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By Ryan Kneller
Hardball Cider is swinging for the fences.
The Upper Mount Bethel Township-based craft hard cidery, whose beverages can be found at area restaurants, retail locations and sports stadiums, is expanding its regional footprint and drink lineup.
In March, the four-year-old cidery opened a stand at the Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers Market, giving fans a venue to sample and stock up on Fastball, Splitter and other popular selections.
Now, the business is growing again with plans to open a stand within a couple weeks at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia and a tasting room and retail shop in late May at 553 Main St. in historic Bethlehem. The Bethlehem space previously housed Italian restaurant Molto Pazzo, which closed last year.
The ciders also can be purchased at beer distributors such as Frankie V’s in Hellertown and Tanczos Beverages in Hanover Township, Northampton County; restaurants such as The Clubhouse Grille and The Wooden Match in Bethlehem; Easton Farmers’ Market’s Local Libations Tent on select dates, May through October; eight local Weis grocery stores; and four ballparks: Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading and PNC Field in Moosic, Lackawanna County.The Upper Mount Bethel Township-based Hardball Cider, whose beverages can be found at area restaurants, retail locations and sports stadiums, is expanding its regional footprint and drink lineup. .
Hardball’s success is due in large part to its locally-sourced fruit, owner Geoffrey Deen says. The cidery uses apples from Deen’s parents’ Elvern Farms at 805 Orchard Road in Upper Mount Bethel Township, as well as other regional growers such as Bechdolts Orchards in Lower Saucon Township and Heller Orchards in Wapwallopen, Luzerne County.
“We’re pressing everything fresh on site,” Deen says. “So, we don’t use concentrates or artificial flavors. I think the connection to baseball and softball really helps, too. A lot of people gravitate toward our logo and then once they try the product they say, ‘Wow, this is really good.’ We’re not overly sweet, which is also a differentiator.”
Production takes place in a renovated barn at Elvern Farms, which also grows other crops such as pears, plums, sweet corn, tomatoes and peppers, Deen says.
The ciders are available at the farm’s storefront at 506 E. Main St. in Pen Argyl, and the cidery in Upper Mount Bethel should be open to the public starting in the summer, Deen says.
Some of the farm’s other fruits are used in seasonal Hardball offerings. Slider, for example, is made with peaches and expected to debut mid- to late-summer. Cranberry and cinnamon varieties are on deck for the fall and Deen also is experimenting with blueberry, tart cherry and raspberry selections. Others that will be added to the roster before the end of the year include Sunday Hop, a dry-hopped cider that has a lot of citrus notes; and two others that were aged in barrels: Shoeless Joe, aged for six months in red wine barrels, and Teddy Ballgame, aged in bourbon barrels. The latter two are part of a Barrel of the Bat Collection.
“Our most popular right now is Splitter, which is sweetened with just our fresh-pressed apple cider,” Deen says. “From there, we have Curveball, which is a lighter, crisper cider. It’s going to drink much like a sweet white wine – makes for a nice sangria in the summertime.”
In December, Deen appeared on CBS' "The Rachael Ray Show" as a finalist (to be announced later as a winner) in the Seal of Approval Contest, presented by OnDeck, a “leader in online lending for small business.” He was one of three winners that took home a $10,000 prize and one-on-one personal coaching session with Barbara Corcoran, a real estate mogul and investor on ABC's "Shark Tank."
Copyright © 2017, The Morning Call
By Ian Atkins on January 30, 2017 | Raising Money | Comments (2)
OnDeck Capital is a online provider of small business loans and lines of credit. In mid-October, OnDeck launched its second annual OnDeck Seal of Approval Contest. The winners of this contest received $10,000 and a one-on-one consultation from Barbara Corcoran (Founder of The Corcoran Group and Star of Shark Tank).
OnDeck invited Fit Small Business to participate in a Q & A with Barbara Corcoran and one of this year’s winners, Geoffrey Deen, founder of Hardball Cider.
In the video below, we discuss:
One of the coolest things to happen this year was the taping of the Rachael Ray show a couple of weeks ago. Our CEO, Geoffrey Deen, was honored to be selected among 3 finalists to appear on the show and give a live, 30 second pitch to Barbara Corcoran of ABC's Shark Tank! Can you believe it?! We are still in disbelief, but are very excited to see the show air tomorrow, December 6th at 10am on ABC if you're in the PA, NY, NJ area. Tune in to see us on the show and to find out who won the $10,000 prize and a meeting with Barbara Corcoran in NYC!
By Lexi Hughes
December 1, 2016
We are so excited to share the winners for the OnDeck Seal of Approval Contest. For the second year in a row, OnDeck worked with Barbara Corcoran to give three entrepreneurs a $10,000 prize, courtesy of OnDeck, and a one-on-one coaching session with Barbara, to take their businesses to the next level. We know how challenging both access to capital and marketing a business can be. That’s why we designed this contest with Barbara specifically for busy and passionate business owners.
