20410 Frederick Rd.
Germantown, Maryland 20874
September - December
10am - 7pm (6pm after DST)
Get it while it lasts, 2003 may be the last season for Cider Barrel!
The Cider Barrel produces what many consider to be the best apple cider in Maryland. Located in a huge red, white, and blue barrel along the southbound side of Frederick Rd. (Route 355) in Germantown, Maryland just south of Route 118, the Cider Barrel has been selling cider, pickles, jams, apple products, and fresh produce since the 1920s.
In the early 1920s a man named Andrew Baker built the store, but he went broke during the stock market crash and sold it to Martha Cross. In the days before chain-motels and the busy interstates, the Cider Barrel also had a restaurant and tourist cottages. Martha Cross retired in 1946, and her son Bill Cross took over. In 1996, Bill Cross made a deal with apple farmer Gene Bollinger to join forces and use fruit from his Gateway Apple Orchard in Thurmont, Maryland. The two jointly own the Cider Barrel.
The Cider Barrel opens the season in September, selling its wares until early December. The apples are trucked to Germantown in 25-bushel crates, and are pressed on site. Any leftover pulp is sold as cattle feed.
The store fronts a 17-acre plot that has been a trailer park (The Cider Barrel Mobile Home Court) since the 1950s. In autumn of 2002, the land (including the Cider Barrel store) was sold for $7 million to be developed into apartments. The residents of the trailer park were understandably upset, losing inexpensive housing in a relatively upscale and convenient area. The Cider Barrel store, being an historic landmark, will not be moved or altered, and it will continue to operate under Bill Cross and Gene Bollinger until the end of the 2003 cider season. Beyond that, the decision to continue operation of the Cider Barrel rests with the development company that purchased the land.
On a personal note...
Every time I go to buy cider the same clerk, an older lady with bright red hair and brighter red lipstick, greets me. I always expect her to remember me because I always remember her so vividly. She never does, always giving me the same talk about the cider, "Treat it like milk, keep it cold." Given the amount of customers they have, there is no reason for her to know me, I buy relatively little cider compared to those who come from out of state and buy many gallons to freeze.
I feel bad for the folks in the trailer park -- this is an expensive county to live in, and the few nearby trailer parks are full to capacity. I also feel a little bit betrayed by the Cider Barrel business. Although money is quite a motivating factor, I am surprised that more effort wasn't made to ensure the continued operation of this well-loved store. Hopefully, given it's popularity, the Cider Barrel will continue on for years with the same quality products it has sold for decades.
Update, Fall 2004
The trailer park surrounding the Cider Barrel is gone, and they took all the beautiful old tall trees down with it. The Cider Barrel now sits in the ugliest empty lot ever. It's very sad. The lot will soon be filled with townhouses and apartments, with inevitable street names like Cider Way, Apple Core Lane, and Barrel Road. The Cider Barrel building itself still stands. It was supposed to open for the 2003 fall season, but sadly it never did. It's being rebuilt, repainted, and otherwise refurbished, but I fear it will only serve as the cute entrance to the neighbourhood rather than ever selling cider again.