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Downeast Cider's Ross Brockman [5 Questions]

Author // Jeff Wharton

Every once in a while that one thing comes along that changes your idea about a product category. To be honest, Downeast Cider did that to me. I like normal cider, but I'd never found a hard cider that really did it for me. As we saw cider as a category growing, we decided that we wanted to write about it as 1) Devon is a big fan and 2) it seemed to fit in with the ethos of craft beer. Furthermore, we had a willing and ready writer in Sarah, our cider writer. I was fine with it but wasn't super enthused until Sarah brought us back a test batch from a soon-to-open cidery. It tasted just like apple cider you buy at the farm stand! It was juicy and full without being too sweet. This was cider I could get behind! That company was Downeast Cider and Sarah had met up with founders Ross Brockman and Tyler Mosher to discuss their new project.

Ross from Downeast Cider

As the last time we spoke with them on the record, they had just started operations, I thought it'd be fun to take some time with Ross and put him through our 5 Questions segment...especially being as his company is the one that helped change my mind about looking at cider again.

Drink Craft Beer: How did you get into craft cider?

Ros Brockman: I have absolutely no idea. One day I was studying to be a lawyer, and the next thing I knew I was checking fermentation cycles and cleaning kegs. It was like Will Ferrell in the debate scene from Old School, I blacked out, don't know what happened, but I think I kinda killed it...

DCB: What was the turning point (a cider or moment) that made you love craft cider?

RB: It was definitely a beer that made me turn the corner in my beverage selection. During our freshman year of college, I had a...not-so-honest...ID that I used to use to go to Wal-Mart Thursday through Saturday to buy 5 30-racks of Beast Ice (Milwaukees Best Ice). We would put them in a ski bag to drag across campus and then unpack that into our mini-fridge, which conveniently held 150 cans of beer. One day Keystone Light (seriously) went on sale and turning point number 1 clicked: "Beer doesn't have to suck, it can taste exactly like water!" Skip forward a couple years and I think it was Dogfish Head 60-Minute that was turning point number 2, the real one: "Beer can be...good?!" Soon after that I had the same realizations with hard cider.

DCB: You walk into a magical beer shop with every beer currently available. You can put together one six-pack. What do you walk out with? Only one beer can be from your brewery.

RB:

  1. Un-named Downeast grapefruit cider/mead (soon enough...)
  2. Savannah Dry Cider (more of a nostalgia thing)
  3. Ballast Point Sculpin IPA
  4. Westvleteren 12 (uhh...monks)
  5. Stone IPA
  6. Bud Heavy (because this isn't Russia)

DCB: You’re going out for one big night in Boston. Where do you go (it doesn’t all have to be beer).

RB: I'd probably get pretty liquored up with some Downeast in my apartment beforehand because I can't afford to buy our cider in an actual bar. Then I'd meet my friends at some overrated, creepy place in Faneuil Hall at which point my memory would duck out and I'll wake up with my head splitting open and, what is that, whiskey on my breath? Where the hell is my cell phone...Sorry, that didn't go as planned, I'll head over to the Salty Pig tomorrow night...

DCB: What would you be doing for a career if you weren’t in beer?

RB: I'd be pursing my childhood dream of pitching for the Red Sox, playing QB for the Patriots and PG for the Celtics, all at the same time.

DCB: What do you drink when you’re not drinking craft beer (or beer at all)?

RB: Bud heavy, fresh grapefruit juice, or cheap whiskey with a splash of club soda.

DCB: Where do you see cider industry going in the next year? And, in that vein, can we get a sneak peak at what new to expect from you in the coming year?

RB: I think cider is going to continue to skyrocket. I can also see a lot of experimental ciders blossoming, just as you see craft beers getting wackier and wackier. In that regard, we've got a few tricks up our sleeve that we can't reveal. As far as a more conservative offering, we hope to be done with our dry cider pretty soon here.

DCB: You can make any cider you like, no matter the cost and consumer demand, what would you make and what dream ingredients would you use?

RB: I'd make Downeast Original Blend, because why would we have started this thing and not made our dream drink? And if you twisted my arm, I'd serve it over ice from another planet, because that would be pretty neat...Downeast Over Space Ice!

DCB: Thanks so much for your time, Ross. What can we do to get you make that Downeast Original Blend over space ice?!