When working with wood, Sean Kelly’s relationship with trees is a rather close one. When those trees bear a wide variety of fruit, opening a craft cidery becomes a natural pathway for someone with a long-term hobby and love for fermentation. Kelly’s Eugene, Oregon-based WildCraft Cider Works has now turned into a burgeoning business with bottles in stores and on tap at bars all over the Northwest.
During his time woodworking he would see a lot of wood, trees and orchards go unused, so Kelly sourced the majority of his apples and fruit for cider from these orchards when fermentation was just a hobby. However, the idea of owning and operating his own cidery never struck his mind until people started bringing ciders around his workshop.
“The goal of WildCraft as a concept was to reach out and utilize all that fruit as much as possible,” Kelly says of the early stages of his cidery. He says he wanted to utilize all the fruit from the orchards that he visited driving his business, with the ethos to collect wild fruit. Kelly was able to use the relationships with conservation organizations he built during woodworking to help him transition from a career of manipulating wood to working with the fruit of the trees. His new cider business was registered in December of 2013, culminating with the first product on the market in October of 2014.
He calls himself stickler when it comes to ingredients. Although traditional cider apples are not used for all the WildCraft products, but for the most part, the blends come from heirloom apples from orchards that were planted by early Oregon settlers. Occasionally a cider apple will make its way into the batch, if that is what’s found in the orchard.
“The concept behind the gathering of fruits is really to utilize what was planted for the purpose,” says Kelly. “The heirlooms that were planted here were designed as multi-purpose, but they make phenomenal cider.”
Every ingredient that goes into WildCraft cider is sourced as locally as possible. Unpasteurized and bottled-condition ciders comes from the aim to be a sulfite-free cidery. This mantra also resonates with the name to ethically source and sustainably harvest the resources that goes into the products.
From the trees to the surrounding community, WildCraft strives to make a healthy impact. This year was the first Urban Orchard Community Apple Drive, spearheaded by the cidery. Kelly and his team asked people in the Eugene area to bring apples from orchards and trees, fallen fruit in the neighborhood and farmland for a community-wide cider press. The event was highly successful ending with a total of 586 gallons of apples for the urban orchard cider that will be released on New Year’s Day with 10 percent of the sales going to the Long Tom Watershed Council.