Like many great inventions, Steve Kaiser’s hard apple cider sorbet started out as an accident.
Kaiser is a former longtime Kirkland resident who now lives in Edmonds where he runs Core Hero hard cider and sorbet. He started making hard cider years ago and used to joke about making hard cider sorbet, but with his sorbet stocked in the Kirkland Whole Foods and a contract with PCC coming next month, he may have stumbled into a profitable product.
“It’s one of those jokes that you think about, and maybe it’s not such a crazy idea after all,” he said.
The sorbet is made from the same apple cider Kaiser has been making for years and comes in two flavors: apple cranberry and apple cinnamon. He grows his own apples in his yard as well as at a 180-tree orchard on Lopez Island. For his business to be truly self-sustaining he will have to double the size of his orchard, which is fine by Kaiser, who is planning on running it after he retires and moves to the island.
Cider apples are different from store-bought apples, which generally contain more sugar. Cider apples were originally grown in the United Kingdom, Kaiser said, and cider was a popular drink in Colonial times when water was often unsafe to drink. As Kaiser walked through his small yard orchard, he pointed to a variety of apples, many of which were kinds that wouldn’t end up on store shelves. One kind called Brown Snout, is a traditional English hard cider apple that grows green but turns brown from the tip, eventually spreading across the whole apple. However, depending on the blend, he can use up to seven varieties of apples, which can include more common and sweeter ones like Granny Smith or Fuji.
Kaiser got interested in making cider as a hobby some years back when he lived in Kenmore and he has been producing it commercially for around four years. He credits his original interest in cider as coming from a relative who let him pick apples at their Eastern Washington orchard. Every part of the process, aside from growing the lions share of the apples, happens in his Edmonds garage where he presses, ferments and bottles the cider, which is then made into sorbet by freezing and adding honey. He also offers a dry cider, which he said is especially popular among the younger drinking crowd.
Though his cider and sorbet has been picked up by major retailers, Kaiser still sells at the Edmonds and Lopez Island farmers markets and is looking at expanding to the Kirkland farmers market. Farmers markets hit a niche customer base of cider drinkers in their 20s and those generally older than 50. For younger cider drinkers, Kaiser said customers are interested in knowing where their drink comes from, often opting for local options over bigger commercial products.
Kaiser said he wants to keep his operation small for now and gradually scale up so he can stay involved in all aspects of his business. He’s sold around 130 pints of hard sorbet in the two Whole Foods locations, but thinks business may slow a bit during the winter. But for now business seems to be going great.
“It just started to take off like crazy,” he said.