Distillery Lane Ciderworks sits on 95 acres in Jefferson, Maryland—just outside of the historic town of Burkittsville. The farm is protected by both historic and environmental conservation easements due to its history, dating back to the Civil War. The property is officially known as “The Encampment.” During the Civil War—specifically, the Battle of Crampton’s Gap in September of 1862—the farm was used as a camp for Union soldiers (and the farmhouse was used as a Quarter Master’s house). Following the Civil War, there was a fire that destroyed most of the farmhouse. The house was later rebuilt on its original foundations during the 1890s. The farmhouse, adjacent carriage house, and Civil War-era barn foundation are all registered as Maryland historic properties. Throughout much of the 1900s, the property was used as a dairy farm. The milking parlor is still standing today, although it has been converted to the fermentation and bottling center for Distillery Lane Ciderworks. Additional buildings such as the cider house and barns have been added to the property, but they have all been designed to maintain the historic appearance and integrity of the property and surrounding area.
Rob Miller and his wife, Patty Power, purchased the property from the state of Maryland in an auction in 1998. The Millers have three children and thought the area would be a good place to raise kids (the primary thing they were looking to grow). After making some renovations on the inside of the farmhouse, the Miller family moved to the farm in 2001. The farm had never been used as an apple orchard—there were no apple trees on the farm when the Millers purchased the property—and Rob and Patty had no previous experience as orchardists. However, the Millers had always been cider fans (both fresh and hard cider) and the farm was located in a prime region to grow apples, so they decided to enter the cider-making world and learn the nuances of being a cidery as they went along.
The whole operation was a family-affair from the beginning: fifteen of the Millers’ extended family came to the farm to help plant the initial 1,000 trees during one weekend in the spring of 2001. By 2006, the trees were producing enough fruit to make their first batches of fresh cider. At this point, construction on the cider house commenced. By 2008, the cider house was officially completed and approved for both food processing standards and historic easements. During this time, numerous home-brew cider-makers discovered the farm online (due to the specialized cider apples that the Millers grow). These home-brewers would come to the farm and buy fresh cider to take home and ferment into hard cider. Many of them would come back and let the Millers taste the hard cider that their apples had produced. The Millers started using the cider house to produce their own hard cider, but were finding that the results were not consistently good. Tim Rose, one of the home-brewers, had come back several times with refreshing cider and well-researched advice for the Millers’ cider making. Frustration with their inability to turn delicious fresh cider into high-quality hard cider led the Millers to call Tim and propose that he join the family-owned and operated farm. Since then, Tim—the official cidermaker for Distillery Lane Ciderworks—has moved from carboys (five to six gallon glass jugs) in his basement to his own building with stainless steel tanks!
Distillery Lane Ciderworks obtained its winery license and was opened in 2010. The name “Distillery Lane” is inspired by the history of the area surrounding the farm. The whole valley was dotted with beer and whiskey-producing distilleries up until (and perhaps during and after) Prohibition. The remains of one of these distilleries can actually still be seen today down the road from the farm in the woods. Distillery Lane, now just a dirt path in the front of the property, is still marked on some state maps.
Distillery Lane Ciderworks is the first licensed cidery in Maryland. Although the farm does not make traditional wine (hard cider has approximately the same alcohol content as wine, but is made from apples instead of grapes), it operates under a winery license. More trees have been planted since 2001 and the orchard is now nine acres (over 3,000 trees)! The rest of the 95 acres of the farm are mostly pastures and woods. The business has really taken off since 2010 and has been featured in articles in media outlets such as The Washington Post. Most recently, Distillery Lane Ciderworks was featured in the hit television show, “Drinking Made Easy,” where the host, Zane Lamprey, and his stuffed monkey, Pleepleus, visited the farm and tasted some of the cider!