Refrigerator shelves at the Burrville Cider Mill still will be stocked with freshly pressed apple cider this season but only half gallons with a higher price tag.
Thanks to the skyrocketing price of apples, the family-owned cider mill will sell only half gallons of cider this year at $4.89 apiece, up about 25 percent from last years $3.25. Owner Cynthia L. Steiner, who passed out letters to customers defending the price hike, said apple prices at orchards in the state are up 200 to 300 percent from last year because of the drought. Orchards that have had their crops ravaged anywhere from 50 to 90 percent have been compelled to pass on high prices to stores and cider mills to break even.
Because of those high apple prices caused by a crop shortage, Mrs. Steiner said, the mill would have been compelled to sell gallons of cider at about $10. Doing so could have scared off customers, she said, or spoiled gallons of cider sitting unpurchased for too long.
It kills us to do this, she said. But this is the only way were going to stay open.
Apples and other homemade foods at the mill, including pies, caramel apples and cider doughnuts, have had price increases from 10 percent to 25 percent.
But Mrs. Steiner, who purchased the mill with husband Gregory W. Sr. in 1996, said the customers dont seem to mind. The parking lot outside the mill at 18176 Route 156 full since the mill opened Thursday proves that point. While they may not buy as much as usual, she said, she expects all of her loyal customers to return this year to buy the famous cider churned fresh from the presser in the basement.
They already are buying, she said Thursday morning, when a line five people deep waited to purchase apple products. Its a tradition for families, and weve seen their kids grow up and have children.
One upside of the drought is that the cider tastes sweeter than normal this season because of the longer summer. The cider, which is blended using three flavors of apples, doesnt have the tart taste that it usually does during the start of the fall season in September.
Its definitely a lot sweeter now than it was last year, Mrs. Steiner said.
Despite the higher prices, the mill still plans to produce 30,000 to 40,000 gallons of cider this season. Sixteen-year-old Rebeka L. Lou, one of Mrs. Steiners six grandchildren who work at the mill, is optimistic that customers will help the business stay afloat this year.
Everyone is already coming back, she said while selling cider doughnuts to customers Thursday. And I even think it could be better than last year.
The Burrville Cider Mill is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.