OnDeck launched the contest in mid-October and asked small business owners “How would you use $10,000 and advice from Barbara Corcoran to grow your business?”
We received over 1,000 entries from amazing and dedicated small business owners across the country, but we could only pick three winners. With Barbara’s help, the finalists were chosen based on how compelling, unique and practical their response was. We were also looking for entrepreneurs who demonstrated a passion to grow their business.
The winners of the 2016 OnDeck Seal of Approval Contest are three innovative small businesses from diverse backgrounds: Congratulations to Andrew Buerger from B’more Organic, Rachelle and Paul Baron from Beau & Belle Littles, and Geoffrey Deen from Hardball Cider.
On Friday, March 25th, Cider Culture interviewed Geoffrey Deen, founder and CEO of Hardball Cider, live on WCHE 1520 AM. In the "Eat, Drink, and Dish" segment, Geoffrey and Mary Bigham from the "Town Dish"-ed (pun-tastic!) about how he got into the cider business and why he's passionate about Hardball's baseball theme. Mary also got him to take us behind-the-scenes of making a tasty craft hard cider. If you pay close attention, Geoff even drops some hints about an upcoming premium line of Hardball Ciders. They also chat about what stadiums will be carrying Hardball for the 2016 season!
Mary's verdict? Geoff is "super winning at life." We think so too.
If you missed the live broadcast, you can listen to the recording here!
(The audio is a bit quiet, so you may want to turn your speakers up or use headphones.)
HUGE news to share with everyone! It's been a busy winter for us as we prepare for warmer weather, baseball season and the opening of our tasting room. But what I wanted to announce is that we're going to be in THREE minor league baseball stadiums this season and couldn't be more excited about it!!! If you happen to be at a Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Reading Phillies, or Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders game this year, grab a cold Hardball Cider while you're at the ballpark. And don't forget the kids! We have our regular sweet apple cider (the non-alcoholic kind) available as well at the ballpark. We hope you're as excited about this as we are and can't wait for the season to begin. See you at the stadium!
National Geographic partnered with the Delaware River community to launch a new website focused on growing geotourism and awareness of this beautiful area. The website includes places to go, things to do and provides recommendations on places to stay. To read more about the region and all that it has to offer, visit the new website here. Hardball Cider is proud to be included in this wonderful project and can't wait to spend time with visitors to the area when our tasting room opens this Spring.
Our friends at Rowan Asher Winery (RAW) have been busy the past few months working to establish the Northeast Cider Trail. We are thrilled that they asked us to be a part of it and now you have two cideries to visit only 15 minutes apart from one another. To tell you a little bit more about the cider trail, I borrowed the copy from the website...
We are craftsmen
Based out of the Pocono Mountains and nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Trail, we are handcrafting small batches of a forgotten art, fermenting apples into Hard Ciders. Our goal as cider makers is to "invite those who push the creative boundaries of what is possible" and to learn from one another through partnership, education and passion. We desire to share in educating a new generation of enthusiasts in the art of fermented beverages and leading them on a trail of exploration...
We have united Virginia through Maine and have become the Northeast Cider Trail, come explore.
To learn more or to join the Northeast Cider Trail, follow the link below.
We look forward to seeing you at our tasting rooms this New Year!!!
While we’re always eager to get answers to our burning cider-centric questions, we were particularly excited to learn a thing or two about the Hardball Cider brand over the holiday season.
We caught up with Geoffrey Deen, founder and CEO of Hardball Cider, who graciously set aside some of his own time to educate us a bit on how this cider brand came to be, where we can find this tasty libation and what he sees for the cider industry in the coming new year.
Cider Culture: As an avid cider drinker and baseball fan, I was naturally drawn to your brand based on two things: your name and your fantastic labels. How did Hardball Cider come to be?
Geoffrey Deen: I was on a business trip to Atlanta about three years ago. On the way back to the airport, I was staring out the window of the MARTA train and the idea and name—Hardball Cider—literally just popped into my head. I quickly grabbed my phone and began sketching the name and a draft logo. Once I had the idea, I knew I had to pursue this one and so began the process of filling out applications for the licensing and beginning the branding development and product development process.
Prior to having the idea for the cidery, I had often thought about the things that I could do with the family farm that would get me away from my corporate desk job and back outside. Having been a baseball player for most of my life, I also always wanted my office to be at the baseball stadium, so the idea for Hardball Cider would allow me to get the best of both worlds. We had been producing sweet apple cider for over 75 years on the farm, so this was a logical extension to our existing operation.
What are you most excited about with the recent boom in the cider industry?
There are so many exciting things happening right now! There seems to be something new every week, so it’s hard to single out just one thing. The most recent major event was the passing of the CIDER Act, which allows cider makers to produce ciders up to 8.5% ABV and increases the level of carbonation allowed in hard ciders without being taxed as a champagne. This legislation helps to lower the tax burden on ciders, allowing us to be more creative in our product development, which ultimately benefits the end-consumer.
