Between the trees of their Hunterdon County farm and the walls of their Newark office, the team at Jersey Cider Works has planted a strong system of roots stretching across the state of New Jersey, resulting in expertly crafted ciders that stand alone as a testament to the often dismissed Garden State. Ironbound Hard Cider, the tasty result of Jersey Cider Works’ efforts, is the antithesis to what many mainstream ciders have become.
By keeping everything about the cider local, from the farm-grown ingredients to the workers that oversee every step of the cidermaking process, Ironbound ciders reintroduce the age-old favorite to the drinkers of New Jersey as what it has always been meant to be: a no-nonsense drink that reminds people of the great things that happen when people come together for a common cause, which in this case means making extremely sippable ciders.
When Jersey Cider Works was created in 2012, owner Charles Rosen, a former politician and ad agency aficionado, worked with faculty at Columbia University to develop a curriculum for a program to help formerly incarcerated citizens transition back into the workforce through hands-on, meaningful work. The program is meant to help the workers build emotional intelligence as well as identity value while rekindling the community and becoming a part of the local economy. While not everyone who is part of Rosen’s 32-person team is a part of this program, he thinks that it plays a big part in the company’s success.
Rosen is also a strong believer in the regenerative agricultural model, an approach that focuses on the soil, the basis of all things grown on it. Rosen’s belief in this method is in the power of the results, or as he puts it: “Better soil, better trees.” With the apples grown on these trees, Rosen, along with his business partner and winemaker Cameron Stark, creates ciders that reflect the high-quality, locally sourced ingredients and the hard work of his workers.
Since officially emerging onto the cider scene in late 2016, Ironbound has released three main blends: the Original, a summer blend and the Devil’s Harvest. Each is sulfite-free and has no sugar added with well-balanced acids and tannins. There have also been seasonal releases allowing the team to experiment with different flavor combinations, with an eye on balance.
In terms of ciders, there’s a plethora of possibilities to explore as Jersey Cider Works continues to expand while also maintaining the current line, which Rosen describes feeling like “building a plane and flying it at the same time.”
In order to stay true to the cidery’s “by New Jersey, for New Jersey” philosophy, Ironbound is only available to those within the Garden State. To take their crafted cider over state lines would go against what they’ve built so far, but Rosen is hopeful that within the next couple of years he’ll be able to transport Ironbound’s grassroots business model to other parts of the country. In the meantime, if you find yourself sitting at a seaside bar on your next trip to New Jersey, order an Ironbound and indulge in a liquid embodiment of the best the Garden State has to offer.