Delaware / Food and drink / History

There’s history behind this cider collab from Wilmington Brew Works and the Hagley orchard

The Fruits of Eleutherian Mills is a new limited run of fruit cider made with varieties of cherries, peaches and apples that have grown in the Hagley orchard for over two centuries.

Montmorency cherries. (Photo by Elvis Kennedy with Creative Commons license)

What do Wilmington Brew Works and Hagley Museum and Library have in common?

Aside from the obvious — both are Delaware institutions — both know their cider. Hard cider, to be specific.

WBW may be known primarily for its local microbrew beers, from its Joe Biden-inspired double IPA Rail Car One to its serious-slash-novelty DelaBear brew. But it’s also a cidery that offers a selection of small-batch ciders like the dry Fogel Grip and the fruity-sweet Ciderosa Watermelon Sugar.

And, while Hagley is known primarily as a historical museum of industry and the home of the very first mill and factory of what would evolve into DuPont (now formally known as DuPont de Nemours, Inc.), the property, called Eleutherian Mills, had also established an orchard of nearly 400 peach, pear, apple, plum and cherry tree varieties in 1804. E.I. du Pont used them to produce alcoholic beverages for family and friends, and to sell to employees.

The orchard, which Hagley historian Lucas Clawson calls “a source of pride for E.I. du Pont,” was considered one of the finest, with varieties of fruit that were only found in the U.S. at Eleutherian Mills.

Clawson, a regular at WBW, was the one to tell WBW’s cider maker and production assistant, Ryan Rice, about the historic orchard. Now Hagley is working to reestablish the orchard under the direction of Director of Gardens and Horticulture Paul Orpello, with 50 historic varieties still growing but not regularly harvested.

“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,” Rice said.

Under the guidance of Oprello, WBW harvested enough Montmorency and Black Tartarian cherries for Rice and Craig Wensell, Wilmington Brew Works’ CEO and brewmaster, to create a new cider, which has been named The Fruits of Eleutherian Mills. It’s described by rice as “bone dry,” tart with subtle cherry notes in the finish.

The limited run is available at the Wilmington Brew Works taproom beginning July 21, in 22-ounce bottles and on tap. Future batches may be available at Hagley events.

With Eleutherian Mills’ Oldmixon and Jones peach varieties ripening in August, Orpello and Rice plan to turn some into cider, too, as well as its King and Calville Blanc apples, two traditional cider apple varieties, which will be ready for cidering in the fall.


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