A sip of cider can be a trip to the cool shady spots beneath the apple trees, where you’ll sometimes fine the fallen fruit sending up a scent past ripe and overripe, a bit sweet and a little boozy.
The new East Bower Cider Co. aims to offer that shady delight, but a lot less rustic, debuting this month as Raleigh’s first cidery.
East Bower is owned by Oliver Koch and Dustin Walker, friends with backgrounds in the top tier of American craft beer — Koch with Terrapin in Athens, Georgia, and Walker for Bell’s Brewing out of Michigan.
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Now they’ve set their sights on cider, believing the beer-centric Triangle doesn’t know what it’s missing.
“As beer guys you don’t think much about cider, thinking it’s just the super sugar bombs like Angry Orchard,” Walker said. “What it is is really dry, more like Champagne or white wine. It is winemaking for the most part.”
The cidery opens in the East End Market, the new development next door to Dock 1053, between Atlantic Avenue and Wake Forest Road. Permits willing, East Bower could be open as early as this Saturday.
Cider has been somewhat lost in the craft beverage movement, which has seen a boom in breweries and distilleries but far fewer cideries. The best known local brands are the acclaimed Botanist and Barrel and the ever expanding Bull City Ciderworks, which has locations in Durham, Cary, Greensboro, Lexington and Wilmington.
“There’s a lot of great cidery out there, but there’s not a cidery in Raleigh,” Walker said. “Clearly there’s a need for it.”
East Bower was first dubbed Shady Grove after the Taj Mahal song, but a Tennessee distillery had called dibs on that name so Koch and Walker found a name that also had it made in the shade. (A “bower” is a shady spot under trees.)
“It ended up working out in our favor,” Koch said.
Koch and Walker first partnered up in January 2020, but then their cidery, along with the rest of the planet, was derailed a bit by a global pandemic.
Initially East Bower will fill its taplines with the ciders of other producers and a few beers. By early fall, Koch said the cidery should be serving its own juice.
When the East Bower cider is flowing, Walker said to expect mostly dry to some semi-sweet ciders, plus seasonal co-fermentations like peaches with the apples, and other varieties with ginger or elderberry, mint and rosemary.
“The feedback of our space and the need for cider has been fantastic,” Koch said. “Cider is more like wine than beer, you pitch the yeast and then you wait,” Koch said. “We’re focusing on the herbal, dry, sessionable ciders. Low (alcohol), easy drinking.”
The bar will feature 16 taps and porrons — the glass pitchers that are an elegant way to guzzle wine or cider — can be ordered to share. There will be cheese and charcuterie boards for sale, but Walker said outside food is welcome.
The taproom and patio have room for up to 114 people, with most of the space outdoors. Indoors the beams are painted green and the giant windows feed a collection of plants.
“We wanted to make this a living green space,” Walker said. “I think we have a good vibe.”
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