It’s seldom that you happen upon a small business on the cusp of something big like Hard-Pressed Cider Company. The experience is a bit like following Lizzo or Kendrick Lamar before they were big and before they were “cool”. And although cider is very different from rap and hip hop, a business – be it music or food and drink – is still a business. Expansion is a risk, but if done right, can lead to great reward. This is the juncture at which owners Jaclyn and Rob Swanson find themselves, ready to start a family-owned farm and cidery.
The adventure started in a college dorm room at URI when Rob was a student. The hobby quickly became a “party trick” and soon, his peers were asking him to come to their living space, press apples, and center a celebration around it. When Rob saw how popular his product was, he got the idea to turn it into a business. After a brief stint in 2011 pressing apples at different farms, Rob decided to stay put and opened up Hard-Pressed on his aunt’s property, Windmist Farm in Jamestown. That same year, Rob’s wife Jaclyn joined the business, excited for the possibilities that it held.
Pressing your own cider is a complex, multi-step process of washing, grinding, layering, pressing, and fermenting the apples in stock. The company also uses only fresh apples, and no sugar is added to their yields once the pressing is done. This operation takes place in a small food trailer, and once the cider is ready, its sold directly from the place it’s made. In the fall, the couple gets a few large crates of apples each week from a local New England orchard. Jaclyn says that depending on the kind of apples as well as how far into the season you are, their cider will change from week to week.
“We find that that makes us unique… [Our customers] are actually really excited to taste that difference. From early season apples to late season apples you can really taste the huge difference in the cider. Early season cider is a little bit more tart, not quite as flavorful, but some people prefer it over late season cider which is more thick and syrup-y.”
From Labor Day to Christmas, both Jaclyn and Rob are busy on the weekends slinging cider and donuts. However, they have greater plans to make cider their full-time job.
Jaclyn says that the couple just bought a farm in West Greenwich that needs some work. But eventually, the two would like to grow their own apples and get into making hard cider, an endeavor that demands different permits and seemingly arbitrary requirements by the state. For now, you can catch Hard-Pressed Cider Company from Labor Day to Thanksgiving at Windmist Farm and from after Thanksgiving to Christmas at The Farmer’s Daughter Cut-Your-Own Christmas Tree Farm.
Hard-Pressed Cider Company
71 Weeden Lane, Jamestown • 595-4828