We had the good fortune of connecting with Keane Dufresne and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Keane, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
One of our favorite quotes is a total classic: “Do or do not, there is no try.” – Yoda This quote really resonates with us because it insists that we be and do our best- we refuse to half-ass anything! We have had our fair share of ups and downs with our business during this first year+ of operation, but we have never said “we’ll try it”, it’s always been “we’ll do it”. I think this has a huge impact on how we’ve approached the constant adaptations that COVID-19 has presented not only to us, but to our fellow small business owners. From opening during winter- which is difficult for any business- to break-ins, to facing a global pandemic six months after opening, to creating a desire and demand for a product in an area that didn’t know or understand the potential and diversity of cider, we have had to pivot our strategy pretty consistently. We are so passionate about what we are doing and we’re incredibly grateful not only to our community for believing in us, but to each other for keeping one another grounded and focused.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
CAREER & CHALLENGES: I paid my dues, as simple as that sounds. My family comes from a cider background, of course, but there weren’t really many cider jobs in Florida/Georgia as I was growing up, so I went into craft beer first. My first “craft beer” job was at Taco Mac and the more I learned about what craft beer was and all that went into it, it really started to intrigue me and I got kind of hooked! When I moved to Colorado, I started volunteering on canning lines and really just trying to learn as much as I could from anyone I could. Even when I arrived in Colorado in 2008, there weren’t many opportunities for cider work, so I kept on the craft beer path. Eventually I got a brewing job at Tommyknockers and I really got a taste of what it took to make a commercial batch of beer. From there I landed a great gig with New Terrain Brewing and as I worked there I was honest about my ambitions to start my own place. They were accepting and encouraging and without the support of the team behind that bar, our endeavor would have been a lot harder. That all being said, starting a business- let alone a cidery in a craft beer world- has been no easy feat! There are so many challenges to overcome and breaking into the craft scene in Colorado has been difficult but rewarding. Many people wrote us off, expressing that there wasn’t much of a market for cider here. But with our family background in cider, it gave us credibility, and so far with that history and our hard work, we’ve started to make a name for ourselves! LESSONS LEARNED: Primarily? Patience. Nothing comes easily and nothing comes fast when it comes to building a local business and brand. Starting a business seems simple enough, but in practice you really need to have a passion for what you’re doing. If the passion isn’t there, you won’t get very far. Because that’s what people/consumers are attracted to- especially these days. In some respects, a little transparency going a long way. When you are real with people, you gain real connections and real supporters- not just customers. Additionally, I’d advise anyone to be cognizant of the trends of their own industry as well as those around them. Craft beer managed to develop a “pub culture” in America which is a very European concept. It’s not necessarily about getting drunk, but about spending time with friends and family and neighbors and connecting with one another over a quality pint. After working in craft beer for about 8 years, I really got to get a feel of what craft beer has done for pub culture in the states and I really wanted to be able to do that for cider here. OUR STORY: Our Swiss inspiration comes from part-owner Ruth’s father, George Mueller. In Romanshorn, Switzerland- at the young age of sixteen- George became a part of the original Waldschänke. During WWII, George assisted in digging out the cellar of the original Swiss Waldschänke; which became a place where the entire village would come to relax, drink traditional unfiltered cider, and enjoy each other’s company. While George- now almost 99 years old- had to retire and leave his legacy behind, we have decided to carry it on here in the U.S., taking inspiration from his original unfiltered recipes while adding a modern Colorado twist. Our goal in opening the cidery in Denver, is to create that same welcoming atmosphere, where people from all walks of life can come together, connect, and enjoy a pint or two worry-free. Our team consists of George’s daughter Ruth and her husband, John, along with myself (Keane) and my wife, Kelley. We opened up shop in October of 2019 and were gaining traction when the first shutdown due to COVID-19 hit in March. Since then, we have been working tirelessly to maintain a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable space for our neighborhood, along with creating some of the most diverse and delicious ciders in the city. Some “haus” favorites include: – Base Kämp (original Swiss apple) – Limoncello Ginger (fresh lemon and ginger) – Hot Fuzz (peach habanero) – Prickly Pear (cactus flower) – The Northcider (hopped apricot) – Mad Lion (coffee apple) In addition to our cider, we’ve implemented a small coffeehaus, for which we have partnered with an up-and-coming roastery- Mad Loon Coffee Roasters based out of Morrison, CO. The owner/roaster, Zach Green, roasts only 4 pounds at a time, which yields some of the most flavorful coffee in town. Some of his profits are even put towards social justice organizations around the world! This February we also plan to open our own European/Swiss-inspired food truck to give our customers a fully immersive (and delicious!) Swiss-German experience. We plan to create rustic sandwiches, charcuterie boards, bratwurst- and even cheese fondu- all locally sourced from venders in and around our neighborhood. If the world were to know anything about our brand and story, we’d want it to be that our place is a not only a place where you can have a pint of deliciously crafted, unfiltered cider, but also a place where all are welcome and valued.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
That’s a tough one- this city is full of so many amazing hidden gems! For starters, we’d have to hit up a great breakfast spot. Our favorites are Sunny’s, Chicken Rebel, or Habit Donut Dispensary/Carbon. For other food & drink spots to hit up during the week, we’d definitely have to stop by Bear Creek Distillery or William & Graham for cocktails, Pints Pub for a classic English pub experience, Adrift for a tiki bar adventure, and Hops & Pie/Berkeley Donuts for fantastic donuts, pizza, and local beer. Our neighbors at Crock Spot, Crush Pizza & Tap, and Pepper Asian Bistro II totally deserve a shoutout for food and Diebolt, Factotum, and Bonaquisti for neighborhood craft beverage spots. If my friend wanted to go more towards the mountains, there are several amazing spots to hit up in Golden- like New Terrain, Coda, Bob’s Atomic Burgers, and Barrels & Bottles. Why are you doing this to me?? There are too many stellar spots to hit up in Denver- a week is not enough time to cover it all!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Great question. Many don’t realize how many people actually contribute to making a business successful. As hard as we ourselves have worked to get where we are, we are so fortunate to have the support of not only the rest of our family, but our friends and community members as well. I’ve come from a beer/brewing and sales background, and the encouragement from members of that community has been incredible. The craft beverage industry can be daunting and difficult to break into, so having people and businesses out there that have our back is reassuring. Many friends of mine have a ton of little tidbits here and there which really have helped us; whether it’s about distribution, fermenting, marketing, construction- you name it! Friends like Andrew Duvall from Resolute Brewing, to the entire team at New Terrain Brewing, to Dennis Stack at Lone Tree Brewing- they (and many more) have helped us really be able to carve our own way. Not to mention our cider friends like Mike Belochi at BOCO Cider, Brad Page from Colorado Cider Company, and Dana from Crooked City all the way in California-! We definitely get by with a little help from our friends! Truly though, I think Luke Smith over at Coda Brewing in Golden, CO really deserves a shoutout. He has been such a wealth of knowledge and encouragement for us, but he has also been incredibly real with us. He’s told us how difficult it can be and how much work it really takes to create this kind of business. He even helped us rig up part of our production area with tanks that he’d already had. We are so fortunate to have someone as talented as Luke and people as supportive as his family in our corner. We also went to Oregon State University for their cider program. We gained so much knowledge and experience through that program and we owe a lot to OSU for helping us get setup for success. Additionally, a book that really helped and inspired us is “Brewing Up a Business: Adventures in Beer from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery” by Sam Calagione (founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery). His insight and determination offer an incredibly real look at what it takes to be an entrepreneur and to start, operate, and grow a successful craft beverage business.