“Cider used to be the number one drink in America,” explained Joshua Dewez, co-owner of Mad Moon Craft Cidery. “It came over on the Mayflower. They drank it all day long, kids drank it — it had a lower alcohol percentage, of course — and English farmers used to pay their farmhands in cider.”
“It was safe to drink because it had been fermented, it was safer than the water,” added Peter Moon, Mad Moon’s other co-owner (and namesake.) “It really spread around when it came to the states on the Mayflower because we had so many apples. That’s where Benjamin Franklin’s phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” comes from; when they got up first thing in the morning they drank a glass of hard apple cider.”
Then Prohibition killed cider. See, a good cider uses certain types of apples that are high in sugar to encourage fermentation, but those apples aren’t the most delicious to eat. When Prohibition went into effect, orchards stopped growing the cider-specific apples. When Prohibition ended and there weren’t cider apples around, no one was made cider.
Seventy years later, cider is finally coming back into prominence as the fastest growing alcoholic beverage category, and Moon and Dewez are on the forefront of craft cider in Columbus.
Moon and Dewez, friends for 15 years, were in search of a business concept on which they could collaborate when they discovered they were both already homebrewing cider and decided to go pro.
“We really love cider and a lot of times when you buy cider it’s not the highest quality, especially mass-produced cider. It’s juice concentrate and the rest of it’s sugar water with Propylene Glycol filling,” said Moon.
It took the two about six months to find a warehouse, get all the proper permits in place and hire consultants to learn the ins-and-outs of crafting cider for production. Cider-making comes with its own set of unique challenges: for example, cider has to stay under 7% ABV – anything above that is considered a wine, and taxed as such (at a much higher tax rate). Also, an overcarbonated cider can be taxed as a champagne.
Moon and Dewez have been overwhelmed by the outpour of support from the community so far.
“We went to a few places just to gauge interest and it’s been pretty amazing,” said Moon. “We’re kind of surprised by the demand already because we don’t even have products yet. It’s very exciting, the acceptance. I mean, as soon as I walk in [to a store] and mention what I’m doing they’re like ‘my gosh, a local cider, OK!’ They’re waiting. There’s a lot of places waiting.”
Savor Market, Corner Beverage, Crafted Drafts, and Pies and Pints are among the retailers who have committed to carry Mad Moon when they launch in mid-September. Mad Moon Cider will be available in single 12oz bottles, 4-packs and on draft.
Mad Moon’s starting lineup will include a dry cider, a semi-sweet cider and a caramel apple concoction. They’re experimenting with different blends and may expand beyond apples in the future.
“We have so many ideas, we just don’t know which type to start with,” said Moon.
A taproom may be in Mad Moon’s future as well, but likely not in its currently industrial location. Both Moon and Dewez are inspired by West Coast cider houses and hope to kickstart a cider culture in Columbus.
“We’re trying to bring a little bit of Portland and Seattle to Columbus. A little bit of different flare than another beer. But we welcome and love all the craft breweries around here. Columbus is a top ten beer town,” said Dewez.
“Hopefully it can become a top ten cider town,” added Moon.