Ash & Elm Cider Co.

Rooted in Tradition. Crafted for Today.

Filtering by Tag: production

From 'Opening' to 'Open'

Guys, we did it! We opened a cidery and it only took us 2.5 years!

Now that we’re open, our focus has changed from fundraising, seeking legal counsel, location hunting, permitting, and general contracting to managing daily operations. These are the things we’re focusing our energy on these days:

1.       Staffing. Up until May of this year, we were a pretty lean operation of me (Andrea) keeping everything moving and Aaron helping out with production and overall business decisions on nights and weekends. In May we hired our first employee, Joseph, as an Assistant Cider Maker. He put in long hours leading up to our opening to make sure we had cider ready, kegs were cleaned of all the little tiny rust spots that settled in from unloading them in the rain and not wiping them off (my bad), and improving the efficiency of the production process. Then we hired Melissa to run our tasting room and kitchen, who helped create our menu, made sure we had everything we needed to run a retail storefront, and taught me about standard serving practices. Finally, we hired Wes to make sure every customer is treated well in the tasting room and to turn visitors into regulars.

My job has changed from creating job descriptions and making hiring decisions to worrying about whether our employees like their jobs, are getting enough hours, and are as excited about the future of Ash & Elm as we are. For the record, I’m pretty sure we lucked out with each of them, but I still spend a lot of time thinking about how to make sure they are all getting out of Ash & Elm what they hoped to when they signed on to this crazy ride.

The whole team! From left to right: Joseph, Wes, Aaron, Andrea, and Melissa

The whole team! From left to right: Joseph, Wes, Aaron, Andrea, and Melissa

2.       Distribution. A lot of folks have asked when they can get our cider from bars and restaurants. Of course, there’s a short and a long answer. The short: ‘Soon, hopefully!’ The long: The state alcohol permit we need to make and sell cider (a Farm Winery permit, for those interested) doesn’t allow self-distribution. Which means I could have bars and restaurants with checks in hand waiting to put our cider on tap, but legally I can’t sell it to them. Instead, I have to sell the cider to a distributor, who would then sell it to the bar.

Fun fact! Our tasting room is on the ground floor of a three story building, and our Farm Winery permit only covers the first floor. If one of the businesses operating on the top two floors wanted cider, we would have to sell it to a distributor, who would then have to drive 10 miles away to their warehouse, who would then have to load it back up and bring it back to our building to sell to the top floor. Silly laws.

We have had meetings with multiple distributors, and our goal is to have that relationship lined up and going by the end of summer. Hang tight, we’ll get there, and we’ll make sure you all know about it!

3.       Getting the word out. Our tasting room has been open for three weeks now. A lot of my focus is shifting to marketing, sales, and promotions. In the short term, that will happen via events in the tasting room and participation in festivals throughout the city. Longer term, that means pounding the pavement to get bars and restaurants to buy into our product (see #2 on why that hasn’t happened yet). New menu options, seasonal ciders, consistency, and sponsorships/partnerships are always on my mind as avenues to explore as we grow our business.

Our first big event is Ciderside Chats! Head over to the event page by clicking on the photo.

Our first big event is Ciderside Chats! Head over to the event page by clicking on the photo.

4.       Data Crunching. If you know Aaron and me, you know that we both LOOOOOVVVEEE data and Excel. Fun fact #2! Aaron is an electrical engineer, and I have a Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in epidemiology, so using data to predict the future gets us more excited than it really should. Anyway, now that we actually have tasting room sales and numbers, we can start crunching data. How much on average does a person spend in the tasting room? How many ounces of cider does the average customer drink, and how much does that increase if the customer also orders food? Which ciders are selling the best, and given sales in our first month, can we predict what our annual sales might be? When does it make sense to add another employee?

Truly, it is so nice to be open after such a long time. Transitioning from ‘starting’ to ‘managing’ has been invigorating. Thanks for joining us for the start-up phase of the business, and I hope you continue to enjoy the ride!

Everything is Happening!

It’s about time for an update on our progress, wouldn’t you say? I’ve been meaning to write a blog about what we’re working on for a while now, but so much happens in a day that that update is old news after just a few hours. But you know what, the people deserve to know! So, here’s an update on a few key areas:

1.       Construction – We are majorly, deeply in the thick of construction on our production facility right now. Concrete floors are being excavated, re-poured, grinded (ground?), and epoxied. Internal walls are getting put up and wired so we can have an office, kitchen, and bathrooms. Electrical work is being patched in so that we can run great big machines and tiny little laptops. And, we’re digging a moat around our building, too, just for kicks (just kidding, that's electrical work too).

You're looking at what will be two bathrooms, a lab, a commercial kitchen, and a walk-in cooler.

You're looking at what will be two bathrooms, a lab, a commercial kitchen, and a walk-in cooler.

Still to come on the construction side of things is the tasting room next door, which will get moving as soon as the production space is finished.

2.       Production – All of our permits have been granted, and we’re starting our first test batches of cider in the space. We started with a small batch (330 gallons) of our flagship Semi-Sweet cider to make sure everything runs smoothly before we size up.  As of this morning, things are fermenting away and creating a nice apple-y smell underneath the drywall dust and dirt smell.

Aaron pitching the yeast in our test batch. 

Aaron pitching the yeast in our test batch. 

We also have some nice heirloom apple juice bubbling away that we’ll age and release sometime in the fall, and some juice from our friends at Tuttle Orchards in Greenfield as part of our local orchard partner lineup. Altogether we have about 415 gallons of cider in process right now.

3.       Marketing – In addition to the brass-tacks of getting our production going and construction managed, we’re trying to spread the word that we’re coming for Indy in a matter of months. We’ve had a bit of media buzz already, which we really appreciate! The Indianapolis Star featured us as a business to watch in 2016, and Indianapolis Monthly had a nice little article about us too! We love that the word is getting out there and would love YOU, our FANS to continue that good work. Retweet us on Twitter, come to events we’re pouring at (Indy Pies and Pints and Corks and Forks are your next opportunities!), like us on Facebook, and gather up your cider-drinking pals and let them know that we’re on our way!

4.       Grand Opening – So…we’ve keyed in on a date for our GRAND OPENING! Of course, we can’t share it with you yet because it’s just a little bit too touch-and-go with construction at the moment, but know that we’re planning a killer party, at least four cider flavors, giveaways, and tasty food. Go ahead and black out your calendar for May, because it’s probably going to be sometime in that month, and if we’re all lucky, you’ll be able to drink some of our cider on tap at your favorite downtown bars and restaurants well before that.

Stay tuned! Like I mentioned, as soon as I post this, something will change, but we're circling the end of our 'startup' phase and moving toward our 'operational' phase really soon. Cheers!

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