Meet The Cidermaker: 10 Minutes with Robert Brosofsky of Shoal Hope Ciderworks
This month, we had the opportunity to catch up with Robert Brosofsky of Shoal Hope Ciderworks based out of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Shoal Hope Ciderworks might be one of the newer cider producers in the New England area, but Robert and Shoal Hope Ciderworks are making a huge splash with demand and growth. If you plan on spending time on the Cape this summer, make sure to find some!
Where are you from? What is your background in?
I grew up in Providence, RI, where I lived until graduating from high school. I graduated from Stetson University in Florida with a Bachelor of Science in computer science and a double minor in management and marketing. After graduation, I returned to Rhode Island for about seven years and then moved to Massachusetts, where I have remained although I’ve lived in four different towns following my career path. My background is in general management and supply chain. The last 12 years of my corporate career were with a Fortune 200 company and I had roles as a Director, a General Manager, and a Vice President. All of those experiences are helping me today on the business part of the startup and ongoing business management.
What got you into the cider industry and cider production?
I was never much of a beer drinker; in fact my friend, Dan, says that I drink “beer flavored liquids” because when I did drink a beer it was typically something trendy and because that was all there was. With that said, now that I live on the Outer Cape I have become a fan of Cape Cod Beer, Hog Island, and Devil’s Purse. Anyway, for the last 12 years of my corporate career I traveled extensively in Europe, the United Kingdom, and Russia so like many people who start to drink cider I started because it was locally produced, had an appealing flavor, and came in an amber bottle or from a tap with carbonation. I began drinking cider when I was traveling in the United States too and eventually tried my hand at home cider making as a hobby. After a few batches of vinegar, I started to produce varieties that others enjoyed as much as I did and began doing well in local competitions. The leap to commercial production was a decision I made with the full support of my family when the corporate life became unfulfilling. I always had the desire to be my own boss and making cider in Provincetown was something I felt the timing was right for. Coming up on 12 months now, I believe it was the right decision and I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had or the friendships I’ve made.
What are you and your brand inspired by?
‘Shoal Hope’ was the original English language name for ‘Cape Cod’, which lasted only for about 18 hours. The story is on my web page if you’re interested. My inspiration comes from the Cape and the people who live here, and especially Provincetown. The Outer Cape is made-up of town after town situated along Route 6 and all with very quiet and slow winters and all well known for supporting local businesses. When I decided to launch in Provincetown it was with the idea of creating something unique to the area and potentially providing jobs to the many year-round residents who are often reliant on public assistance in the off season. I’ve made it a practice to support virtually any non-profit charitable event because the Outer Cape is also a place where everyone gives back. What could be more inspiring?
What is your favorite Shoal Hope Ciderworks cider and why?
You’re asking me to pick a favorite child – I bet you hear that often. It depends on the season and the occasion. ‘Monument’ is my go-to. It’s crisp and off-dry and the subtle flavor lends it to virtually anything. On a hot summer day the ‘Little Tart’ is the winner. It has a lower ABV because the cranberries naturally have less sugar so it’s easy to drink and if you like tart and tannin you’ll love it. I love the ‘Honey Baby’ because I love the taste of raw honey and it’s not super sweet. As a cidermaker, I like the ‘Empty Barrel’ because its final flavor is most dependent on my taste buds and sense of smell. I think every batch is different as I age and blend it to achieve a flavor, which is impossible to duplicate exactly from batch to batch.
Do you have a favorite cider and food pairing?
My ‘Empty Barrel’ with a good steak. Whiskey and steak or charbroiled anything for that matter is a great pairing and with the whiskey flavor and aroma nuances the Empty Barrel fills that spot well.
What word describes you and your involvement in the cider industry?
Committed – to my customers and the consumers, the people and the places, and to creating a product that fits well into where the industry is today and where it is headed. This industry is very unique. When I first considered going public I cold-called Mike Beck of Uncle John’s Hard Cider and Steve Wood of Farnum Hill Ciders who both gave me advice and questions to consider. I also communicated with Dave Takush from 2 Towns Ciderhouse and Mary Gant from Bandon Rain who both helped me through the water consumption data I needed from Provincetown where there are tight water allocations. When I asked Mike why he was so open with his information his response was that “we don’t want anyone coming in to [expletive] it up”. To me, that is commitment to the industry, which I have tried to embody in everything I do.
What is your typical drink of choice besides cider?
When I’m not drinking cider I go for a Grey Goose Martini - bone dry, ice cold, straight up with three olives. One time I ordered that at a restaurant and a senior lady turned to me and said, “Finally a young man who knows how to order a proper martini!” Easy fallbacks are gin and tonics and I’ve become very fond of Jack Daniels Tennessee Fire.
