Here at Jack’s Hard Cider, we are so proud of our team. We’ve already introduced you to our president, Jonathon Patrono. Now we want you to meet one of the men currently behind our crisp and refreshing ciders—Brian Bolzan.
Since Brian took over as a cider maker at Jack’s in the fall of 2015, he has continued making our well-loved flagship ciders, Helen’s Blend and Original, and has added to our lineup with the introduction of our Dry Hopped, Peach and Pear ciders. Of course, no one can make all of these delicious ciders alone. Brian has the help of so many on our Jack’s team—especially cider maker Joe Cuneo-Tomasi, who shares the credit on the creation of many of our ciders.
The Early Years
Brian’s path to becoming a cider maker at Jack’s started way back when he was a curious 10-year-old in Pine Bush, New York, in the Hudson Valley. Both of Brian’s parents grew up on farms in upstate New York, so as a child he was surrounded by fresh produce and exposed to eating healthy and utilizing the best in local foods. His grandmother, who was a whiz in the kitchen, allowed Brian to experiment with cooking. Brian shares, “My grandmother was a big foodie. She would buy ingredients and just let me have at it in the kitchen.”
Eventually, Brian explored his passion for homebrewing beer and then made the leap to working in a professional brewery, Flying Dog, located in Frederick, Maryland. Brian didn’t start as a brewer, but rather as a quality assurance lab technician. In that role, he learned about the commercial brewing process and how to test for factors that would lead to creating better products each time. He also learned to fine tune recipes and develop best practices.
It was during this time that Brian’s cousin approached him to help open a food truck, The Sprouted Spoon, in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia (which was just a half-hour from his main gig at Flying Dog). Brian used his self-taught kitchen skills and his experience working in the brewery to help create a menu by building recipes that highlighted flavors that marry well together.
Welcome to Jack’s Hard Cider
In order to be closer to his fiancée, who lives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Brian decided to make the move to our area. He had been to the Jack’s Tasting Room several times and really enjoyed the products. As a home brewer, he had toyed with making his own ciders, too. He loved the idea of getting to be more hands-on in the cider-making process. Brian says, “I wanted to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty. I also wanted to work in an area that produces the fruit that we use in our own products.” He continues, “I really appreciate all of the autonomy and creative control I have here at Jack’s. I love that I got to immediately inspire some new recipes.”
One of Brian’s favorite parts of working as a cider maker at Jack’s is the small-batch experimenting he gets to do to create new recipes. He just finished working on a maple cider infused with 4½ gallons of Pennsylvania maple syrup straight from Hamilton’s Maple Farms in Potter County.
Other small-batch ciders that are on the horizon are a bourbon barrel limited release cider that is made in barrels provided by our friends at A. Smith Bowman Distillery. (Be sure to check out some of our favorite cider cocktails that we make with A. Smith Bowman products.) There is also a cyser—a cider and honey mead blend—in the works.
Brian’s goals for working at Jack’s are to be a part of the team as we grow our company. He shares, “I’m excited to contribute to extending our market and production all over the East Coast and beyond. We have all the materials we need. We hope to continue to build interest and support for our product.”
He continues, “I want to expand the company and our offerings. I’m passionate about niche small-batch, in the 500-gallon range, cider making. I love to play with our fresh fruit and let the flavors speak for themselves.”
Brian concludes, “The new American craft mentality is that we can push the limits of traditional cider. It always starts with fresh apples, but cider can be made with peaches, plums, nectarines, raspberries, blackberries―actually, the sky’s the limit regarding kinds of ciders we can make. If I can dream it, the potential and possibilities are endless.”
Jack’s Hard Cider — Produced from Pennsylvania Apples. Pressed On-Site. Never from Concentrate.