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Woodchuck Hard Cider opens 2nd facility in Middlebury - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Woodchuck Hard Cider opens 2nd facility in Middlebury

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MIDDLEBURY, Vt. -

Every year, thousands of gallons of hard cider are shipped out of Middlebury.

"Vermont has always been our home," said Dan Rowell, the CEO of Woodchuck Hard Cider.

Woodchuck may now be owned by a European conglomerate, but it has no plans to leave the Green Mountain State. In fact, Woodchuck is expanding with a second facility in Vermont.

"We still have our other facility just down the road at Pond Lane, so this will effectively allow us to double our capacity," Rowell explained.

Woodchuck pumps out nearly 5 million gallons of cider a year, fueling America's growing demand for the sparkling beverage. Nationwide, hard cider production has tripled in just the last three years.

The new building has a tasting room to lure customers, plus production facilities. And it brings 25 new jobs. But there's an increasing need for Woodchuck's main ingredient-- processing apples, or apples that would not make it to the table.

"We try to buy as locally as possible, but the reality is Vermont doesn't grow enough apples for us," Rowell said.

Woodchuck currently gets some of its apples from out of state. But the company says its main Vermont cider supplier is Champlain Orchards. The orchard presses about 300,000 gallons a year, 200,000 of those gallons go to Woodchuck. But Bill Suhr, who owns Champlain Orchards, says keeping up with demand is tough. It can take up to 10 years to have a fully functioning orchard.

"We plant 15,000 new trees per year, so we're adding about 20 acres a year of production," Suhr said.

"We're working with some of the farmers and the University of Vermont to take some of the former orchards, or defunct orchards, and plant more apple trees, where 100 percent of those apples will go for cider," Rowell said.

Suhr says it would take about 5,000 acres to meet the needs of processing apples here in the state.

"We're down around 2,000 acres at the moment," Suhr said. "A small fraction of that 2,000 is actually going to the processing market."

For Suhr and Rowell, going 100 percent local when it comes to cider production isn't impossible, but it will take time and patience.

The new facility will be open to the public Thursday.

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