Brick River Cider -Reconnecting St. Louis to Its Local Agricultural Heritage

Brick River Cider -Reconnecting St. Louis to Its Local Agricultural Heritage

Countdown to the Grand Opening of St. Louis’ First Cidery- Brick River Cider Co.

ST LOUIS, MO (STL.News) There are many new restaurants and bars set to open this year, but none with as much anticipation as Brick River Cider is creating.  It will not only be St. Louis’ first dedicated Ciderworks, but it will actually be the first dedicated cidery in Missouri.  And thanks to its founder, Russ John, it will also be a means of restoring a part of our history, honoring tradition and reconnecting St. Louis to its agricultural roots.

John has stayed true to his vision in several ways, from the name he selected to the location and building he chose.  Calling his new venture, Brick River Cider, honors St Louis’ rich history as a leading national supplier of bricks in years past.  This was a means of building neighborhoods throughout the region and connecting the City of St Louis to the rural communities.  His decision on Historic Engine House Number 32, once the largest fire station west of the Mississippi River, brings back memories of the city’s strong ties with service to the community.

No stranger to the business, Russ builds on four generations of family wine and cider making dating all the way back to 1869 with his great grandfather Theodore’s start in America.  After enlisting in the Union Cavalry in 1862 at Jefferson Barracks, he went on to establish a farm and orchards in southeast Nebraska, and the John family has been growing apples and producing wines and cider ever since.  And, now Theodore’s great grandson is bringing the family tradition of hard cider back to St Louis.

“Back in the 1800’s things were so very different, back then my great grandfather even got a mail order bride,” said John.  “One thing that has remained the same is that the older tradition of how to make cider is the best and that tradition was lacking here in St. Louis,” John added.

Although hard cider was an extremely popular beverage among colonialists, it vanished during Prohibition and unlike beer; it was slow to bounce back after Prohibition was repealed.  Even though not yet as popular as in other countries like Great Britain and Spain, American cider is making a comeback and Russ John is leading the way in bringing it to the Gateway City.

John says he’s been making cider for as long as he can remember and is excited about this new venture. “As far as I can tell, we’re going to be the only guys in the region making fresh-pressed, Midwestern fruit cider,” he said.

Brick River Cider, located in a restored 12,000-square-foot former firehouse at the corner of 20th and Washington, features a cider production facility on the first floor along with a 30-to 40-seat bar area, as well as a tasting room.  The second-floor is comprised of a “Southern-influenced pub” style restaurant offering delicious cuisine, including an extensive assortment of shareable plates that will fit right in with the friendly and cheery atmosphere.  The area is substantial with beautiful large windows and seating for 100.

Diners can expect a modern-day gastro-pub menu that is fruit and vegetable forward with local American dishes, as well as, some familiar favorites influenced by the best cider producing regions of England and France.  John thought ahead in his planning by also including a nutritious list of diet-friendly and gluten-free options for the health conscious customers.

Putting a great team in place is also of utmost importance.  John will be working with accomplished brew master/winemaker, Evan Hiatt (Six Row Brewing Co., PaPPos Pizzeria & Brew Co., Le Bourgeois Vineyards, River Ridge Winery), who will serve as BRC’s cider master. Hiatt brings a wealth of experience in the local craft beer scene, as well as, expertise in wine making.  Chef Chris Lee (Chef’s Table STL, Mad Tomato, River City Casino, In Good Company restaurants) will add his talents to the team by serving as the restaurant’s menu consultant.

To Russ John, it’s all a matter of reconnecting St. Louis to its local agricultural heritage when it comes to making luscious craft hard ciders, and locally inspired food.  It’s also about respecting the time honored tradition of remaining close to the land when crafting a great cider.  That’s why he insists on working exclusively with regional fruit growers using only fresh-pressed juice from Midwestern apples, never concentrate.

Brick River ciders range from the classic and traditional side to bold and innovative.  There are a variety of interesting ones created by blending multiple –fermentations together.  Using different yeasts on the same fruit can alter the sweetness, acidity, texture, color, aroma, alcohol content and fruit notes.  Cider made with 5 percent residual sugar is going to be sweet, while cider made with around a 2 to 3 percent residual sugar is considered semi-sweet.  A completely dry cider would be more reminiscent of a very dry white wine with no residual sugars left.

A few of their Flagship Hard Ciders are: Homestead, a farmhouse-style unfiltered cider with a cloudy characteristic that is somewhat sweet like the fresh cider you’d sip at the orchard; Cornerstone, a classic semi-dry crystal clear effervescent cider with clear notes of fresh apple & hints of the earth from which it came; and.  Firehouse Rose, a tart and complex apple cider finished with sour Montmorency cherries, smoky ancho peppers and a secret blend of natural herbs and spices.

“In addition to our hard apple cider, we are making a non-alcoholic apple soda pop, available only at our tap room,” John said.  “It’s made from Fuji apples from Tom Schwartz of Schwartz Orchards in Centralia Illinois.”

One thing is for sure…no matter what style of the cider it is, they are all 100% gluten free from fresh pressed regional fruit, never concentrate.  And expect John to stay true to his principles by supporting regional agriculture through the use of whole fruit workers with local growers.

Those bricks from years past really do remind us that throughout the ages, countless families and generations have remained connected.  And, thanks to Russ John and his Brick River Cider bringing the fruits of the region back to the city and crafting authentic hard ciders for new generations that tradition will continue.

The Grand Opening for Brick River Cider will be the weekend of February 16, 17 and 18.

Brick River Cider Co.

2000 Washington Avenue

St. Louis, Missouri

Mon. – Fri. 9:00am -6:00pm &
Sat. 10:00am -2:00 pm


By Kara Savio – published on STL.News by St. Louis Media, LLC