Why did it take so long?
lA few people have emailed me, noticing that this site has not changed much in the last few years. Guilty as charged.
We have been working at this for nearly four years. Finaly, two weeks ago we received all the licenses and permits required to make and sell sparkling cider.
Let’s establish one thing right from the start: I am none too bright. When I conceived of this project in 2016 after selling a previous business, I thought it would be easy to establish a cidery in our carriage house for short money. After all, we already owned the building. It was sitting there doing nothing much at the time except collecting literally tons of stuff nobody wanted before us, foisted on us by friends and family who had no other place to store their “valuable” stuff and of course our own 30 years of accumulated debris.
Every new business start-up is a journey with more than a few surprises along the way. Launching Carriage House Ciders, my fifth start-up by the way, might be better likened to an adventure or a reality TV show like the Survivor, with more drama, twists and turns than seems possible for one seemingly simple project.
The idea is to make cider the way it was made in the 17th Century when French King Louis XIV was said to like Normandy cider almost as much as champagne. One suspects this was something of a heretical notion for the King of France at the time. Anyway, we hoped to press interesting old apple varieties into juice, ferment the juice in oak barrels with just the ambient yeast found on the skins of the apples and age the fermented cider in oak barrels. When it came time to bottle, we’d add a little bit of sugar to make the cider sparkle through secondary fermentation in the bottle. Just three ingredients, a few simple steps and a delicious product. That was the plan.
Well, back to me not being too smart. I figured I could make a nice little boutique business fermenting just 30-40 barrels a year.
Sadly, I failed to take into account one critical fact. Turns out a French oak wine barrel filled with cider weighs 600 pounds give or take a few pounds. Multiply that by 30+ barrels and you pretty quickly get to more than 20,000 pounds, 10 tons-plus.
While it is true that we removed at least four tons of what I will politely call “treasures” from our 133-year-old carriage house already to start getting ready for the cidery. It is also true that the original brick foundation was visibly crumbling without the addition of many tons of cider. Although the original floor was constructed of sturdy two-by-six tongue and grove pine, we had noticed a few places where the floor gently sank when we walked across it as we removed all that junk.
Would the foundation handle 10 tons of cider or more? Dumb as a truck load of bricks though I am, images of a jumble of barrels piled helter-skelter in a mound, oozing their golden liquid where the floor gave away began to dance in my head.
We needed someone to rebuild the foundation.
How many folks do you know that get their kicks crawling around underneath buildings with the spiders and varmints digging out an old brick foundation these days? Well there are not many.
After talking to several contractors: Some wanted to just plaster cement on top of what was there, others wanted to raise the whole building, move it, pour a new cement foundation and move the building back, others suggested we tear the whole thing down and start over (as it turns out this alternative would have been a lot cheaper)… Finally, we found one guy who would dig out the old bricks and rebuild the foundation with new ones. The guy was in great demand. He probably could start the job in two years. The “easy-to-do” cidery began to look whole lot more complicated than I thought.
(to be continued…)