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Cider gone wild: Eugene’s first “cidery”

On the corner of 4th avenue and Lincoln street sits Eugene’s newest hub of innovative, alcoholic concoctions. WildCraft Cider Works is the city’s first “cidery,” which opened its doors to the public in late November 2014.

When you first enter through the doors of WildCraft, you’re immediately in front of the bar, greeted by a welcoming bartender who’s eager to inform you about the ciders on tap and provide you with samples. The types of ciders they serve, written on chalkboards that overhang the bar, aren’t anything like what you’d find in the hard cider section of Safeway.

You’ll see names like the Farmhouse Dry Cider, Tart Cherry or the Elderberry Perry. At WildCraft, the ciders are drier, have more complex flavors and a higher amount alcohol than, say, Angry Orchard or Crispin Cider.

The company is notable for experimenting with pretty much any fruit that can be sourced locally: cherries, elderberries, quinces, peaches, pears and of course, apples.

“At this stage, I would argue that there aren’t any fruits you can’t make cider with,” said Ellie Grimme, a co-founder and partial owner of WildCraft Cider Works. “In terms of what we won’t do, we’re really only focused on things that can be harvested in Oregon.”

In addition to working with local farmers like Detering Orchards in Harrisburg, Oregon and Oregon Heritage Farms in Hillsboro, Oregon. Wildcraft hopes to launch an urban food-sourcing project this summer. The company would encourage those with unused fruit trees or run-down orchards to donate their produce in exchange for a gift certificate to their restaurant. The idea would then be to collect large enough quantities of fruit to create a batch of cider made from purely Eugene produce.

WildCraft Cider Works’ small location doubles as a tasting room and a restaurant. All ciders are also made onsite in a back room, exposed by windows for customers to see into as they enter the tasting room. Here, they house large fermenting tanks and barrels, through which the staff is happy to tour and show you how the cidery works.

Inside, Wildcraft has a cozy, intimate ambiance. Its bar and seating areas are covered with rich woodwork and much of the furniture incorporates old industrial parts. The lighting is dark with candles and small tea lights scattered around, creating a feeling of warmth in the space.

“We knew that we wanted to have a tasting room for educational purposes and the restaurant is an extension of that,” Grimme said. “When you’re making something that’s really unique, you want to represent it accurately.”

Grimme describes WildCraft as a “team-built business,” from getting a large group of friends together to pick fruit at 4 a.m. to designing and renovating their location, which was at one point just a storage space. In fact, the company started with one man, Sean Kelly, who began home-brewing as a hobby. Soon, several friends and community members were ready to invest in the idea of creating an actual cidery. Today, WildCraft Cider Works is owned by about 10 people who make up the majority of their small staff.

These unique, Oregon-grown ciders can now be found at many of Eugene’s local grocery stores including Capella Market, Market of Choice, Sundance Natural Foods and New Frontier Market. Wildcraft ciders are also sold in the Bier Stein Bottleshop and Made In Oregon stores around the state.

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Lindsay McWilliams

Lindsay McWilliams