Are there any big plans for you and Shoal Hope Ciderworks in the near future?
I’m working on a few new varieties, which I hope to release this summer but for now it’s all about expanding capacity to meet the demand. I just received a new fermenter and brite tank and I’m working with my landlord and the town to move my walk-in cooler outside to give me more floor space for production. I do need to add that the town of Provincetown has been amazing - the residents, town administration, and other businesses. And my landlord, Mark, has been a huge help. After our first few discussions, he saw my vision and has done everything possible to make that vision a reality. Somewhere in my future plans is a vacation but for now I’m preparing for the Cape Cod summer rush. Everyone wants to be friends with the guy carrying the keg on his shoulder and I love meeting people who love my ciders.
Interviewed by: Kristen Sarcone, Staff Writer of Hard Cider News. Photos courtesy of Shoal Hope Ciderworks. For more information about Shoal Hope Ciderworks, please visit them online at ShoalHopeCiderworks.com.
Wild Hare Hard Cider to Continue Growth Under New Ownership
There are major plans for expansion and continued growth in store for Wild Hare Hard Cider. After four years establishing the Wild Hare brand and developing his passion for cider making, Jay Clement will be passing the baton to the Madaj family, investors and entrepreneurs from nearby Chantilly, who share his passion for cider. Over time, Jay will be phasing out of Wild Hare to pursue his next venture, while the Madaj’s will invest capital and expanded resources, focusing on continued growth for the brand.
For Jay and Coleen Clement, the decision was bittersweet. Together they explained, “Four years ago we set out to start a business that would change people’s perceptions about cider, and allow us to craft a product from local fruit into an interesting and complex beverage. Wild Hare continues to grow and evolve today with the help of our loyal customers, but there comes a point in time where it’s more important to push it out of the nest, and make it fly. It’s ready!”
Jay added, “We are extremely excited about the Madaj family stepping in – Jim is a long-time entrepreneur with a proven business track record in Northern Virginia. Jim’s son, Justin, went to the same school as I did for cider making (Cornell University), and will take over the cider making reigns while I stay on as a consultant to help transition the business. In the end, the decision to sell the business creates more opportunities for everyone involved.”
As for Jay’s next venture, he says, “There are a few opportunities in the immediate area that would do very well, we are just taking this time now to figure those out and decide on what direction we want to head.”
The Madaj’s plan is to grow the brand without losing focus on how it got there. According to new owner Jim Madaj, “We’ll continue to build on the foundation that the Clements and loyal Wild Hare customers have established. I’ve listened very carefully to what improvements Jay had wanted to make and we’re very excited to be working on a number of items already – including upgrades to the taproom and patio, unique food offerings, Virginia farm wines, and alternative formats for our cider, like cans. But most important of all is to continue the journey of making better cider. In all, we’ll be bringing capital and resources to take what Jay and Coleen have built to a whole new level for cider fans in Northern Virginia and beyond.”
Wild Hare Cider’s cider house and retail shop in Leesburg is open from Wednesday – Sunday. Wild Hare also has a selection of their cider in over 80 retail spots around Virginia state. For more information, visit WildHareCider.com. Photos courtesy of Wild Hare Cider.
Five Ciders For You to Imbibe During National Strawberry Month
Since strawberries are grown in every state and nearly 94% of all US households consume strawberries1, the delicious berry often marks the unofficial kick-off of summer as the fruit becomes available locally to shoppers. Plus, strawberries are known to be one of the first fruits to ripen in spring to early summer and are a staple at every summer backyard BBQ.
Did you know that strawberries are a member of the rose family just like apples? Although apples and strawberries don’t look much like each other, their closely related species make them a delicious duo when combined. In honor of National Strawberry Month (May), we ‘freshly-picked’ five strawberry ciders for you to look out for.
• Sir Charles Hard Cider – Strawberry Valkyrie
Sir Charles Strawberry Valkyrie is a 6.4% ABV, crisp, semi-dry hard apple cider based off Sir Charles original recipe. Valkyrie has a strong strawberry nose, is pink in color, petillant, and has brilliant clarity. Valkyrie is a strawberry forward cider sweetened with fresh, locally-sourced strawberries that can be described as refreshing till the last drop. We found that his cider had the most notable strawberry aroma and flavor of the five we have chosen.
• Maeloc – Sidra Con Fresa
This cider is a rosy, brilliant, dry cider with an intense strawberry flavor. The pleasant fusion between sweet strawberries and the unique citric scent of yuzu is perfect for a warm spring or summer day. Maeloc’s Sidra Con Fresa has an upfront strawberry taste with smooth cider notes in the aftertaste and 4% ABV.
