Four years ago, Rob Brosofsky was sitting in a train station in Moscow when he ordered a pint of craft cider—and changed his life. “I’m not a beer drinker,” he explains, “and I’m allergic to the sulfides in wine, so this was the perfect crossover drink for me.”
But he wasn’t about just drinking it. “I used to do the Pan Mass Challenge, and my wife and I came here often on vacation, so we already knew that we loved Provincetown,” he says. “We were already emotionally connected. So it wasn’t just that we wanted to start a cider business—it was that we wanted to start a cider business in Ptown.” They sold their two Florida timeshares, moved to Ptown, and learned how to make cider.
And a passion was born. “You have to understand,” says Brosofsky, “I’m not a reader. I’ve probably read four books in my entire adult life. But suddenly I was devouring everything I could get my hands on pertaining to cider. I read about the science of it, the styles, everything, every night.” As his obsession with cider grew into something more refined—an obsession with making good cider—he learned about the generosity of the industry. “I was on the phone one night with Mike Beck out at Uncle John’s Cider in Wisconsin,” he says. “We talked for over an hour. He thought nothing of it. Everyone is about the good of the craft cider industry as a whole.”
The country is catching on. “Craft cider is where craft beer was twelve or fifteen years ago,” he says. “It’s poised for tremendous growth. People are looking for ciders that are more local and more interesting.”
Provincetown doesn’t have to look far. “I’m thrilled with how successful the first summer was,” says Brosofsky. “The support of local businesses has been phenomenal. We’d originally planned a soft start in August, but Bayside Betsy’s championed us from the start, and it just seemed to snowball from there: Mac’s, Harbor Lounge, the Patio and Pepe’s, and Saints and Strangers… they’ve all been amazing. Ordering and re-ordering.” He pauses. “I can’t imagine doing this anywhere else,” he says.
Where does the name come from? In 1602, Captain Bartholomew Gosnold approached the east coast of what would become the United States and thought that the Cape was in fact a shoal—and that the dunes were a cleft in the shoal—and for 24 hours called it Shoal Hope (Hope is a Celtic word for cleft). The next day he duly noted that he was in fact on a cape, and—moreover—a cape offering the most spectacular amount of prized fish, and Cape Cod was named. Brosofsky wanted to honor the Cape’s earliest label and put it on labels of his own.
What’s under those labels? He currently offers four versions of Shoal Hope cider:
Monument: An off-dry cider flavored with dark brown sugar. The sugar is added after fermentation to impart a molasses flavor reminiscent of traditional New England ciders, and it’s a typical “new world modern” cider.
Honey Baby: A semi-sweet cider flavored with cranberry bog honey. The honey is added after fermentation to add to the flavor; it doesn’t increase the cider’s alcohol content.
Whiskey Barrel: Fermented dry and aged in American craft whiskey barrels for up to four weeks, this cider becomes infused with hints of traditional whisky flavors.
Sweet Little Tart: Known as a fruit cider, this is a blend of apple and cranberry juices fermented together and then back-sweetened with cane sugar. The sugar enhances the sweetness of the apple, which then gives way to a tart, tannin cranberry finish.
If everything about Shoal Hope Ciderworks is local, why aren’t the apples growing in our backyards? The answer is simple: different regions produce different apples at different times. The dessert/table apples that typically come from Massachusetts orchards aren’t always traditional cider apples, so Brosofsky sources apples from Oregon in early spring, from Wisconsin in early summer… and, finally, from Massachusetts in the fall. “We get crabapples from an orchard in Stow,” says Brosofsky. “They press them and within 48 hours I’ve started fermentation!”
Like wine, the cider ages in the bottle, “rounding itself off,” says Brosofsky. Is he making more so he can keep some aside to age? “I’d love to,” he responds. “But the demand for it now has been so great that I’m happy just to be keeping up with current orders!”
It’s a good problem to have.