First Look: Eckert’s Farms in Belleville opens Cider Shed and Mr. E’s Cider Donut & Custard Shop
Eckert’s Farm has added two new attractions to its Belleville location (951 S. Green Mount Road) after a multi-million dollar renovation. The farm unveiled Eckert’s Cider Shed and Mr. E’s Cider Donut & Custard Shop to the public on Friday, June 10.
Located in a repurposed building between Eckert’s Country Store and Country Restaurant, the 3,500-square-foot cider shed includes a bar and lounge, a separate indoor area that can be booked for private events, and a covered beer garden with two additional bars and a stage for live events. Overall, the room can accommodate several hundred guests.
The Cider Shed is the next step in Eckert’s embrace of hard cider. The farm has been involved with cider throughout its history, but until recently it had only produced cider on a small scale. That all changed in May 2021, when Eckert’s partnered with Brick River Cider Co. to launch its first line of ciders, all made from fruit grown at Eckert’s. That relationship is now the backbone of Cider Shed’s production, with Eckert’s squeezing the fresh fruit and then shipping the juice to Brick River for production.
Currently, the Cider Shed has five signature ciders on tap. Selections include Berried Alive (blackberry-apple), Roadcider (apple), Well Red (strawberry-apple), and Peach and Quiet (peach-apple), as well as a new release, the Apple Mango Habanero Burnin Spurs. The bar also stocks a range of ciders from other family businesses, such as B. a triple jam cider and a passion fruit, pineapple and guava cider from Blake’s near Detroit, Michigan. There are also several beers and a rotating cocktail menu featuring farm-grown fruit. Eckert’s also plans to make seasonal ciders in-house in small batches — maybe a pumpkin-spiced cider for fall, for example.
The Cider Shed also has its own menu of appetizers, small bites, salads and sides to share, offering a distinct alternative to Eckert’s Country Restaurant. Some of the highlights are the pretzel sticks with cider and cheese fondue and beef brisket nachos with white BBQ sauce and the beer cheese-style cider fondue. There’s also smoked chicken tacos, a cider-braised hot dog and brisket, and chimichurri on a potato bun. Customers scan a QR code at their tables to order and pay for food.
Eckert’s has already announced a busy schedule for Shows in the Shed, a summer concert series where musicians from a wide range of genres will take the stage to entertain guests. Most shows are free, but some require admission. See Eckert’s for the full schedule Website. The venue also has a screen and projector used to broadcast Cardinals games and other sporting events.
Angie Eckert, Eckert’s vice president of retail operations, said the cider shed fills a gap in the farm’s offerings, especially for those without children. “People in their 20s wait until their 30s to start a family,” Eckert said. “And because Eckert is so much about bringing families to the farm, we asked what we could do to attract that group so they’re still having fun at Eckert.” Eckert added that similar farms in the across the country also rely on cider production to leverage their apple supplies, minimize waste and create opportunities to generate additional revenue.
Mr. E’s Cider Donut & Custard Shop is in a room next to the Country Store that was formerly used for cooking classes. Customers can use the walk-in counter to order from a selection of frozen puddings, concretes and sundaes, most of which have been carried over from the old pudding shop at Eckert’s. The big innovation is that Eckert’s popular apple wine donuts are now available all year round. Previously a fall exclusive, the Cider Donuts are available in cases of six or stacked eight on the Donut Tower. The donut sundaes combine the best of both worlds. “You actually get a whole donut cut in half with custard in the middle,” said Angie Eckert. Over time, the donut selection may expand, but for now Eckert’s is focused on increasing capacity for its cider donuts.
“This is the largest project we have undertaken since building the country store and restaurant in 2010,” Chris Eckert, president and CEO of Eckert’s Farms, said in a statement. “We believe these advances create an experience that people of all ages can enjoy and further our commitment to be one of the best agritourism farms we can be.”
Eckert’s Cider Shed is open Sunday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Mr. E’s Cider Donut & Custard Shop is open Saturday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and on Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m