• Crown Valley Brewing – Strawberry Cider
Crown Valley’s Strawberry Cider is a semi-sweet cider and has an amber color. It has a wonderful balance of sweetness from the strawberries and acidity from the apples at 5% ABV. This strawberry cider is perfect for a warm day outside or an evening sitting by the fire.
• Pacific Coast – Dry Hard Apple with Strawberry
Produced by Cider Brothers in California, Pacific Coast’s Dry Hard Apple with Strawberry is an apple forward cider with a medium-body that is well balanced. The cider is similar to a crisp rosé wine in color and taste. It has fruity aromas of fresh strawberries, vanilla cream and honey that you can also find subtly in the flavor which lead to a sweet citrus, melon and mineral finish. The 6% ABV cider is crafted with champagne and wine yeasts, lightly carbonated, starts semi-sweet but finishes dry, and lingers in the aftertaste. This cider received a ‘double gold’ designation in the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition. The producers recommend Dry Hard Apple with Strawberry to be paired with fresh fruit, goat milk cheeses, spicy Latin and Asian appetizers.
• Loon Juice – Strawberry Shandy
Loon Juice Hard Cider took their signature Honeycrisp, which is described as a sparkling beverage that finishes dry like a nice champagne, added strawberries and lemonade to form a strawberry, apple-y, lemony, deliciously awesome cider. The cider tastes tart and is slightly puckering but is sweetness forward. It pours similar to a beer in that it is copper in color and has a nice creamy, fluffy head with a lot of retention. The cider is reminiscent of a soda and great for those hot days by the pool.
Compiled By: Kristen Sarcone, Staff Writer of Hard Cider News. Photos courtesy of respective cider producers. 1Source: University of Illinois Extension
The Greenway Conservancy and Boston-Based Downeast Cider House Partner to Offer The “Back Porch” in Dewey Square
The Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy announced the selection of the partner to operate a new pop-up “drinkery” on The Greenway’s 17-acre linear park in Boston, Massachusetts. East Boston-based Downeast Cider House has been chosen to run the Downeast Back Porch on The Greenway, right in bustling Dewey Square, across from South Station.
The partnership brings Downeast’s unfiltered craft cider to The Greenway’s contemporary and popular location. Together, they will further the use of Dewey Square Park as an outdoor, casual, and dynamic place to relax in the heart of downtown Boston, Massachusetts.
“The Downeast Back Porch on The Greenway, with the backdrop of the signature contemporary art mural on The Greenway Wall, will be a terrific place for commuters and visitors,” said Greenway Conservancy Executive Director Jesse Brackenbury. “We’re delighted to partner with Downeast, another creative local entrepreneur.”
“We’re excited to bring The Downeast Back Porch on The Greenway to life. This will be an easily-accessible location to enjoy lawn games, live music and other events, all while showcasing our unfiltered craft cider, as well as the work of many great craft brewers here in New England,” said Ross Brockman, Co-Founder of Downeast Cider House. “The Greenway continues to evolve as a destination for residents and tourists alike, and we are proud to be a part of the next chapter.”
Downeast, which was founded in Maine in 2011 and is now headquartered locally just across the harbor in East Boston, is known for pioneering the unfiltered craft cider style. Recently, they were named to the Boston Business Journal’s “Fast 50,” as one of the fastest growing companies in Massachusetts for the second consecutive year. At the Downeast Back Porch on The Greenway, five ciders will be on tap, including a Greenway-only release, Mint Lemonade. In addition to the cider offering, a rotating selection of New England craft brewers will be featured, with a new brewery showcased each week, as well as wine from Half Bottle Cans.
Conservancy and Downeast officials expect the Back Porch to operate through October on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings plus Saturdays and Sundays. The Back Porch will be setting up a portion of the plaza at Dewey Square Park each day to create a relaxed, dynamic and family-friendly space. A rotating mix of food trucks will be paired with the Back Porch for fun, varied food options.
“The Back Porch extends the park’s vibrancy into the evenings and weekends,” said Samantha McGinnis, the Conservancy’s Director of Programs and Earned Income.
The Greenway Conservancy, non-profit steward of the state-owned Greenway, has significantly grown earned income to over $1.1M annually by adding park visitor amenities that also benefit the organization’s bottom-line. Those efforts have led to the robust Greenway Mobile Eats food truck program, the farmers and artisan markets, hundreds of free events and promotional activities, and the revered Greenway Carousel at the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Grove. The Downeast Back Porch on The Greenway will be a new park amenity that complements the 400 free events, seven dramatic water features, all-organic horticulture program, community-oriented Play program, and award-winning contemporary public art exhibits.
