Brooke Glover, co-founder of Swilled Dog Hard Cider, didn’t set out to create a new business venture when she and her husband started making cider at home for family and friends.
“My husband’s family has a background in cider, and we’ve been making cider for a while. We realized we couldn’t find any of the cider we liked out on the market.
So, we started making our own. We thought, ‘There’s something here. We can do this!’”
Cider, according to Glover, is actually pretty simple.
“Cider is just like wine, but it’s made with apples. So, you just take apples and you press them. The juice that comes out of it goes into a tank, usually yeast is added to that and it just ferments. That’s it. There’s no brewing, nothing else that really goes into it. It’s just fermented apple juice,” explains Glover.
Moving from making cider at home to making cider on a larger scale was a natural progression.
“We have a passion for making great cider with great ingredients. We have a passion for making spirits and enjoying spirits, having something to enjoy with family and friends to make your experiences elevated. That’s the reason for starting the company.”
Swilled Dog Hard Cider and Distillery produced their 1st batches of cider in 2017.
“We started out with small batches. We did them in carboys. We’d do different apple blends and find different juices we liked. Then we started prepping our own apples.
It kind of took off from there,” says Glover.
It wasn’t long before Swilled Dog gained a reputation for really good cider.
“We’ve done a lot of bootstrapping, a lot of being true to our roots and the state of West Virginia. We make sure we honor those roots. We knew the customers, the loyalty, the fans would come if we were doing that,” stresses Glover.
Swilled Dog didn’t have a big budget for advertising, so, they got the word out in other ways.
“Word of mouth has been huge! Going to events and letting people try it has been big. Most of it has been through social media and people sharing it,” explains Glover. “People telling their Mom, “Hey, I had this amazing cider. You have to try Swilled Dog. It’s different!” That’s been the biggest way we’ve done it.”
As for the Swilled Dog name, it has a very personal connection.
“Swilled is an old term that was used back in the early stages of our country. It means to enjoy yourself and drink and be happy. We’re also huge animal lovers. We love our dog Lucy Pickles. She is our mascot.”
The company uses as many locally sourced apples as possible.
“We have 2 orchards that we’re starting to source from and we also try and source as much from West Virginia as possible, but we do have to go outside the state.
West Virginia doesn’t have quite the number of apples we need and doesn’t have many cider-specific apples – the higher sugar, the higher tannin content that we’re looking for.”
Glover says 1 of her goals is to try and change that.
“West Virginia has the potential to be a much bigger apple growing region and historically it was before Prohibition,” says Glover. “We’ve been trying to convince the farmers of West Virginia to get on board with the cider industry. That’s happening in two ways. One is I’m the vicepresident on the board of directors for the American Cider Association. I have a lot of great contacts of people looking for apples, looking for cider-specific apples – heritage, heirloom apples that are in high demand right now. But we’re not just saying, ‘Hey let’s figure this out.’ We want to do something about it. So, what we do every year is we produce a West Virginia scrumpy and that’s made from all donated, foraged apples from around the state. We sell those bottles and give 100 percent of the proceeds to charity in the state of West Virginia. That way we’re not just taking from the state, we’re giving back. This year for every bottle we sell, we want to plant an apple tree right here in West Virginia.”
Charity is a big part of the company’s mission.
“For us, it’s just kind of who we are as a company and as people. We want to make sure we’re being part of something bigger. Making money is amazing and that’s obviously part of a successful company, but we want to build a brand and to be part of something else, something that makes a difference, something that people can be proud of. That’s one of things for us that we want to do,” explains Glover. “Every single event we go to, we pick a charity that we support based off the sales of that event.
Our customers are like, ‘Wow! So, you’re giving to this charity?’ Our answer is ‘Yep!’ It encourages people to be a part of their community and that’s what ties us together.”
Swilled Dog has a tasting room at the Upper Tract operation in Pendleton County where you can try ten ciders on tap. But Glover says they have recipes for over 70 ciders depending on the apples.
“We love to use crab apples, what most people call deer apples. Those are usually the best. Then there are different varieties like Jonagold which is amazing. There are different types of russets that are really great. Pippins are wonderful too. In our area, the Virginia Hughes crab apple is just amazing. It’s very small and you don’t get a lot of juice out of it but what you do is quality!”
As for plans to expand their business, Glover says Swilled Dog has added rye whiskey (with a picture of Lucy Pickles on the bottle) to their menu, and they’re working on other products.
“Our growth is something we want to be careful and strategic about. We also want to make sure we are putting ourselves in the best position to showcase our company and grow as much as we need to.”
Swilled Dog Ciders are currently sold all across West Virginia and in 6 other states. To find out more about Swilled Dog, log on to their website at swilleddog.com or call 304-358-0604.