Over Columbus Day weekend Devon and I took the day to go up to Portland, ME. While craft beer has always been a big part of this city's attraction, in recent years it's just exploded with new brewers and cider makers! Before Devon joined me, I made my way to one of the more interesting places I've ever been in that makes fermented beverages, Urban Farm Fermentory. Finding myself in industral East Bayside, or yEast Bayside as they've taken to calling it, the fermentory is just steps from Rising Tide Brewing, Bunker Brewing and walkable to legendary Portland beer bar Novare Res. With a distiller nearby in addition as well as a baker and cheesemaker moving into a spot in the same warehouse, this industrial neighborhood is fixing to get a lot more crafty! After getting a cup of coffee at Tandem Coffee Roasters, an awesome coffee roaster / cafe that the guys from UFF recommended to me, I met with Adam Callaghan (center), Willis Croninger (right) and founder Eli Cayer (left) as well as Reid Emmerich, head kombucha brewer, and Neil Spillane, CFO (both not pictured).
Founded in early 2010, Eli originally foresaw Urban Farm Fermentory as a place for fermented food, beverage and an apiary. They even dabbled a bit in mycology (growing mushrooms). Since Eli started producing cider in late 2010, they've added Adam and Willis and focused down onto cider and kombucha. The cider? The apples are all locally sourced and spontaneously fermented, so they're super dry and vary from batch to batch. Some is sold that way, some is aged in bourbon barrels from Allagash Brewing and some is dry-hopped (picture below). Then, because everything is fermented in small batches, there's all sorts of crazy experiments (picture far below). The kombucha? I don't normally seek out this fermented tea but UFF's is delicious! I sampled their wild blueberry and ginger infused versions. UFF self distributes in Maine (mostly the Portland area) for now, but keep your eyes open for more from these guys.
After meeting up with the guys of Urban Farm Fermentoy, I followed up with Eli to get him on the record with our 5 Questions series. Here are his answers. Also, if you don't want to trek to Portland, ME but you want to try some of their cider you've got to come out to Drink Craft Beer Fall To Winter Fest! They'll be there showing off with their spontaneously fermented goodness.
Drink Craft Beer: How did you get into craft cider?
Eli Cayer: I actually got into fermentation through bee keeping. Back in 2002, I acquired a couple bee hives with a friend. We both ended up with 80 lbs of honey and with that we made our first batches of mead. It was magical and I was hooked! That led me to fermentation of all kinds, but with a bend toward locally sourced fermentables.
DCB: What was the turning point (a beer or cider moment) that made you love craft beer and craft cider?
EC: Not to step back to the first question, but i was never much of drinker before making my own mead. My love for honey wine opened me up to so many things in the fermented beverage sphere. Up till then beer was something I drank at highschool parties...Coors, Miller, Bud, etc... basically lame. I didn't drink much at all in college. After getting into mead I began really noticing the variety of craft beers out there. Living in Portland [Maine] has also expanded my beer palate due to the many great micro breweries here such as Allagash, Maine Beer Co., and Oxbow.
DCB: You walk into a magical beer shop with every beer/cider currently available. You can put together one six-pack. What do you walk out with? Only one can be from your brewery.
EC: I imagine that all six would be from other breweries, I can get my stuff when ever i want :) I would look for any beers that would be wild fermented as they tend to truly reflect the culture currently available to that brewery/area.
DCB: You’re going out for one big night in Portland, ME. Where do you go (it doesn’t all have to be beer)?
EC: I generally start and sometimes end my nights at Novare Res. They have an excellent set up for local, national and international brews. We are also basically their house draft hard cider, so I get to try all our experimental batches in the presence of randoms. When the chance arises, I love hearing how people experience something we've worked on, while I soak up some tasty brews from home or away.
DCB: What do you drink when you’re not drinking craft beer, cider or beer at all?
EC: I guess I mostly drink cider and kombucha at this point as they both seem to work better with my digestive system.
DCB: Thanks so much for your time, Eli! Looking forward to seeing you guys at Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest in November/December!