To see what’s on tap at the Back Porch, hours of operation, and directions, visit DowneastCider.com. Photos courtesy of Peter McCoubrey/Downeast Cider House.
North Dakota’s First Cidery, Cottonwood Cider House
When you think of hard cider production your mind doesn’t typically think of North Dakota. However, husband and wife duo, Dan Heising and Stacy Nelson-Heising, are breaking the mold and defying the odds with North Dakota’s first cidery and the state’s largest commercial apple orchard. Construction on Cottonwood Cider House was completed in July 2017 and cider production in the new facility began last August, but plans for the cidery began years before.
The idea of producing hard cider came from Dan and Stacy’s desire to find a hobby they could do together. Dan was a home brewer and Stacy always loved cider. After some convincing, Dan and Stacy made their first batch of cider. While Dan and Stacy were experimenting in crafting hard cider, they were also beginning to plant their mixed fruit orchard with no definite plans on what they wanted to do with this orchard. After some research and completing a feasibility study on operating a hard cider business, Dan, Stacy and her family were convinced that opening a cidery would be a perfect fit. Beginning in 2012, Dan and Stacy, along with the help of their family, started planting apple trees on the Cottonwood Farm. Cottonwood Farm now has over 2,000 trees growing in its orchard with 40 different apple varieties.
Cottonwood Cider House and its orchard are located on Stacy’s family farm, which was originally a grain farm, started in the 1900’s by Stacy’s great grandfather, Nels Nelson. Stacy’s grandfather Norman Nelson and father, Chuck Nelson, were the first certified organic farmers in their county. While farming comes by nature for Stacy, Dan and Stacy did not have roots in the apple business.
Stacy commented on their inexperience in the apple business, “We’ve had to dig deep and reinvent ourselves to make any of this possible.” With no fellow makers close by for guidance, Dan and Stacy made a point to travel from east coast to west coast and everywhere in between to gain knowledge and ask questions to as many cider makers as they could. Dan and Stacy are also members of the United States Association of Cider Making and attend the association’s annual conference, CiderCon, to gain knowledge, contacts and friends within the industry.
Currently, Cottonwood Cider House has four core ciders: Post Apple (dry), Cider Greg (semi-dry), The Action (semi-sweet) and Hedgerow Hopped (dry with North Dakota grown hops). Some other ciders of note that Cottonwood Cider House has also produced are: The Birdie that is crafted with Cottonwood Farm’s own tart cherries and a wild ferment called College Try, which is one of Dan and Stacy’s favorite.
Dan and Stacy’s passion for cider and cider making alongside their care for their apple trees and orchard has been the driving force of success in their new venture with Cottonwood Cider House. Located just 45 minutes North West of Fargo, North Dakota, you can schedule a private tasting and orchard tour. Cottonwood Cider House ciders can also be found around North Dakota state. For more information, please visit CottonwoodCiderHouse.com. Photos courtesy of Cottonwood Cider House.
Schlafly Beer Will Release Its First Canned Cider As a Year-Round Offering
This month, another brewery joined the cider making business nationally. Schlafly Beer announced plans to release a year-round canned cider across their distribution footprint with Proper Cider Raspberry. The largest, locally owned brewery in St. Louis has been making cider for over 15 years now in its brewpubs, but this will be the first can package for full, year-round distribution, starting this summer. This 6.8% ABV old-fashioned hard cider is both semi-sweet and tart and pours a vibrant crimson from the real raspberries. Like all of Schlafly’s brews, this cider used real fruit only. Fermented apples are the foundation of every cider, but the fresh raspberries add another level of flavor.
Schlafly regularly has a rotating hard cider on draft at its brewpubs. Founding Brewer Stephen Hale explains more, “Our cider has always been a crowd favorite and has developed somewhat of a cult following throughout the years. Now, we can introduce our cider to a larger audience across our distribution footprint and make the treasured recipe available to enjoy all year.”
This will also be the first time Schlafly will be able to offer a certified gluten-free product in the market. The true cider is only made with the fruit juice of the apples and raspberries without any added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.
The four-packs of Schlafly’s Proper Cider Raspberry will be available starting in mid-June, but cider fans can get a first taste at Schlafly’s Art Outside Festival from Friday, May 25, to Sunday, May 27, in St. Louis, Missouri. The suggested retail price for the four-pack is $8. To see if Schlafly Beer distributes near you, visit Schlafly.com.