In the beer world, breweries are always looking toward the next trendy beer style. But Wilmington Brew Works (WBW), which also happens to operate as a cidery, is chasing history with their new cider collaboration with Wilmington, Delaware’s Hagley Museum and Library.
Lucas Clawson, the Hagley Historian, is a regular at Wilmington Brew Works. In addition to being a Cellarman (the Brewery’s exclusive annual membership program), he often brings visiting scholars and researchers to the North Wilmington taproom for drinks. One evening, he and Ryan Rice, WBW’s Cider Maker & Production Assistant, got into a discussion about the history of local cider production, specifically by the du Pont family at Eleutherian Mills – the family’s ancestral home on the Hagley Museum grounds. Clawson says “The Orchard was a source of pride for E.I. du Pont. The family used fruit from the orchard to produce alcoholic beverages for their family and close friends. They also sold some of the fruit to their employees.” By 1804, du Pont had established an orchard of nearly 400 peach, pear, apple, plum and cherry tree varieties. His orchard was one of the finest in early America, and highly sought after for exchange of unique and prized fruit varieties that only du Pont had growing.
Hagley Museum and Library has been working to reestablish the orchard under the direction of Paul Orpello, the Director of Gardens and Horticulture. Fifty of those historic varieties still grow in the orchard at Eleutherian Mills today. Until now, the fruit on these trees were not regularly harvested. This year, under the guidance of Orpello and Rice, Wilmington Brew Works is utilizing the fruits of Eleutherian Mills in a new and exciting way. “When Lucas told me about the history of the orchard at Hagley, and that they had all this fruit available, I knew we had to find a way to use it,” said Rice. After two days of picking Montmorency and Black Tartarian cherries, there was enough to use in a new cider. Rice went to work with Craig Wensell, Wilmington Brew Works CEO and Brewmaster, to determine the best way to incorporate the locally harvested fruit into a cider.
The result is an exciting new line of cider from Wilmington Brew Works, aptly named The Fruits of Eleutherian Mills. Rice says the cider is bone dry and tart with subtle notes from the cherries in the finish. The limited run is available at the Wilmington Brew Works taproom beginning July 21, in 22-ounce bottles and on tap, with hopes that future batches will be available at Hagley Events.
Visitors to Hagley are encouraged to explore the E.I. du Pont Garden and stroll down the orchard meadow pathway where the Montmorency and Black Tartarian cherry trees are found. And don’t expect this collaboration to end with the cherries. Orpello and Rice have plans to utilize the Oldmixon and Jones Peach varieties as they ripen in the next few weeks. The Orchard also has a number of fruit bearing apple trees. Orpello says “We have both King and Calville Blanc apples, two historic varieties originally grown here, which are traditional cider apples. We can’t wait to see what Wilmington Brew Works can do with them in the fall.”