New England: the birthplace of the United States, the home of our founding fathers and an origin of cider that flourishes today and has for centuries. In the western region of this storied corner of the Lower 48 lies Springfield, Massachusetts, where Soham Bhatt, Jake Mazar and team created Artifact Cider Project: dream-turned-reality for two best friends who wanted to showcase apples grown on New England orchards with great tasting, locally available cider.
Having grown up together in Massachusetts, Bhatt and Mazar also began drinking cider together. After graduating college and developing their careers, the two lost a dear friend, causing both young men to reassess where they were in their own lives.
“We were kind of reevaluating our lives and I think the one thing that we felt was really missing in our area, at least, was a dry cider that we would have wanted to drink, that was accessible to everyone,” Bhatt says. “A cider that made you feel connected to both the history of this area but also that it’s part of this fabric of where we come from, it’s part of the American fabric, it’s part of the New England fabric.”
Bhatt and Mazar knew they wanted to begin a cider business, so they sought the advice from tenured and prestigious producer West County Cider, whom Bhatt considers the experts of Massachusetts. “When we first wanted to get into making cider, I obsessively called their house until Judith [Maloney] actually picked up the phone and we talked,” he recalls. “I got to go visit the orchard and try some apples that I had never tried before.”
And thus with mentorship and guidance of Judith and Field Maloney at West County Cider, the duo began fermenting their own product with apples from local orchards around western Massachusetts and Artifact Cider Project was born. Just three years later, the team now uses Pine Hill Orchard as the home base for their ciders.
With the original drive for creating a cider company sparking from cider history in New England, that curiosity remains true to Bhatt and Mazar’s cidermaking goals for the company. “It’s not just about history, it’s not just about apples and orchards,” says Bhatt. “It is very much about those things, but it’s also about us and what I’m inspired by and how I want to express the fruit.”
Fruit like in the juicy and tart wild-fermented Wild Thing, recently canned and released in 16-ounce pounders for the people. Or the Roxbury, made from hand-collected Roxbury Russets, a variety discovered in its namesake Massachusetts town, and the May We Have Your Attention, Please, another wild-fermented cider blended with black currants.
Moving forward, Bhatt says they would like to grow Artifact Cider into a region wide company that contributes to the history of New England and comes to mind when the consumer thinks Massachusetts cider, something the entire team is committed to. “Over the years, my personal interest and passion hasn’t gone down at all,” Bhatt says. “In fact, I just find myself getting more and more passionate about it as time goes on. I don’t know if the United States has really found its voice in terms of what an American cider is and we’re trying to contribute to that dialogue.”