30 Dec Ash & Elm Cider Co. Finds Growth and Balance in First Six Months
Six months ago, Aaron and Andréa Homoya were in their first week of opening Ash & Elm Cider Co. They were excited to bring cider front-and-center to the Indianapolis market but had no idea what kind of reception they would receive. Six months in and the reception has been overly positive, even despite a few shortcomings.
When it opened, Ash & Elm had plenty of small issues to overcome. They are located on the east side of Indianapolis, not in an upscale or even up-and-coming area, like Fountain Square or Broad Ripple; the parking lot sits across East Washington St., which is fairly busy throughout the day; and it was the first all craft cidery to open in Indiana. However, despite those issues, Ash & Elm has thrived and quickly become a success.
“It’s been awesome,” Aaron said. “I think we’ve been really pleased with how things have come out here, especially with the tasting room. That’s been better than I think any of us planned.”
Their taproom is indeed one of the best in the area. The exposed brick, rustic decor, and laid back ambiance really tie the room together. It invites you to stay, even once you are done drinking.
Yet, it’s not the taproom that brings customers through the door, it’s the unique ciders that Aaron is creating; varieties you cannot get elsewhere. Overall, they’ve released 14 ciders since June 25. The core ciders have stayed the same—dry, semi-sweet, Sunset Tart Cherry and Headlong—while the other 10 were seasonals.
“It’s a lot,” Aaron said, “but a lot of those were super small batch.”
One goal for Aaron and Andréa was to bring international varieties of cider to Indianapolis. That meant plenty of flavors and aromas most would not associate with cider, especially those who mainly drink macro ciders. Examples include, Idle Summer, made with grapefruit and ginger; Autumntide, made with real pumpkin and spices; or Fieldstone, a farmhouse-style that has notes of lemon, fresh apple, and hay.
When asked which cider was their most successful, they both answered immediately, “Autumntide.”
Aaron added, “To me, it was a more natural pairing with pumpkin, than beer. There are some good pumpkin beers, but apple and those flavors are just natural.”
“We thought people would like it, but we made enough to last six weeks and it lasted two,” explained Andréa.
Make no mistake, though, the first six months have not been all rainbows and sunshine for Ash & Elm. Customers have commented that the taproom gets too warm or their cider has a sulfur-like smell to it—a side effect of a bad batch. Aaron and Andréa have worked to resolve those issues by narrowing down why they happened, to begin with.
“Since we’ve opened, I think in just the last couple of weeks have we really felt like we now know what we need to know to get organized for the future,” Andréa said.
Along with getting organized, what else does Ash & Elm have in store for consumers over the next six months?
First up is the distribution to bars and restaurants around Marion and Hamilton counties, and they are teaming with startup distributor, Craftroads Beverage. Aaron went on to explain why they chose a new distributing company over a more established one:
“The more we talked with Craftroads we felt they would be a great fit for us. They are focused on higher quality, keeping things cold through the entire chain, and focused on education. I think it’s a perfect fit for a company like us who is doing cider, being kind of the first craft cidery who wants to distribute on a big scale.”
They hope the additional exposure will bring in more customers, so they are also working to create their own version of the Mug Club. Andréa said the club will revolve around their Small Batch Cider Days, which have happened sporadically throughout the last six months.
“Part of getting organized is we will be doing it monthly and we will have a punch card-type thing where if you come to nine of more of them in a year then you will be part of the club.”
The details are not fully fleshed out yet, they plan to give away discounts and gifts to those who earn their way into the club. Aaron mentioned the ability to educate consumers more on the varieties of ciders not commonly found here, while also receiving feedback from them on what works and what doesn’t.
And while Ash & Elm has their big-picture goals, as Aaron realized, sometimes it’s the small things that show your success.
“One of the most enjoyable things has been standing in the tasting room and watching people having a good time and getting to be a part of making someone’s day.”