In 2011 Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Steve Groff was struck by a motorist at 45 mph while riding his bicycle. The collision broke his neck. Fortunately, Groff recovered from his accident without any lasting neurological impairment. Life, however, suddenly became very precious. Groff decided to leave his career at the hospital behind. He and his wife Julie (a nurse) planted new roots in the land they have called home since the 2000 — Wyndridge Farm (a name given to the farm in the 60s), located in Dallastown, Pennsylvania. Initially, Groff simply wanted to return to an agricultural lifestyle: horses, cattle, and crops. Then inspiration blossomed.
“I grew up on a dairy farm,” says Groff, “farming is in my roots. That beautiful 120 year old farm, that was a mess for years. We used it for straw and hay and horses. We said, 'Wow, what if we fix this thing up?' This led us to getting a Winery License, Brewery License.”
Now Steve and Julie are the purveyors of some of the best “crafty” ciders we’ve ever had at City Tap House. Their flagships, Wyndridge Crafty Cider, Hopped Cider, and Cranberry Cider, are made using apples grown at an orchard right next door. And they are delicious. Wyndridge’s Bluecoat Cider, a collaboration with Aaron Selya and company at Philadelphia distilling, is daringly infused with Bluecoat gin botanicals. But how did two medical professionals end up creating such crafty cider?
“It's about half crazy. We did a hell of a lot of research. We're not the typical dudes who were hanging out together and home-brewing for 20 years. We didn't come at it that way, we freely admit that. We're building a team around a passion, a brand, and a farm. We hired a wonderful cider maker named Scott Topel.”
Topel, 35, has been a cider genius since the ripe age of 16. During his studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, he ran a small craft farm cidery. Now, settled in what Groff calls the “Nappa Valley” of apples, Topel is leading Wyndridge Farm’s production of incredible ciders.
“We like dry cider,” says Groff. “There's some commercial ciders out there. Angry Orchard, Magner’s, and other English ciders.”
Those ciders are good, but they aren’t made with Pennsylvania apples.
“We have fresh juice coming in from our neighbor's orchard all the time. Accessibility is very important to us.”
And so is creativity and color.
“We like the subtle adjuncts like cranberry; [we] dry-hop [our] ciders.”
Taste any of Wyndridge Farm’s ciders and you’ll understand how much they differentiate themselves from their peers in the market. They’re cleaner. They have an impressive, fresh, of-the-earth aroma and feel. They are vibrant in the glass. Wyndridge’s first cider was the Crafty Cider (distinguished by a handsome fox wearing a tux).
“We had a lot of foxes on the farm, so the fox became the farm brand. ‘Crafty’ is a play on the [character of the] Fox; so, ‘Crafty’ cider. It is a sweet, tart apple base; there are no adjuncts. We later took that base and added cranberry juice [which became Crafty Cranberry].”
The idea behind Wyndridge Farm’s artwork is simple: imbue their ciders and beers with a “rustic elegance.” From their dashing rabbit to their homely barn dog, each ‘character’ is ready for “a black tie affair one night” and “jeans and boots” get-together the next, says Groff. It’s an accessible, approachable, and fun aesthetic.
Undoubtedly, Wyndridge Farms has found success. They’re on tap with us in Pennsylvania, most southern counties in Maryland, all of NJ, portions of Virginia, West Virginia, and Ohio. Steve and Julie first knew they hit the mark during one of the first beer festivals at the Philadelphia Naval yard.
“Penn Distribution invited us (before we signed with them). When we saw people lined up at our tent to try our cider, after 20 minutes people were coming over saying, ‘Hey! My friend told me to try the Cranberry!’ Watching a person say, ‘Oh, oh! This is special!’ Those moments build your confidence.”
From a near-critical injury, to critically acclaimed ciders, Wyndridge Farm has burst forth from a small seed of an idea to a sweet, sweet reality. We think they’re producing some of the best ciders around. What’s their secret?
Groff says, “Fortitude, passion, persistence.”