How a BC alum created a new kind of cider for a new kind of world
Jake Mazar’s favorite apple is the Roxbury Russet. It’s a greyish, greenish apple, with a leathery skin. You’d expect it to be sour, but it’s sweet. Not an artificially engineered kind of sweet that Dole and Driscoll’s may dream of, but instead a soft, weathered sweetness. Another admirer of the Roxbury Russet is Nathaniel Hawthorne, who, in The House of the Seven Gables wrote, “But I suppose I am like a Roxbury Russet, – a great deal the better, the longer I can be kept.” Nathaniel Hawthorne was definitely a cider drinker.
Jake Mazar, CSOM ’08, decided to start a cidery after growing disillusioned with work in the consulting field. Together with childhood friend (and current Head Cider-maker) Soham Bhatt, who had been working in the biotech industry, he started Artifact Cider. “Something was lacking, and I wanted to do something on my own terms…we had a keen love of cider, something we’d been drinking for a long time, talking about for a long time. Soham started making some at his house in his garage, one thing led to another and slowly we decided to open up a company… and it’s kind of taken off from there.”
It begins, Mazar explains, with locally sourced apples. Once the blend is chosen and the apples are picked, the process begins to resemble that of wine-making. The fruit is crushed, pressed, and its juices begin to ferment, either with added yeast or with naturally occurring yeasts. It’s fermented for anywhere between a few weeks to a few months, and then aged until it is ready to be carbonated, canned or kegged, and finally consumed.
Given apple picking’s cultural ubiquity, it’s no surprise that cider culture has begun to reemerge in the Northeast. Due in no small part to the craft beer boom, where many have begun to shirk the Anheuser-Busch beverages in favor of locally-produced, small-batch brews, where cider has enjoyed a rebirth in the last ten years. As Mazar puts it,
“We’re interested not only what’s been done before, we’re interested in what can be done, what’s possible. Reinvention.”
And what serves as a better example of staying true to one’s roots while reinventing oneself than an apple itself? The Roxbury Russet has been in the Northeast for close to 400 years now, and it still manages to find new life every time it’s picked off the orchard, fermented for a bottle of cider, or regrown in a Massachusetts orchard.
Artifact’s name lends a bit of poignancy to this sentiment as well. Sure, the likes of John and Sam Adams might have enjoyed a Roxbury Russet some 250 years ago. They might even have had a glass or two of cider from those apples at the local taverns, taking gulps between discussing the merits of liberalism. So while cider, and the distinctly Northeastern apples that it can be made from, all serve as treasures of our past, they also remind us to look towards the future. I don’t think the Adams’ would have minded a blend of apples in their cider.
Although hard cider still makes up a mere 1% of the alcohol industry, the proliferation of cideries around the United States indicates that it’s not a flash in the pan, and has lasting value. Simply put, if cider can last 400 harsh New England winters, one could assume with confidence that it’s here to stay.
Artifact Cider can be found at Chansky’s Super Market and Gimbel’s Liquors.