This piece is part of our RALtoday Q+A series. Know someone we should interview? Nominate them here.
After four years of planning and development, Raleigh’s first cidery is set to open in early August. East Bower Cider Co. — located inside the new East End Market at 2020 Progress Ct. — will be the first of its kind in the City of Oaks. Once the establishment is in full swing, there will be up to four complex-yet-approachable cider varieties fermenting at once + four to eight in-house produced ciders on tap.
East Bower’s co-owners, Oliver Koch and Dustin Walker, are old beer guys and new cider guys, with a combined experience of 25 years in the craft beer world. The duo met during college at the University of Georgia and have stayed connected through the beverage industry and as friends ever since. Dustin has lived in Raleigh for 12 years and Oliver for nine.
So, why are two beer guys going into cider? Keep reading to find out, plus get an inside look at what’s to come at East Bower.
When did you first develop your taste for cider?
Dustin: We were starting to learn about hard cider and really appreciate the different flavors (at a bachelor party) about five years ago. As beer guys, we didn’t really care for the sugary hard cider styles. Then we tried ciders that weren’t just sugar bombs. We thought they were fantastic. That was the beginning of us really enjoying cider and all the different kinds of elements that can come through.
Why open a cidery?
Oliver: Cider is more local than beer can ever possibly be, especially in NC. There are so many flavor profiles + over 400 varieties of apples just in NC.
How did you choose Raleigh for your first location?
Dustin: There was never a consideration for any other place — this is home. We’re happy to be able to connect with our community, which is something we weren’t able to do when we were traveling as regional managers for beer companies.
Oliver: We wanted to bring something unique to the beer scene here (which has been around a while). So it’s going to be fun to add a different flavor to Raleigh.
How did you name East Bower (originally Shady Grove)?
Dustin: We couldn’t get the rights to the name Shady Grove (inspired by the Taj Mahal song), but in the same vein, “bower” is a shaded area in a garden. “East” came from East End Market. We like the name East Bower even more now.
How would you describe East Bower’s design?
Oliver: Clean, colorful, bright, and modern. We’ve been to 100+ cideries and breweries all over the country. We wanted to focus on making this space a lot more visually unique and focus on being a more modern production space.
Dustin: We want it to feel like a living space — we’re going to have a lot of plants.
Where do you get your apples?
Dustin: We’re trying to stay as local as possible, from places like Western North Carolina and the Shenandoah Valley.
What types of ciders will people find at East Bower?
Oliver: We really want to make approachable, drier, herbal ciders that I think a lot of people don’t know about.
Dustin: Our house cider will be dry, closer to a Brut Champagne or white wine than a typical cider. We’ll still have some semi-sweet ciders + we’re going to play around with seasonal items like peaches in the summer. I also want to find the perfect ginger cider recipe. We want to make a rosé cider but I want to experiment using elderberry syrup.
What else is on the menu?
Dustin: One of our goals is getting someone in to try the cider, but if they want something else, there will be something for everyone. We’re going to be a full-scale tasting room and bar with a good draft menu, wine menu, and cider + fruit-forward cocktails. We’re really lucky to be good friends with the owners of Trophy Brewing Company. One of our first releases is a collaboration beer with them.
Will there be food?
Oliver: We’ll definitely have some snacks and maybe some pre-made charcuterie. We’re thinking we’ll be the “happy hour, pre-dinner, post-dinner place.” People can definitely bring food over from the restaurants around us.
Where would you go to dinner after drinks at East Bower?
Oliver: Stanbury (it’s very close to here). I’d order the tuna crudo; it’s always delicious.
Dustin: Poole’s is a great place for date night. I love the mac and cheese + salads.