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June 7, 2019

Wild Hare Cider Pub hops out to a quick start

Photos/Don Del Rosso
Jim Madaj says he started cautiously with a 12-month lease for the space at 63 Main St. in Warrenton.
Katie and Adam Hanson sample “flights” of Wild Hare Cider in the pub’s garden.
We’ve had people say, ‘I feel like I’m just having a drink in my brother’s living room.’ That’s exactly what we wanted them to feel like.
— Warrenton cider pub owner Jim Madaj
Wild Hare Cider Pub & Garden
• What: Pub offering six different hard ciders on tap daily; pub also sells cider in bottles, cans and growlers; alcohol content ranges from 5.5 to 10.5 percent.

• Where: 63 Main St., Warrenton.

• Owner: Jim Madaj of Chantilly.

• Hours: 2 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; noon-10 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and 11 to 8 p.m. Sunday.

• Phone: 703-402-7956

• Website: www.wildharecider.com

• Facebook:Click here
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Staff Journalist
The Chantilly man knew he wanted to open a second hard cider pub.

Jim Madaj, a former vice president for the Arlington-based consulting firm CACI International Inc., and his family already operate the Leesburg Cider House.

Through a process of elimination, Mr. Madaj this spring picked Old Town Warrenton for the new retail outlet.

The Wild Hare Cider Pub & Garden opened Friday, May 17, in a 1,000-square-foot, two-story brick storefront at 63 Main St.

“We had been looking for a spot in” in Northern Virginia and west to Berryville, Bluemont and Winchester, explained Mr. Madaj, 57. “We had not looked this far south” probably because of the “population centers that were up in that area.”

For various reasons, including cost and zoning challenges related to potential sites, he and his family cast a wider net.

His son Patrick, 30, who manages the Leesburg and Warrenton operations, had the responsibility of identifying a new retail outlet.

“His idea was let’s start pressing outside of this box we had kind of drawn, and let’s start looking at other places,” said Mr. Madaj, whose son Justin, 34, serves a cider master at the company’s production plant in neighboring Clarke County. “Let’s start pressing our envelope a little bit.”

The day of that decision in early April, Patrick discovered the vacant Main Street space, Mr. Madaj said.

“We saw the place and we came away with a really good feeling about it,” he recalled. “We then did as much homework as we could on the Town of Warrenton.”

Mr. Madaj on April 15 signed a 12-month lease for the place because he wants some assurance that the area can support the pub before committing to a multi-year rental agreement.

“We didn’t want to make a big bet on something that could be a flop,” said Mr. Madaj, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Central Michigan University in 1984.

He declined to discuss specifics of the lease but said it cost him less than $25,000 to equip and “fix up” the property, which includes a courtyard behind the structure with tables and chairs for customers.

By summer he will know whether the Warrenton pub will succeed, Mr. Madaj said.

“Frankly, if we do well here over the spring and summer, fall is the best season for cider,” he added. “That’s the high season for our industry.”

He couldn’t be more pleased with the initial response, Mr. Madaj said.

“They looked to me to be relaxed — in no hurry to leave to do anything else,” he said of customers. “They are running into people they know. They’re sharing an experience here.

“We’ve had people say, ‘I feel like I’m just having a drink in my brother’s living room.’ That’s exactly what we wanted them to feel like.”

The pub features on tap six types of the apple-based fermented beverage — one of which changes weekly. The regulars include:

• “Hach,” a “crisp and dry” cider that Mr. Madaj likened to an “apple champagne.”

• “Hopsotch,” flavored with dry hops, providing aromas “that have these kinds hoppy aromas that reminds you of beer,” he said.

• “Saxby,” flavored with fresh ginger root and dried lime peel.

• “Ophelia,” flavored with dry hops and grapefruit peels.

• “Willow,” flavored with blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and lime peel.

“We like to use lime peel in several of these ciders, because it has kind of a citrus, balancing sort of effect,” Mr. Madaj said. “It makes the product sort of lighter and fresher.”

He added: “Almost everything we make is sparkling . . . carbonated.”

The company also produces seasonal and special ciders such as a Mint Julip-inspired concoction for Kentucky Derby weekend.

The ciders’ alcohol content ranges from 5.5 to 10.5 percent.

People new to the beverage typically order a “flight” — four-ounce quantities of four kinds of cider — which costs $12, Mr. Madaj said.

“That is by far the most popular way we sell our product,” he said. “All the first-time visitors want that. They want to try the cider; they want to learn something about it. After that, half choose a favorite and buy it by the glass.”

A 10- or 12-ounce glass of cider costs $6 to $7, Mr. Madaj said. The pub also sells cider in bottles, cans and growlers.

Adam and Katie Hanson, who live near Warrenton, recently visited the pub and ordered a couple of flights.

“I like the sweetness and bitterness at the same time,” said Ms. Hanson, 46, a corporate recruiter for a California-based company.

“The sweetness is great,” agreed Mr. Hanson, 50, who owns a home inspection business. “But, some of it’s actually light. Besides the actual contents, what I enjoy about it is it has a light balance. It’s not overwhelming.”

Though the pub has no kitchen, it sells Devine Swine barbecue. On Sunday, it will begin offering brunch prepared by Freed’s Biscuit Co., Mr. Madaj said.

He and his wife 35 years ago moved from Michigan to Northern Virginia when he took a systems analyst job with CACI.

About 11 years later, he and a colleague left the consulting firm to start an e-commerce technology company, headed today by his daughter Jennifer, 35. Mr. Madaj eventually bought out his partner.

In early 2018, he bought Wild Hare Hard Cider LLC, which included the Berryville production plant and the Leesburg cider house. The company employs 15, with up to six working at the Warrenton pub at a given time. Mr. Madaj declined to discuss company’s annual revenue.

He viewed the purchase of Wild Hare Hard Cider as an opportunity to grow the company and to allow his family to work together again.

“I wanted something we could all enjoy and have fun with,” said Mr. Madaj, whose wife Joan, 56, delivers cider to wholesale customers. “My sons (Patrick and Justin) are craft beverage connoisseurs. The beer industry was saturated, and we didn’t want to open another brewery.”

Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com 
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ALRIGHTYTHEN · June 8, 2019 at 7:41 am
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