In this era of social media and constant connectivity, it’s hard to be taken by surprise anymore, but that’s what happened recently in Lancaster with the opening of the new cider tap room from Clarksburg Cider.
Opening with minimal fanfare in mid-August, the tap room caught locals by surprise with the size of the surrounding campus, as well as its range of possibilities. Set on a 17-acre parcel, providing an elevated experience and offering a lot more than just cider, the tap room fills a local need and acts as a drive-worthy destination.
Let’s get this out of the way: Hard cider can be a hard sell for a lot of people. The general criticism of it seems to be that it’s too sweet and too one-dimensional, resulting in the common refrain: “It’s good but… I couldn’t drink more than one of these in a row.”
Implicitly acknowledging this criticism, the Clarksburg team isn’t taking the hard sell approach at their new tap room. Sure, there’s a wide range of ciders available, but also; wood-fired pizzas, craft cocktails, craft beer, wine and even a kids menu. Outside, the large lawn-cum-patio is the perfect space for everything from kids games to live music to weddings.
Seeing the size and scope of the tap room, it may come as a surprise that even Lancaster locals were surprised by its opening.
“I heard a lot of guests saying, ‘How did you do this without me knowing about it?’” general manager Jon Robare told us on a recent visit. “I don’t think anybody really had an idea of what we were building here in terms of hospitality experience.”
Lancaster has seen a lot of development and become an attractive place to live for middle and upper-middle class people over the past couple decades. While a lot of middle-class money has come into the area, elevated dining options for these folks have lagged. Chef-driven and upscale options have been popping up in places like Hamburg and Ellicottville, but dining options in Lancaster have mostly been pizza places, homestyle joints and bar-restaurants serving WNY classics.
Robare added that people are more educated than ever when it comes to food and drink, and that has raised expectations, regardless of income or status. At the same time, they don’t want to put on a suit just to have a nice meal.
“It’s what people are looking for now,” he said, alluding to the concept behind the new tap room. “They want something a little elevated, but approachable. Not many people want to really get dressed up to go out to eat. There are still places that do that, but people tend to prefer an elevated experience that’s still relaxing and casual.”
In that respect, the Clarksburg tap room hits the nail on the head. Outside, the landscaping and size of the plot gives it a country club feel. Inside, elevated vibes continue with an open kitchen, full bar, dining mezzanine and large farmhouse table, meant to give large parties a bit of seclusion.
On the flip side, the tap room leans into approachability by looking to offer ‘something for everyone’ – from cider-averse Baby Boomers to families with young children.
“There was a husband and wife sitting at our bar the other night,” Robare said. “The wife was drinking one of our cider cocktails and the husband was drinking a Mich Ultra, because we carry some of those products also.”
Robare said he’s also planning a range of events that will take advantage of all the space at his disposal. Having been to craft beer, cider and liquor destinations around the country, he said the festive vibes he’s looking to bring are sorely lacking in our local craft beverage scene.
“I think there’s a wide gap between what happens at other craft beverage places around the country, and what happens here in Western New York,” he explained. “We tend to just make beer and other beverages and expect people to just show up – whereas that’s not the case at other places. I want to be able to give more of an experience that you can see in other places I’ve been to; because we have the space to do it.”
Opening Hours (Subject to Change): Thursday and Friday 4 p.m. – 10 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m. – 10 p.m., Sunday to Wednesday CLOSED
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