What was once a dairy farm in the 1900s and was bought out of foreclosure 11 years ago is now a full-scale cider distillery with more than 3,000 apple trees producing more apple varieties than many can name.
The Distillery Lane Ciderworks farm and cidery in Jefferson held its third annual “First Press of the Season” event signifying the farm’s first harvest and attracted nearly 1,000 area residents and cider enthusiasts to their grounds to taste their homemade ciders, enjoy live music and tour their orchard.
“It’s just a great way to go out into the country and pick some apples and taste some cider,” said Drew Vancuran, 28, of Rockville, who was with his wife and two sons.
Rob Miller, who owns the farm and cider company, said they press apples to bottle roughly 1,000 gallons of fresh cider per year to distribute on their own, in addition to supplying South Mountain Creamery, a regional dairy product distributor, with over 4,000 gallons of cider for their distribution. He said the farm has been a licensed winery, or cidery, for three years, which is why they began hosting the “first press” events so that they can offer hard cider tastings and shine light onto the fermentation process.
From the Bramley’s Seedling to the Rhode Island Greening, Miller said there are over 40 varieties of apples in the orchard, some for eating and baking and some to be used for cider.
He said he has grown the business with his wife as the co-owner and his three children, now adults, helping out when they can by managing their website and tending to the orchard.
“It’s been a true family adventure,” he said, noting that the first 1,000 trees were planted by family members in 2001 and by 2006, they were ready to make their first batch of fresh cider.
Miller said the event is a time for others to learn the “A’s to Z’s of how to produce cider.”
“People love to come out and see where the fruit comes from and how it’s made,” said Miller.
Some used the cider event as a pit-stop on the way to a camping destination for the Labor Day weekend.
“We were on our way to go camping this weekend and thought this would be a great stop to make,” said John Dater, 37, of Takoma Park. “We’ve been to wineries in Maryland and Virginia but never been to a cidery. It’s very unique in a sense.”
Apart from the cider-tasting and apple-picking, beekeeper Rick Nestler, of Brunswick, held beekeeping demonstrations and honey-tastings throughout the day.
He said although he did not bring any live bees with him for safety reasons, he brought hives and equipment to illustrate the process and allow visitors to feel and taste honeycombs.
“I wanted to show everybody how it would look if this were an active hive. Bees start to do miraculous work. They’re like engineers,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years, but I’m a slow learner. I have a lot to go.”
A Civil War reenactment was also held later in the day. The Distillery Lane Ciderworks grounds have been coined “The Encampment,” said Miller, since it was a campsite to Union soldiers prior to the Battle of Crampton’s Gap during the civil war in 1862.
Apart from seeing demonstrations and tasting the ciders, others spent their time strolling through the orchard on a self-guided tour.
Chris and Susan Carson spent their afternoon picking and smelling the variety of apples in the 10-acre orchard with their 14-month-old daughter Emma.
“We thought this would be something fun to do on a nice weekend,” said Chris Carson. “It’s something new and different.”