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From the beginnings of our family's heritage in farming to a present-day cidery, winery, and tasting room: we have a story for the ages.
23 year-old Caleb Mack, a fourth generation Scottish-American and local farmer from Martin's Creek PA, enlists in the army for the 11th Division Pennsylvania Regiment. Caleb would survive the Civil War and come home to father a son he named Clarence.
Clarence Mack with his two sons in 1905. Vernon is on the left at age 5.
Clarence and Minnie (Meyers) Mack were married and lived in Upper Mount Bethel, PA. By 1905, Clarence was a farm laborer (like his father Caleb,) and had two sons of his own; including Vernon, who would one day meet the daughter of George Hester, another hard-working farmer in the area.
At the age of 18, Vernon Mack enlisted in the army during WWI. Though he didn't see any action in Europe, he felt it was his duty to defend the ideals of hard work and courage that his father taught him. Only five years later, Vernon would meet Elsie Hester, and the two would start a story of their own.
Herbert in 1933. His father, David (in 1940) on a tractor that his family still owns today.
Herbert Price Deen was born to David and Cora Deen in June of 1924 in Philadephia. Though not raised on a farm, Herb had a thirst for the outdoors and adventure that would serve him well later when he would meet the daughter of a farmer from Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania.
Herbert & Doris the day they wed and shortly before in 1947 (above.)
By 1948, Herbert Deen and Doris Mack had fallen in love and were married only months after Herb graduated from Ursinus College. Their reception was held right here on Elvern Farms. Little did the couple know that the barn (pictured in red behind them) would be the base of their son and grandson's future cider businesses.
Vernon Mack with his grandchild, Candae. (Above)
Between farming, Vernon and Elsie Mack find time to tend to their grandchildren, like Candae and Todd Deen (both born in the 1950s.) Like the barn, the pond (shown here) can still be enjoyed at Hardball's tasting room today.
Many changes took place on the Mack/Deen family farm between 1950 and 1965. It was during this time that the barn was reconstructed, painted and unneccessary buildings were removed.
Barn in 1957 (above with Herb Deen.) The same barn in 2016 (upper right) with a front addition built for a cidery.
The barn pictured was built in 1838. The two smaller structures (shown left on the far right side) were torn down sometime between 1965- 1985.
George Hester, an adolescent, fifth generation German-American, worked on a farm near Richmond, PA just south of Mount Bethel. The farm was owned by Carl Miller and set the stage for a life that George would dedicate to farming. He would leave Miller's farm by 1905 and find his own land in Upper Mount Bethel.
George Hester was forced to work as a farmhand as an adolescent, here around 1885.
George Hester and Irene "Mae" Cole
around the time they wed in 1897. Their only daughter, Elsie, was born four years later.
By 1910, Elsie Hester, an only child, lived on her parents' farm in Mount Bethel, PA. Unusual for that time, Elsie would go on to get her college degree at what is now Eastern Stroudsburg University.
Elsie (left) with her four cousins. The house behind
them (center) and barn (in far right) still stand today.
Elsie and Vernon on their wedding day. Pictured above is their honeymoon car- a "Model T" Ford.
Elsie and Vernon wed on Sept 27, 1924. As the only child of George and Mae Hester, the farm eventually passed to Elsie and her husband. Later, the couple would rename the farm "Elvern Farms," a combination of their two names; a title that still remains today.
Doris Arlene Mack was born in Sept of 1926, the eldest of two daughters of Vernon and Elsie. By the time Doris was a teenager, her parents had acquired the farm in Mount Bethel, PA. She, like her mother, would study at Eastern Stroudsburg University.
Doris (right) with her sister Helen in 1936 and in 1944 with their apple trees.
Vernon and Elsie built a pond on on their land and thrived on Elvern Farms for many years. Their daughter Doris and her husband Herb helped them manage the farm and ran a bed & breakfast called Elvern Country Lodge.
Vernon and Elsie in front of their pond, 1950 and Elsie in her garden, 1948.
Todd Deen was born to Herb and Doris Deen on May 9, 1955. Like his grandfather Vernon, Todd spent many hours on a tractor, and like his father, has a love for the arts. Todd would one day teach his son the same farming techniques taught to him.
Todd Deen (here in 1965) had practically grown up on a tractor (Above at age 3 in 1955.)
The storefront building (which now houses Hardball's tasting room) was built sometime between 1920 and 1940. Like the barn, it has transformed over the many years. During the 1960s and 70s the building was used as an antique shop (antique truck, above right.) Notice the top window near the roof (painted white in 1954 and red in 1968- above left) is no longer in the current building (left taken in 2019.)
By 1974, the orchard had expanded. Vernon (shown left at age 74 with his dog Missy) still worked Elvern Farms with his wife and their grandson Todd. For Vernon, there is no such thing as retirement.
Geoff had entrepreneurship written in his DNA. From his grandparent's farmers markets to his parent's bakery, cidery/farm tours, and local gift shops, business surrounded Deen his whole life. Not only did he acquire skills that would help him later, but Geoff also had an appreciation for quality and tradition, therefore working very hard to keep it that way.
Our founder and CEO, Geoffrey Todd Deen was born in this year in 1982 on Feb 13th to Todd and Linda Deen. Always quick to smile, Geoff enjoyed anything with peanut butter, drinking his Pappy Deen's homemade iced teas, and absolutely LOVED baseball (and obviously still does.)
