Tuesday, 18 June 2019 19:02

Sterling Cidery in Fair Haven to Expand Offerings Under New Ownership

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Sterling Cidery in Fair Haven to Expand Offerings Under New Ownership SterlingCidery.com website photo

Two local couples bought the Sterling Cidery in Fair Haven over the winter, with plans for expanding operations while keeping the friendly community atmosphere that has welcomed customers since 2015.

They will celebrate with an official grand reopening from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 29, with the Owens Brothers performing.

Brandon Furber and Jana House and Craig Arnold and Lesley Gould were surprised and delighted to purchase the hard-cider establishment from founders Amy and Bobby Malo. The Malos both have full-time jobs and young children, so were unable to contribute as much time to the cidery as they wanted.

“We so admire and appreciate what they started,” Furber said of the Malos. “We have the privilege of carrying this forward. They had a great vision. They did the hard stuff for us.”

The tight-knit community-oriented new owners -- House and Gould are sisters who moved to Fair Haven in 1971 -- were regulars who loved the vibe and offerings of the Sterling Cidery since the business opened at 14451 Richmond Ave., just off Route 104A/Main Street in the village. Their reaction was “why didn’t we think of this?” after a while, but they were happy to support the new inviting establishment.

So when the Malos approached them to see if they were interested in buying, “It was perfect,” Gould said. “It was the right time in our lives. We were looking for something to do in the village.”

Furber estimates the foursome “talked about it for about two hours” before saying yes.

“I’m excited,” Arnold said. “I’ve been retired since 2012. This is going to be so fun.”

“Fun, friendly and family-oriented,” House added.

Increasing capacity, offerings

All four of the partners are actively involved in all aspects of the business; from cider making, preparing and serving food, tending the tasting room, and doing the necessary office work. However they all recognize they bring their own strengths to the business that will allow one or the other to take the lead in certain areas.

Furber, who grew up by nearby Sodus Bay and has about 20 years of professional orchard experience, leads the brewmaster process, which will continue with a core of cider offerings and rotating special flavors.

They expect the House Cider (which also references the sisters’ original surnames) to be the staple offering, as a sweet session cider lower in alcohol (5 to 5.25 percent). “It retains its natural sweetness,” Furber explained.

An Oak offering, similar to one the cidery previously offered, has a “smooth, creamy, buttery flavor,” that complements its oaken elements, Gould said. Also staying is a Hopped variety for those seeking a bit more oomph.

New to the mix as a regular offering is a Cherry cider that will please those interested in a fruitier palette. Beyond that, they expect to experiment a lot, noting that this is still a learning experience for them -- but one where they’ve received plenty of guidance.

“We’ve visited other cideries, and the owners will take you to the back and tell you anything you want to know,” Furber said. “That’s the way it is with the farming community.”

While the cidery was generally open for weekends only and closed during winter, the new owners are open five days a week during the peak season -- noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sundays until around Thanksgiving, and three days a week on the off-season.

Expanding their cider-making and storage capacity has been key, as they aim is to double production to at least 1,200 gallons of cider a year. They also plan to plant a small orchard in their backyard to further support their “tree-to-table” mindset.

The new owners plan to add a variety of food, much of it made or even grown on site. “We’re going to grow our own herbs, maybe some tomatoes, make our own pesto,” said House, who has taken lead in the kitchen.

They also plan to bake bread, cheesecake, scones and flatbread pizza, as well as offer charcuterie (meat and cheese) trays. “As many of our ingredients as possible will be locally provided,” House explained.

The cidery also offers a rotation of two craft beers as well as beverages from other hard cideries to make sure they always have plenty of options on tap.

Rising community

The Sterling Cidery has hosted a number of events over the years -- most recently a chili cookoff on a one-day license during the village’s February WinterFest -- and the new owners want to keep and expand on that tradition.

“The cidery plays a big role in the village,” Arnold said. “It’s homey. We’re community-oriented. It’s a great spot to host community events.”

Music will play an increased role as well, both with performers from around Oswego and Cayuga counties as well as regular open jams.

New features include a Firepit Friday, which is an open mic with rotating hosts, and Friends to Table, which Gould described as “a friendly gathering around a large table where everybody brings a dish to pass,” in a backyard they are making a bigger part of the operation. “Putting the backyard into use will give us so many more options for customers,” she added.

The Fair Haven Uke Group, hosted by Larry Kyle, brings some of its 30-plus ukulele-playing members in on one Sunday per month. Kyle leads an open jam another Sunday every month.

The new owners are also working with Murdock’s in Oswego for a weekly Wednesday bicycle ride and social gathering. They also have talked with a local writers’ group, among others, about recurring events.

“We have more ideas than we have days of the week,” Furber said with a laugh.

The foursome previously helped launch Fair Haven’s annual PorchFest -- where acoustic performers of many genres play across the village, with the cidery being a cornerstone -- and they have seen the village increasingly working together and ready to expand what Fair Haven offers visitors.

Many more businesses in the village have been open year-round in recent years, including the Hardware Cafe and General Store, neighboring Brandon’s Pub and Turtle Cove Marina on the West Bay. With the reopening of Pleasant Beach Inn and an increased spirit of cooperation, they anticipate more collaborative and village-wide events in the future.

The new owners of the Sterling Cidery look forward to future opportunities for the village, and their business, but they also emphasize that those who have grown to love the business will still enjoy it.

“Bobby and Amy created the vibe that has made this a really special place,” Furber said. “We just want to take what they’ve built and make it better.”

For more information, visit sterlingcidery.com.

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