the entrance to eckert's cider shed photo by michelle volansky

First Look: Eckert's Farms in Belleville launches Cider Shed and Mr. E's Cider Donut & Custard Shop

Eckert’s Farm has added two new attractions at its Belleville location (951 S. Green Mount Road) following a multi-million dollar renovation. The farm introduced Eckert’s Cider Shed and Mr. E’s Cider Donut & Custard Shop to the public on Friday, June 10.

Located inside a repurposed building between Eckert’s Country Store and Country Restaurant, the 3,500-square-foot Cider Shed encompasses a bar and lounge, a separate indoor space which can be booked for private events, and a covered beer garden with two additional bars and a stage for live events. The space can seat several hundred guests in total.

The Cider Shed is the next step in Eckert’s embrace of hard cider. The farm has dabbled in cider on and off throughout its history, but until recently it had only produced cider on a small scale. That changed in May 2021, when Eckert’s partnered with Brick River Cider Co. to launch its first line of hard ciders, all made with fruit grown at Eckert’s. That relationship is now the backbone of the Cider Shed’s production, with Eckert’s pressing the fresh fruit then shipping the juice to Brick River for production.

At the moment, the Cider Shed has five of its own ciders on draft. The selection includes the Berried Alive (blackberry-apple), Roadcider (apple), Well Red (strawberry-apple) and Peach and Quiet (peach-apple), in addition to a new release, the apple-mango-habanero Burnin Spurs. The bar also stocks a number of ciders from other family farms, such as a triple jam cider and a passion fruit, pineapple and guava cider from Blake’s, based near Detroit, Michigan. There are also several beer options and a rotating cocktail menu using fruit from the farm. Eckert’s also has plans to make small batch seasonal ciders in-house – perhaps a pumpkin spice cider for fall, for example.

The Cider Shed also has its own menu of shareable appetizers, small bites, salads and sides, offering a distinct alternative to Eckert’s Country Restaurant. Some of the highlights include the pretzel sticks with hard cider cheese fondue and brisket nachos topped with white BBQ sauce and that beer cheese-style hard cider fondue. There are 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 that will see musicians across a wide range of genres taking the stage to entertain guests. Most of the shows are free, but a few are ticketed. For the full schedule, see Eckert’s website. The venue also has a screen and projector that are being used to broadcast Cardinals games and other sports events.

Angie Eckert, vice president of retail operations at Eckert’s, said that the Cider Shed fills a gap in the farm’s offerings, particularly for people who don’t have children. “People in their 20s are waiting to start families until their 30s,” Eckert said. “And so because Eckert’s is so much about bringing families to the farm, we asked what could we do to attract that group that they would still have fun at Eckert’s.” Eckert added that similar farms across the country are also leaning into cider production as a way of utilizing their apple supplies, minimizing waste and creating opportunities to earn additional revenue.

Mr. E’s Cider Donut & Custard Shop is set up inside a space adjoining the Country Store that was previously used to host cooking classes. Customers can use the walk-up counter to order from a selection of frozen custards, concretes and sundaes that have largely been carried over from the old custard shop at Eckert’s. The big change is that Eckert’s popular cider donuts will now be available year-round. Previously exclusive to fall, the cider donuts are available in boxes of six, or piled eight-high on the Donut Tower. The donut sundaes combine the best of both worlds. “You actually get a whole donut sliced in half with custard in the middle,” Angie Eckert said. In time, the donut selection may expand, but for now Eckert’s is concentrating on ramping up capacity on its cider donuts.

“This is the biggest project that we have taken on since the Country Store and Restaurant were built in 2010, Chris Eckert, president and CEO of Eckert’s Farms said in a statement. “We believe that these advancements create an experience that people of all ages can enjoy and furthers our commitment to being one of the best agritourism farms that we can be.”

Eckert’s Cider Shed is open from Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mr. E’s Cider Donut & Custard Shop is open from Saturday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and on Friday from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.