Shoal Hope Ciderworks
A hobby develops into a passion that ultimately launches a business. This familiar trajectory is playing out in a small business bay behind an auto garage on the tip of Cape Cod. On June 24, 2017, Rob Brosofsky delivered the first orders of hard cider to local Provincetown restaurants and markets, officially launching Shoal Hope Ciderworks.
The business began three years earlier with an idea that came to Brosofsky while walking his dog, Bella, along a stretch of beach in Provincetown where he and his family had purchased a vacation home two years earlier. After 30 years in the oil and gas industry that had him traveling the world, Brosofsky wanted to achieve two objectives with his new venture: what would he love to do, and what would keep him in Provincetown? He turned to cider because he didn’t care for beer, and the sulfites in wine give him migraines. Brosofsky wanted to offer an alternative to others as well. “I wanted to create something that would make you feel like part of an event,” he remembers.
Brosofsky dove headfirst into researching the process of opening his own cider business. “I’m not a reader. I don’t like to read,” He flatly states. “But, I was reading everything I could about cider. I read thousands of pages!”
The first order of business was to come up with a name for this enterprise. While on that same stretch of beach, Rob looked up at the Pilgrim Monument. “Monument Ciderworks” had a nice ring to it. So nice that someone else had thought of something a little too similar to it, in the eyes of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The next idea was to name it after Cape Cod, which he did. To be exact, he named it after what Bartholomew Gosnold had originally named this area. Upon first sight in 1602, Gosnold had thought this land was an island, and that the sand dunes of Truro and Provincetown were mountains. The next day, he rounded the tip and anchored in what is now Provincetown Harbor. He realized his geographic error while filling his stores with cod fish, and then Gosnold re-named the area Cape Cod.
Shoal Hope Ciderworks offers dry and off-dry apple-based cider that has the sweetness of Chablis and comes in four varieties. The Monument features brown sugar that’s added after the fermentation process is complete. Cranberry bog honey is added to the semi-sweet Honey Baby. Empty Barrel is aged for up to four weeks in American craft whiskey barrels. Sweet, Little Tart is a blend of apple and cranberry juices that are fermented together; cane sugar is added to sweeten the apple, yet it still offers a tart finish. The alcohol content, which hovers around 6.9%, is derived only from the natural amount of sugars in the fruit. Brosofsky only adds sugar or honey after the fermentation process is complete so it does not elevate the alcohol content. Conversely, he does not add water to lower the level of alcohol. The only added water used is to dissolve the sugar or thin the honey.
Coming from an industry where companies didn’t speak with one another for fear of industrial espionage, Brosofsky was amazed at the outpouring of support he received from fellow cider makers around the country. “Everyone was really open with their support and help,” Brosofsky recalls. That expression of encouragement wasn’t limited to the cider industry. “Everyone in town has been amazing,” he says. Town officials, local merchants and Brosofsky’s landlord all saw his vision and banded together to help him see it through.
Armed with information and a unique name, Shoal Hope Ciderworks launched with the support of Brosofsky’s wife, Kristin, a pharmaceutical professional who doubles as a “really good sounding board” for him. The financial backing came from sources well known to many entrepenuers…their credit cards and a home equity line of credit. Shoal Hope Ciderworks began by offering free tastings at events around town. Now, the hard cider can be found in restaurants and package stores as far away as Sandwich and locations continue to grow, which is a testament to the quality of the product. As Brosofsky says, “Being local sells the first bottle…being good sells the second.”
Brosofsky embraces locally sourcing as much as he can. “If I can’t get it in Provincetown, I’ll look on the Cape,” he states. “If it can’t be found on the Cape, I check across the state.” The chief ingredient, apples, are freshly juiced and pasteurized in Leominster, and within 72 hours they are in a tank in Provincetown and the fermenting process has begun. The whole process takes between five and seven weeks before the bottles of cider are placed in the homemade walk-in cooler (chilled by a window air conditioner), and ready for delivery. Along with 16-ounce bottles, the cider is delivered in one-way kegs as well. These completely recyclable plastic kegs arrive sterilized and pre-filled with carbon dioxide. Without the need to wash and sterilize traditional steel kegs, Brosofsky is able to greatly reduce the amount of water consumption required, which was the main area of concern for town officials.
Brosofsky is slowly beginning to see the first signs of “the economy of scale”—purchasing bottle caps in batches of 10,000 as opposed to 150 and moving a compressor outside to make room for a third tank to increase capacity. Perhaps the best sign of the company’s growth came in late October when Brosofsky hired his first employee.
The future is bright for Brosofsky and Shoal Hope Ciderworks. Securing a storage facility outside of Boston will help in the effort to establish a presence in the city. Brosofsky is adamant about one thing as the list of customers swells westward, however. He’ll only manufacture his product in Provincetown. Producing a refreshing alternative for consumers and creating year-round jobs on the Outer Cape is becoming more than a dream, it’s the hope of greater things to come.