Maine's (hard) cider house gang
The Portland Press Herald.
Spotting a trio of 20-somethings tipping back glasses of hard
cider at Mainely Brews in Waterville isn't out of the ordinary.
"It's good," said Ross Brockman, 23, one of the three recent
Bates College graduates behind Downeast Cider House, a hard cider
company based in Waterville. "I mean, we knew it was good. But you
wonder how it's going to pour the first time."
Downeast Cider House officially launched three weeks ago when it
delivered its first kegs of hard cider to a handful of bars in
Waterville, Richmond and Portland.Brockman and fellow co-founders
Ben Manter, 24, and Tyler Mosher, 23, have done plenty of sampling
over the last nine months since deciding to start a hard cider
Mosher's father was the first to suggest the idea, but the
concept, they said, had been staring them the in face all along.
Manter grew up on an apple orchard in Vassalboro, and bushels were
continually finding their way to campus. And of the hard cider
options already out there, they found none to be very
So what were three soon-to-be college graduates to do?Manter
began a semester-long thesis on fermenting. "I told my teacher,
'This is what I want to do with my life,' " he said.
And the trial and error process of measuring, mixing, tasting
and tweaking began."
There was a lot of error," Mosher joked. Sixty-four errors, in
fact. That's how many recipes it took to arrive at the final
version. That's the "holy shucks, this is really good stuff"
version, according to Manter. (The worst-tasting of them all sits
in a place of semi-honor in the fermenting room.
"In five years, that stuff is going to be gold," said
Mosher.)Hard cider drinkers in Maine can now sip for themselves at
Mainely Brews and 18 Below Raw Bar, Grill & Lounge in
Waterville; The Bag and Kettle in Carrabassett Valley; The Old Goat
in Richmond; The Thirsty Pig and Nosh Kitchen Bar in Portland; and
a growing list of others.
Downeast Cider's presence in those establishments is a testament
to the trio's determination amid bank loan rejections and naysaying
college buddies who weren't certain about the idea."
We had discussions (with other friends) on our couches,"
Brockman said. The response to their proposed venture had been
heavy on skepticism: "You guys are idiots" and "It's not going
beyond this room."
But the idea did go beyond that room. And now it's expanding
from a home base inside a repurposed mill off Water Street in
Waterville, where in January the indoor temperature rivaled the
outdoor temperature and the scent of fermenting cider filled every
inch of the space.
The fermenting room houses two lumbering, 1,000-gallon tanks.
Charts tacked to the wall keep track of the process - the cider's
journey takes about 16 days to go from freshly pressed apples,
shipped from Ricker Hill Farm in Turner, to kegged Downeast
Over the next six months to a year, Manter, Brockman and Mosher
are looking to have the cider in 20 Maine bars and restaurants."We
want to make a good product, but at scale," said Brockman. "
Not make any sacrifices."And they want to take time learning the
industry and gaining feedback.Getting there, they said, is just a
matter of taste."It's just about getting them to try it," said
They try it, they like it. If they talk to us, we can tell them
who we are, why we think this is different."
Eventually, they're also hoping to make Downeast Cider available
in cans. Until then, Mainely Brews customers like Travis Simpson of
Fairfield don't mind being among the first to sample a glass."
It's awesome. It's like a treat," Simpson said. "I like it
because it's not too sweet."
Despite the compliments, Mosher, Manter and Brockman aren't
getting ahead of themselves."
People say, 'Congratulations,' " said Brockman. "But we haven't
done anything yet."
Well, they have brought a drinkable idea across the dorm room
threshold and into the hands of Maine's hard cider lovers. And
Maine's soon-to-be hard cider lovers.