Project image
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$2,013
pledged of $15,000pledged of $15,000 goal
19
backers
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Tue, August 4 2015 5:27 PM UTC +00:00
$2,013
pledged of $15,000pledged of $15,000 goal
19
backers
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Tue, August 4 2015 5:27 PM UTC +00:00

About

Thanks for checking out our story. Here’s a little about us first. My name is Galen Cunning and I'm here along with my wife, Stacey.  We are a couple of cider enthusiasts in Buxton, Maine. Our goal with this Kickstarter project is to build a ciderhouse, and we need your help.

Having traveled the country and meeting Stacey, I returned to my roots on the coast of Maine.  It was certainly a circuitous route, filled with many adventures.  Along the way, while plying my trade in kitchens, I discovered a love and respect for the fruit of the apple tree.

Young Galen strolls through an orchard with his mom.
Young Galen strolls through an orchard with his mom.

New England has a rich history with apples; they sustained the earliest settlers, from the farmers and fishers to the land-owning aristocrats that eventually broke from England to form our country. There is a common thread that unites the generations: the cider barrel. Practically everyone had one, as it was often safer than drinking water. In my culinary travels, I encountered an heirloom apple CSA at a local restaurant I cooked for. This exposure to its diverse nature really cemented my love of the pomme. My enjoyment of apples has led to my desire to carry on a New England tradition by crafting small-batch hard cider, essentially a larger scale version of the cider barrel in the basement.

The newly planted orchard and 230-year old farmhouse.
The newly planted orchard and 230-year old farmhouse.

My wife and I have recently purchased a 230-year old farmhouse, complete with field and barn. This is where we will headquarter Belstar Orchards. I have started filling the field with heritage apple trees of cider-specific fruit. The barn will be Stacey’s domain, where she can welcome in those who have traveled from near and far to sample our fine vintage cider; her 16 years as a high school English teacher have provided her with plenty of cat-wrangling abilities for any of those who may get rowdy.

Oak barrels for fermenting and aging cider, housed in the barn, future site of the tasting room.
Oak barrels for fermenting and aging cider, housed in the barn, future site of the tasting room.

Our goal is to bring first-class hard cider to the Northeastern United States. We rely on traditional cider-making methods and cider-specific apple varieties (picked right here in Maine!). Our vision is one of restoration, connecting craft cider enthusiasts with an abundant Maine resource: The Apple. By using traditional methods of cider-making, we hope to rekindle a passion for cider.

Having crafted award-winning batches of New England hard cider for the past four years, we have decided to move forward with the creation of Belstar Orchards, LLC. To do this, we need to convert a portion of our house (the Ell) into a commercial food-processing facility. Using my fifteen years of experience working in kitchens, along with regulators and local contractors, we will build a fine one. We will replace the current floor with a stronger one, insulate, plumb, and rework the electrical system for higher loads, as well as making the surfaces easily cleanable. We will create a space that can be a processing hub for apple cider, jams and jellies, and other value-added products. Having a space for small-batch production and processing will boost not only our fortunes but those of farmers and small-scale producers nearby, allowing for flexibility and lower costs.

Miss E, our cat extraordinaire, awaits visitors.
Miss E, our cat extraordinaire, awaits visitors.

What We’ve Done So Far

  • Produced award-winning home-brewed cider for the last four years to refine our craft. 
  • Planted 48 two-year old apples trees in May 2015, along with 60 rootstock and freshly grafted trees. These young trees and rootstock will fill the the orchard out next year, along with another 25 two-year old trees to be planted next spring. 
  • Licensing with Uncle Sam and the State of Maine. (I’m sure you all understand the enormity of this task!) 
  • Purchased grinder, press, fermenter, and other equipment. This is commercial grade small-scale processing equipment, allowing us to find and process the fruit we prefer for cider. 
  • Rezoned our property to allow for increased flexibility moving the business forward. 
  • Created a brand through logo design, grassroots marketing, and word of mouth. (We fully expect to sell out of our projected 63-case initial vintage.)
  • Continuously conducted market research on both our competitors and our target market segments. 
  • During our travels locally, nationally, and internationally, conducted informal analyses of wine, beer, liquor and cider operations.
The press, purchased and inaugurated in 2015.
The press, purchased and inaugurated in 2015.

How Your Funds Will Be Used

We are ready to go – we've got the tools, we've got the space, and we've got the desire. But we need a little help transforming this dream into a reality. With your support, we will be able to hire contractors to complete the build-out of the cidery, to purchase items for the orchard, and to buy equipment to produce a final product. Your investment will help us to fund the following:

A Timeline of Our Project

Our goal is to start the build-out as soon as the funds are raised, with a completion date of September 1, 2015. The completion of this will occur just in time for the fall apple season – harvesting, storing, pressing, fermenting, and bottling those beautiful little apples, all using the materials that you helped us to purchase!

Risks and challenges

The completion of our ciderhouse project should be fairly simple. We will use local contractors, along with quality materials, to update our farmhouse. We will need to move with urgency if we want to start fermentation in September, but there is flexibility with that date in regards to the cider-making window.

The most challenging problem we foresee will be meeting market demand, as we will be a very small vintage cidery. If we do our job right (creating a beverage with the correct flavor profile and texture), the annual vintage will sell out, be thoroughly enjoyed, and the market will demand more. Unfortunately, once we release a vintage, it will be 6-8 months before another is ready. Hence our dilemma with market demand.

There are two solutions we see. First, introduce new product of similar make-up at similar volume, perhaps at a different time of year. Second, increased vintage volume, which is preferable (if we can maintain quality), as the economies involved will allow for higher profits. This, however, comes with complications, as the logistics of fermentation in larger vessels and transportation of raw goods will be a challenge. These, of course, will be good problems to have, as our marketing and sales dollars are creating market demand. With time (and I am sure a lot of trial and error), I feel we can overcome these obstacles.

Another problem that could arise is the lack of market demand. This is the essential problem for many small businesses. We feel this has an easy solution. If this happens, we will increase our sales force and budget to reach larger markets. For example, If we were met with a weak market here in Portland, Maine (doubtful, if you understand Mainers’ thirst for cider), we will strike out for the markets of Boston or New York, where the draw of the State of Maine brand has a strong presence. This will also increase our costs of production, as our product, when crossing state lines, will need additional permitting, as well as increasing the cost of sales, advertising, and delivery. These additional costs will have to be factored into the product cost, but the profile of our product and the packaging is currently built to withstand a higher price.

Fully relying on the support of the community, we know that we will be able to meet any challenges head on and overcome them. Thank you so much for taking the time to learn a bit more about us and joining us on our journey. Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns. We appreciate you! Cheers!

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 10 or more About US$ 10

    Handwritten thank you card good for one complimentary cider tasting at Belstar Orchards.

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    Pledge US$ 25 or more About US$ 25

    Belstar Orchards bumper sticker and complimentary tasting.

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    Limited 3 backers
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    Pledge US$ 50 or more About US$ 50

    Belstar Orchards tanktop, sticker, and complimentary tasting.

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    Limited 2 backers
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    Pledge US$ 100 or more About US$ 100

    Membership to "The Cider Gang", Tanktop, and Sticker!
    **See FAQs for more details about "The Cider Gang".

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    Limited 8 backers
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Funding period

- (30 days)