Nearly a year ago we embarked on a road trip to Boone, North Carolina to make our first major business purchase. The mission was to trailer back two ten barrel brite tanks that would serve as our means of carbonating the first ciders we produced at scale. The secondary, or should we say bonus mission, was to drink plenty of Appalachia’s finest brews. Upon arrival in Boone we were met by Nate & Chris, the talented brewers of Appalachian Mountain Brewing. The afternoon was spent loading up the new goods, and by the time the sun set we were ready for a.. uh… tour.
Nate, Chris and the company CEO Sean have created a model worth noting down in Boone. They operate AMB out of a commercial garage that they converted themselves. It’s a brewery built with community outreach taking a close second to making great beer. Owned in part by its loyal customers through an OTC (over the counter) stock trading program, the brewery and Boone are intertwined in a unique way. They regularly organize creek cleanups, fundraisers and family events to stay connected to their community.
We pulled up stools at the taps and got to exploring their offerings from Gose to Stout. The pours were tall and the weather perfect; garage doors opened up to a repurposed gravel lot revealing horseshoes and corn hole games abound. Locals showed up in droves quickly filling the small taproom as we began to realize just how good a thing these guys had going.
It hadn’t been long when Nate commented on our astounding lack of industry standard beards (Mark had just began growing his compulsory master fermenter’s mane) and asked how old the three of us were. Our answers gave way to Nate & Chris’ story of being awarded the title of youngest brewers at a conference they attended in the years prior. This got us thinking. Were we taking over the title of the youngest alcohol producers in the country? The pours got heavier while the music louder, the intrigue of that idea quickly faded into a blur of folk tunes, new friends, and somehow ending up at Wendy’s.
The question lay dormant for another nine months while we focused on the greater things in life like tearing down dropdown ceilings and not passing out in our massive DIY refrigerator full of CO2. Eventually our doors opened and we started getting the same inquiry over and over: “Wait, how old are you guys?” This prompted a little research, a perking of the left eyebrow, and then more research. We’re each twenty-four years old and today, as the sole owners and operators of Harvard Cider Company, it’s safe to say we’re the youngest producers of alcohol in the country.
Announcing that is a double edged sword. For one, it will be a short lived title. Other young brewers, cidermakers, distillers and winemakers are knocking at the gates as we speak. There are young entrepreneurs all over the US scribbling down the beginnings of a business plan on a napkin. They’ve been up all night revising the recipe from their latest homebrew, and they’re hungry. Most notably, Bulkhead Brewing of Columbia, MD is nipping at our heels to be the youngest in the game, cheers to them. We wish anyone entering the industry nothing but luck and we’re happy to lend a helping hand like so many did for us.
In our journey, age wasn’t ever a consideration. As a part of a generation making itself known for optimism and hurdling barriers to entry, we are realizing our age gave us the creativity and audacity to get to here. We’re a lean and dedicated operation, taking no shortcuts in order to make damn good craft cider. We sought to make the balanced, bold and distinctive ciders we yearned to find on shelves and the thought that we weren’t capable of that never crossed our minds. We’re here now, and this is just the beginning. Drink local my friends.
Art boy out.