Saturday, June 25, 2022

Bull City Ciderworks eyes summertime opening in The Cargo District

Bull City Ciderworks will open in the former Superior Millwork Building by early summer. (Courtesy photo)

WILMINGTON — It’s official: a taste of Durham will unlock its doors for Wilmington hard cider lovers by summertime.

Bull City Ciderworks has been renovating 615 S. 17th St. for a few months now to launch the town and region’s first cidery.

“Coastal NC is one of the only places in the state that doesn’t have a cidery,” CEO John Clowney said.

According to local distribution sales, its popularity compelled Clowney to consider the Port City when he decided to open taproom number five. Talks began pre-pandemic, he said.

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With the help of L.S. Smith, as well as Romero Architecture, the cider bar will go into the 7,500-square-foot former Superior Millwork Building, near the corner of Queen and 17th streets. It’s part of the Ciderworks appeal: The company often gives new life to old spaces, as seen in Cary, where it took over a 1930’s-era home, or in Greensboro’s former Gibb’s Hundred Brewing building, where Bull City opened at the beginning of 2021.

“We do love renovating old buildings and turning them into something special,” Clowney said. Superior Millwork operated in the Wilmington space from 1974 through 2020.

“It has great bones,” Clowney said. “We could quickly see how some basic changes could really open up the space and create a place that feels like a Bull City Ciderworks.”

The cidery will be an anchor tenant of The Cargo District, with the front portion of the building housing a bar, communal tables and lounge seating. The expansive warehouse will include a secondary bar and encapsulate that of a beer garden, Clowney explained  — “festive lights, live-edge tables, some greenery.” 

There will be an outdoor area with firepits, and garage doors will open for breezy passthroughs. The space also will be pet-friendly.

Renovations have been underway for a few months now at 615 S. 17th St. (Courtesy Bull City Ciderworks)

“We are choosing some label art that will fit with the Wilmington vibe, and one of our muralists, Lauren Yates, actually lives in Wilmington and has completed some murals recently in The Cargo District,” he added.

“The district was designed for creativity,” Cargo District developer Leslie Smith said, “so bringing something new to the area like hard cider fits the box of diversity that the brewing scene in Wilmington is becoming known for.”

Bull City will have between 10 and 14 taps featuring a variety of specialty flavors, like the Bourbonic Tonic (a bourbon-aged cider) or Gooseberry Galaxy (a dry-hopped kiwi cider). Clowney said around 60 sippers feature unique ingredients, such as honey, black tea, hops, ginger, tart cherries, bacon, candy corn and hibiscus.  

It has eight core ciders, including its flagship standard apple, Off Main. The ciders are made with gluten-free yeast and all-natural apple juice and avoid high-fructose corn syrup. 

“Bull City-styled ciders are not overly sugary or sweet,” Clowney said.

Prices range from $6 to $20, for 10-ounce drafts to 64-ounce crowlers. It will offer local and regional craft beer, as well as wine and non-alcoholic drinks.

Bull City Ciderworks will be surrounded by other food-and-drink establishments in The Cargo District: CheeseSmith, Salt + Charm, Bottles, Mess Hall, Alcove Beer Garden, as well as the up-and-coming Starling whiskey and wine bar and Fermental Bottle Shop relocation.

Clowney said collaborations with its new neighbors are on the agenda. “End of Days Distillery is right around the corner and we definitely plan on partnering up with them on some of our cider cocktail offerings,” Clowney said. 

The brewery will host entertainment and do monthly and quarterly events, such as vendor markets and pop-ups, including food pairings and hosting food trucks. Clowney said he’s planning on putting a food-ordering system to nearby eateries in place in the taproom.

“Bull Cider, a North Carolina brand, makes them a good fit for our community,” Smith said. “The fact that, as the ‘small guys,’ we were able to get a ‘big fish’ is pretty cool. We plan on continuing the growth.”

In the coming year, the district will see the addition of a dog bar and park, food court, larger Coworx facility, event space and more retail outlets, according to Smith.

“We love our future neighbors, the concepts and the business community around The Cargo District, which is always a top consideration for us when choosing where to open a location,” Clowney said.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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