Love hard cider? Here’s what’s new in NJ

Farm-to-table dinners, hosted by celebrity chefs around the world and the most renowned chefs in the state, served around a 26-foot-tall Argentinian grill. 

Festivals, garnering up to thousands of visitors, featuring menus spotlighting the best ingredients of the season. 

Zumba, forest walks, meditation and planter workshops. 

Nope, this events calendar isn’t from the local co-working space, downtown plaza or empty venue. It’s from the state’s arguably most popular hard cidery. 

Ironbound Farm, the 108-acre home of Ironbound Hard Cider, has had a packed-to-the-brim events calendar since its grand opening party three years ago. Since COVID-19, major events have been tapped out here, but that doesn’t mean the farm has been empty. Attendance boomed during the summer and fall of last year, said founder Charles Rosen. 

“We were busier than we ever had been as a tasting room, and we gained a presence as a safe, socially-distanced outdoor dining destination throughout our area and beyond,” he said. “We’ve still seen an increase in attendance throughout 2021, and as we head into the fall, the numbers are still climbing.” 

Past events at Ironbound Farm.

That wasn’t without some serious strategizing. After the farm had to shelve its entire planned 2020 calendar, Rosen and his team got to work reimagining the farm’s business model. 

Ice cream delivery, selling outdoors:How NJ businesses adapted to survive COVID-19

Ironbound Farm sold its produce, meat, cider and other products to-go and created a farm market. It then created its cider garden for outdoor table service, which drew visitors well into the winter as people bundled up around firepits, drank mulled cider and made s’mores while enjoying winter menu items like chili and Belgian waffles.

It also expanded its food menu to better showcase farm ingredients, developed a line of cider and wine cocktails and grew production of to-go items, like turkey liver mousse topped with a cherry burdock cider jelly, sauces, salsas and bone broths.

The outdoor cider garden at Ironbound Hard Cider.

“Although the pandemic really hurt our business — both on-site and sales to restaurants and bars throughout the state — it also gave us the opportunity to re-imagine the business and how we could better connect with our community moving forward,” Rosen said. “We have live music which has drawn a crowd of its own, and we’re still busier than we ever were in the past, even with our big weekend events.”

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