Hard Way Cider
Lisa and Steve Goddard were looking to create a business that could someday become their full time vocation. The couple already had demanding jobs in Kingston, but were looking to move out to the more placid surroundings of Loyalist Township and discovered a plot of land that suited them as a home – and as a potential business.
That was two years ago, and the entrepreneurial wheels were already turning with the idea of taking advantage of the great apple growing soil to perhaps start a small orchard. That led to the notion of then using the apples to create cider for sale. The discussion became serious in the late summer of 2016 with the Goddards officially opening The Hard Way Cider Co., in July of 2017.
“We pulled the chute on this last September. We only started pressing earlier in the year and it’s been one of those fly by the seat of our pants kind of things. It’s been less than a year, but it actually has been a slow, deliberate process getting things going. It’s just my husband and I so we have been trying to get this up and running as well as having full-time jobs as well as three kids, and all that entails,” said Lisa Goddard who said the original notion of trying to be farmers went by the wayside, but that after making some home batches of cider, both she and Steve got a ‘taste’ for the craft and began to put all their proverbial ducks in a row, production and business wise.
“When we bought the property two years ago my husband had it in the back of his head that it was a fantastic location for a cidery. We had the acreage, and we’re also just down the road from the Mackinnon Brothers brewery, so there’s already a lot of traffic on the road. Just recently we managed to plant about five acres of apples, but realized that we’re probably not cut out to be farmers and go nuts on the orchard. We thought that there were a lot of apples in the area, but no cideries so we thought, ‘why not?’ So we made another batch in the basement and we had people try it and the reception was overwhelmingly positive, so we decided to go for it.”
Goddard said she herself was a cider drinker, preferring it to beer, and she knows that lots of other people are looking for an alternative to beer, or an additional craft beverage that they can enjoy.
“I am not a beer drinker and cider is kind of my beer, so I kind of made it my mission to try as many craft ciders from Ontario as I could one summer. And that’s when I said that we should try to make our own. So we made one batch and, to be honest, it wasn’t very good, because we didn’t know what we were doing,” she said.
“This is a cliché term but my husband is more the brains and I am the beauty, I am doing more of the marketing, so he took the actual cider makers course at Cornell and he keeps up to date with all the science and techniques of making cider.”
Like other craft products, making cider is hands-on and labour intensive, and the Goddards have been doing it all on their own, demonstrating a remarkable amount of perseverance and positivity through the difficult `growing pains` period.
“It’s a very time consuming process and you’re on your feet all day, multiple days in a row. And there’s a lot of ironing out the kinks as you go too. So if something breaks down, then you have to figure out what to do, how do I fix something I am still learning how to do it? But it’s also a fantastic way to really find your way in this business because you learn from every mistake and every setback. At the end of some of those days we’re wondering if we’re doing the right thing, because it was a lot harder than we initially anticipated. But you get past that and then it’s okay, and we realized what we’re creating is pretty awesome and we couldn’t wait to get it in people’s hands,” said Goddard, who said the company name came from how it seemed she and Steve have approached their venture, always doing things the hard way.
“And another hard part is that we had to sit on it for a while; it’s got to age and we can taste it as it ages and it’s really good, but once it’s done there are all these other steps. So it’s not something you get into lightly thinking ‘oh, I’d like to try it for fun.’”
What was fun for sure was the soft launch of The Hard Way’s two initial signature brands during the recent Tall Ships Regatta in early July.
“We have our cornerstone cider [Rogue Apples] and then we have an extra-dry cider [Original Dry] and from there we’re going to have some seasonal ciders and session ciders and they will be more or less smaller batchers to have people try them and get feedback. If a certain one seems popular we will make it more of a mainstay brand. And I think that’s going to be our focus is producing smaller batches of really good, really unique ciders,” Goddard said.
“We hand craft it and we touch every apple and we press it ourselves, we don’t have somebody else press the juice and send it to us. And we barrel age it, which is a little unique. From my research, not a lot of people barrel age cider. So depending on what was the previous inhabitant of the barrel it can lend different flavour notes or scents to the actual cider itself. And each time even if it’s in the same barrel it can be slightly different. That’s what the name [Rogue Apples] and the branding draws on where, even though we’re making the same kind of blend, because of the intricacies of the different flavour notes from the barrels it can slightly differ.
“Which is kind of cool because it’s one of those things where you’re going in and you’re putting it in the barrel and you don’t necessarily know how it’s going to turn out, but it’s unique every time and that’s really cool, and exciting.”
Goddard said the strategy is to do a lot of show and tell (or more accurately, show and taste) at community events, like the Tall Ships Regatta, throughout the region, as well as working to see if local restaurants and pubs will take it on. Goddard said she has been amazed at the collegial and co-operative nature of the region’s craft beer and cider makers. As well, during the warmer months, The Hard Way Cider Co. will be appearing at various regional farmers markets.
“We’ve got a great little area here where we can just reach out and actually see and talk to people and tell them about our cider. Which is kind of nice; it’s better than just throwing it on a shelf and hoping it sells, because in that situation you really don’t know who is buying your cider. It’s a nice personal touch as well, because you can get immediate feedback,” she said, adding that soon folks will be able to buy cider right from their facility, which is opening later in the summer of 2017.
“All along I have been talking to people going to craft beer festivals and getting an idea of who is out there locally and I have seen that there’s a real community feel to it and I like that. It’s not like any other industry where I would assume there is some kind of competitiveness. And going into this for the first time, you don’t really know whether that competition is going to exist or not. But we’ve been welcomed with open arms and people offering to help or answer questions, it’s been wonderful.
“When we first started we joined the Quintevation craft Slack group and I had another cidery reach out immediately and said ‘hey, how are you doing. We cideries have to stick together. If you need anything, just ask.’ And that’s happened a lot, people have been amazing. This is new for us, as I said, so there are a lot of questions but they are always well received and people are super helpful.”
For more information on The Hard Way Cider Co., visit them on Facebook or at http://hardwaycider.com.