Maine media profile thesis-inspired hard cider business

Biology major Ben Manter ’11 used his senior thesis experience to kick start a Maine-based hard cider business with classmates Ross Brockman and Tyler Mosher.

A photo from Ben Manter's bio thesis. Part of Manter's work was seeing if the specific yeast strain used in brewing hard cider affects the size and number of bubbles, which is known to affect the taste and aroma of a carbonated alcoholic beverage.

A Mainer whose family has deep farming roots in Vassalboro, Manter wrote his Bates senior thesis on cider fermentation. He looked at how different strains of yeast affect the physical properties of hard cider, including taste.

Visiting Assistant Professor Stephanie Richards ’84 served as his adviser.

Reporter Katy England of The Maine Edge says that Downeast Cider House‘s product, Original Blend, is unlike other ciders on the market. Many are either dry and light, like a sparkling wine, or heavy and sweet, like pub ciders, she says.

Downeast Cider is “crisp and tart…like real cider.” In other words, you can quaff it.

That’s partly due to the yeast and fresh ingredients (no concentrate or sweeteners). The apples come from Ricker Hill Orchards in Turner, a few miles from Bates, and the brewers are using ale yeast, rather than champagne or other yeast strain. The business is based in Waterville.

“The ale yeast gives it a different flavor profile,” Brockman tells England. “It gives it a better flavor, something you can keep drinking.”

The trio pooled their savings and family gifts, and have spent about $60,000 to get the business up and running. To save money, they’re living in a one-room apartment in Waterville.

But they don’t mind.

“It helps that we’re young,” Brockman tells the Morning Sentinel. “If you take everything you have and you lose it all, it’s a bigger problem when you’re 50 than when you’re 23. If we lose everything we have, we’re not far from square one anyway.”

Kegged and sold currently in a few Waterville and Portland pubs, Downeast Cider will be available more widely in special bottled batches and, once they arrive, in cans.


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