Elsie and Vernon Mack at their stand in the Delaware Water Gap, circa 1974.
4 year old Geoff Deen in 1986 with younger sister Jenn, and later in 1989.
He may be hard working, but Deen has always had a playful side (above, sled riding in 1989 with his mom and family pup, Kabuki.)
Freshman year at Moravian College with teammate and long-time friend, Matt in 2000.
By the time he reached college, Deen had established a deep passion for baseball. Playing mostly catcher, he surrounded himself with others who loved the game and weren't afraid to get their hands dirty. Like his grandfather Herb, Deen played baseball from a young age: from Little League in Mount Bethel, to Bangor High School, to Blue Mountain League, and finally at Moravian College. Geoff "loved to play catcher, to see the whole field, call every pitch, and outsmart the batter."
Deen made his first batch of hard cider in Nov 2013. For years, his father had pressed apples on Elvern Farms to make cider, but while on a train ride to work, Geoff had an epiphany- bring together his family's tradition of fresh pressed cider and his love for baseball, and Hardball Cider was born. Left, is his first trial run. "I bought a 5 gallon homebrew kit," Deen remembers. "It wasn't carbonated, but had great apple aromas. We had it for Thanksgiving and I thought, maybe I could try this on a grander scale."
November 2015 brought new marketing for Hardball Beverage, Inc. A new logo and labels were put on 12oz bottles and sold in 4 packs at local markets. With it's memorable branding, it didn't take long for Hardball Cider to make a name for itself.
Hardball Beverage grew to include over 1200 grape vines and a winery license. In addition to the apple and pear wines he had made before, Deen looked to expand his lineup with his own white and red grape wines. The vineyard was planted in May 2016 (below.)
Elvern Farms had over 20 acres of apple and pear trees of various varieties by the summer of 2016. In order to facilitate Hardball's growth, Deen has the bottom section of the barn upgraded. In addition to the 50+ year old press, Hardball also added a newly-poured concrete floor with drainage troughs, two 1200 gallon fermentation tanks, two 500 gallon brite tanks, and over 150 custom labelled kegs in two sizes.
Geoff and his father Todd planting more apple trees on the orchard in May 2016.
By 2016 Hardball Cider had really kicked into high gear. Deen's initial vision and dream for Hardball was to have his hard cider sold in every major league ballpark.
He started small with Coca-Cola Park in Lehigh Valley (Deen being interviewed upper left,) FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading (billboard above,) PNC Field in Moosic, PA and a stadium you may have heard of: Citizens Bank Park (left) home of the Philadelphia Phillies.
In November 2016, Deen received a letter from OnDeck Business Loans telling him he would be one of three companies to pitch his product on the Rachael Ray Show. Deen made his pitch to business tycoon Barbara Corcoran, and won $10,000 to enhance his company.
Deen, second from left, with chef Curtis Stone,
Shark Tank's Barbara Corcoran, and Rachael Ray.
What did the pros think? Rachel Ray was impressed by Deen's enthusiasm, chef Curtis Stone told Geoff he absolutely loved his sample of cider, and Deen got a one-on-one consultation with Barbara herself where she praised him for his hard worth ethic.
2017 was the year Hardball Cider started distribution in local PA counties. After over a year of customers asking where they could get his cider, Deen expanded his product with distributors nearby so his fans could get cider at local bars and grocery stores like Weis Markets. He even opened locations in Bethlehem and Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia (below.)
Hardball Cider came home to it's roots and opened its current taproom in 2019. Since then, we have food trucks, live music, craft beer from local breweries, along with wine and cider for our themed events every weekend at the beautiful 77 acre farm in Mount Bethel, PA.
During the COVID 19 outbreak, Hardball Cider was forced to navigate changes: such as no indoor seating, TO-GO sales only, shipping to other states, and table service virtually overnight.
Yet, despite the pandemic, Hardball thrived, as it was one of the only places in the area (at that time) that was able to have regular food trucks and live music every weekend, plus plenty of outdoor space. This was also the first summer we introduced tasting flights and slushies to our lineup!
In addition to success at the taproom, our distribution footprint tripled within a two month span in March of 2021 with Brewery Products out of York, PA and Kleckner & Sons Distribution in Lewisburg joining us with Resort Beverage in the Poconos.
2021also brought the first event with over 1,000 people at our Pets for Vets Event in November. Outdoor lighting was installed, along with six large firepits for our guests' pleasure. PLUS we added a Hardball Cider trailer for offsite festivals (below.)
As demand grew, so did our equipment and in summer of 2022, we added much needed equipment (a semi-auto can filler, larger tanks, and kegs) to our cidery.
Limited production space is still an issue, and in 2022 only 25% of distribution demand was met.
Our largest event to date was on August 19, 2022 with over 2,600 people visiting Hardball Cider for our Pickle & Pierogi Event. We saw six food vendors, live music all day, along with a pierogi eating and pickle brine chugging contest, which meant that everyone had a blast. We even made a dill pickle cider!
Starting in December of 2022 and into Jan of 2023, Hardball Cider put in three TVS for digital signage and customer enjoyment. New flooring and 10 new tables and bar height chairs were added for additional indoor seating for those days when rain and cold are an issue.
In Feb of 2023, Hardball Cider partnered with Start Engine, an online lending platform that provides a crowd funded investment opportunity to all of Hardball Cider family members, friends, and fans. Stay tuned for updates coming in 2024.
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