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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."
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