, many things have to come together for your company to come to life. Fortunately for us, our entire family has come together and stepped up to make this venture a reality. A frequent question we have received has been why cider and why West Virginia.

As mentioned in our previous blog post, our love for cider was born by venturing into many of the region’s local cellars where hard cider was a tradition typically made from local West Virginia apples and stored in oak barrels. It was here that we were introduced to hard cider. Over the years, we began to make our own cider and made many batches that were always enjoyed by the entire family. After a visit by a few in the family to local cideries in northern Virginia, our desire to start producing cider commercially started to take hold. After much research and many visits to cideries and events across the states of Virginia, Boston, Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, and Colorado, we felt that it was time to introduce our take on hard cider to the world. We also wanted to contribute to West Virginia becoming a part of the growing resurgence of the hard cider industry; a state where much of its past (unknown by many) has been steeped in apple cultivation and hard cider.

After making many test batches in our basements, we determined that if we were going start our business, we would need something that resembled a cidery. This part of the adventure started back in the early summer by turning approximately 1,100 square feet of space into a full-fledged production facility. Many members of the family brought their expertise to the project, and without their ingenuity, hard-work, and sacrifice, our vision would not have come to fruition. Much of the equipment and the work space used in our cidery was built by their resourcefulness. When a suggestion was made for a new piece of equipment or plans were drawn out to include a new work station, our team would immediately put their expertise to work and brainstorm how to make it happen. Some of the examples include a 4 station keg washer, a counter pressure bottle filler, a chill chamber for small batch carbonation, a temperature controlled fermentation room, and a walk-in cooler to name a few. To say it has been impressive would be an understatement.

We have also decided to plant our own orchards of heirloom variety and cider apples. Our plan for our orchards is more than just to say that we have orchards. Our plan is to resurrect heirloom variety apples for cider production and showcase West Virginia’s ability to cultivate these specific varieties. We believe that our orchards' climate and soil, also known as terroir and a term primarily used in the wine industry, provides us with a unique ability to make our own mark on the cider industry. After a successful spring and fall planting, larger plantings are already scheduled over the next 3 years with more to follow. The apples being planted are not your typical Gala, Red Delicious, Honeycrisp, etc., that you see in your local grocery stores. The apples being planted or grafted have names like Northern Spy, Golden Russet, Roxbury Russet, Goldrush, Pippin, King David, Winesap, Ashmead’s Kernel, Arkansas Black, Hewes Crab, Black twig, etc... Many old, local, and unidentified apple trees, which we believe are seedlings, will also be grafted to create trees that may uniquely showcase the region’s heritage. This project means a lot to us, and we can’t wait to one day make these apples into the next great batch of Swilled Dog Hard Cider.

In Part II of “Starting a Hard Cider Company”, we will detail our experience with navigating licensing, identifying vendors and planning our company’s launch. As we continue to finalize the production of our first commercial batches of cider set to be released very soon, we hope that everyone is as excited as we are. Much thought, time, and effort has been put forth to bring you great cider and a great experience. Where our plans take us is obviously unknown, but the awesome adventure has already begun. Thanks for supporting us and please follow us on social media, sign up for our newsletters, and read our blog posts to stay up to date. Launch event details coming soon!

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