What can Hardball Cider fans look forward to in 2016?
Hardball Cider fans can look forward to an expanded product portfolio that will include our premium Clubhouse Collection ciders. We’re also very excited about the opportunities that we’re exploring now to be represented in several Pennsylvania major and minor league baseball stadiums, which would give cider fans an additional beverage option while enjoying America’s favorite pastime. Finally, our cider fans should be able to start finding us in additional locations including bars and restaurants extending well beyond the Lehigh Valley.
Are any of your ciders sold at any MLB ballparks? If so, which ones?
We are not yet in any MLB ballparks, although we certainly hope to be in the future. As I mentioned previously, we’re exploring some opportunities right now with several PA ballparks with the hopes of being included in their 2016 beverage line-ups.
We spied a new cider in the works on your site. Care to tell us a little bit about Knuckleball?
Sure! Knuckleball debuted at the Valley Forge Beer and Cider Festival in December. It’s a semi-dry cider that’s been lightly carbonated and got rave reviews at the festival. We’ll start bottling Knuckleball for sale in the next couple of weeks, so expect to see it on our retail shelves throughout 2016.
Hardball Cider isn’t one-dimensional; you have three varieties of wine you produce as well. Which is your favorite?
We started dabbling in some fruit wines this year and I’d have to say that our apple wine is my favorite to date. I think it’s my favorite because it’s closely related to our hard ciders and we have a special blend of apples that really brings out the best in our apple wine. While apple may be my favorite, I’m really partial to every bottle of wine that we produce because we’re also growing each piece of fruit that goes into every bottle.
If you could dispel one myth about hard cider to our readers, what would that be?
At festivals, I’ve encountered many people who immediately write off cider without ever having tasted it. Give it a try. It’s delicious! There is a notion that cider is only made sweet and sugary and that’s just not true. There are as many complexities to good hard cider as there are in a fine wine or a craft beer. It can be dry, semi-dry or sweet. It can be carbonated, sparkling or still. It can be fermented, bottled and sold immediately or aged for several months in stainless steel, oak or spirit barrels for added complexity. Cider is in a category of its own separate from wine, beer or distilled spirits. So, the next time you come across a cider from a local or regional producer, buy a bottle and experience all that hard cider has to offer. If you find a good cider, you’ll know it and you won’t be disappointed.
What has been your biggest hurdle to date since Hardball Cider’s inception?
There have been many hurdles for us since we began. There is just so much to learn in a quickly evolving category within an established industry. One of the biggest challenges that we’ve faced to date has been finding the right equipment for hard cider production. Because hard cider as a category is developing so quickly in the industry, there hasn’t been time for suppliers to react to the needs of cider makers. Many websites list equipment and supplies under two categories—wine or beer.As a cidery, we have similar needs to a winery sometimes and a brewery at other times. Cider is also more acidic than wine or beer, so the equipment used in the production process or even building materials in our facilities differs from that of a traditional winery or brewery. It has been very difficult for us to find experts in hard cider production to answer all of the questions that we’ve had along the way. Thankfully, other cideries who were established before us have been overly welcoming and eager to help whenever we’ve run into an issue.
OK, this is a two-parter (and completely non-cider related): Are you a Phillies fan? Will the Phillies have a winning season in the next five years?
Haha, no I’m actually not a Phillies fan (sorry to all you cider-drinking Phillies fans)! I have been a Yankees fan my whole life and grew up watching Don Mattingly, Wade Boggs, Bernie Williams, David Cone, etc., lead the Yankees to some of the most successful and memorable baseball seasons in the history of the game.
As for the Phillies, I think they have a lot of rebuilding to do over the next few years, but given the right talent and coaching staff, I think it’s possible for them to have a winning season closer to that five-year mark.
Can you look into your crystal ball and give us cider lovers your thoughts on some cider trends in 2016?
I think growth in the cider market will continue to be strong in 2016, bringing with it a wide assortment of new products including those with higher alcohol content. In order to make new products, some cider makers will look to the fruit itself. Some cideries, including us, are looking into planting orchards with cider-specific apple varieties. These apple varieties have different characteristics including varying pH, acidity and tannin levels in comparison with the more commonly grown dessert apples. Cider-specific varieties aren’t widely available in the U.S. today, so much of the cider is being made with dessert fruit. Wider availability of cider-specific varieties will give cideries the ability to make hard ciders with different flavors than those currently available on the market today. I think you’ll continue to see this trend for the foreseeable future as those trees planted this year won’t begin bearing fruit until 2018 at the earliest.
Stay tuned to Cider Culture for Hardball Cider updates in 2016. You can expect to hear when their Tasting Room opens and how you can schedule a time to visit this Pennsylvania cider producer. Until then, cheers!