Settling into our third (!) month of the pandemic, many of us have moved from stockpiling the essentials to enjoying stress-reducing libations. Enter Greenpoint Cidery, the beverage whose effervescence is only matched by its diligent and ever-mobile owner, Nika Carlson. While a neighborhood staple for five years, Greenpoint Cidery is used to making transactions on the business-to-business level; now, the distribution is more personal as Nika shuttles between upstate farm and nearby neighbors to deliver goodies and make connections. As one of the beloved small businesses we’re highlighting in our Thursday Spotlight series, Greenpoint Cidery is both enormously affected by COVID-19 and also finding opportunity in a revamped business model. Here, Nika discusses the many hats she wears at Greenpoint Cidery and the upsides of operating an independent business amidst a pandemic.
Greenpointers: How have sales been doing during this time? And, on a similar note, is cider a drink that’s ever out of season?
Nika Carlson: Sales are good! I started doing home deliveries the first weekend the state allowed it just by posting on Instagram and taking orders via text and DM. That first weekend was mostly friends and acquaintances, but word has spread and at this point I even have regulars. It will be interesting to see how this evolves as our strange new world does.
As for the seasonality of cider, I’d say it’s always a great option. Cider can be a lot of different things, but I make it in traditional styles that are comparable to natural wine: low intervention, wild yeasts, and a long-aging process. It’s great for pairing with food, but also just for crushing on a hot day. The lower alcohol content means you can drink it without worrying about getting real tipsy, and because everything I make is totally dry, there’s less hangover there, too.
Your website states that you got your start in the Brooklyn bar scene. Can you talk about that time and how it acted as the springboard for Greenpoint Cidery?
I used to run a bar in East Williamsburg called The Drink, and we were always excited to sell anything unique. When we opened, all I knew of cider was sweet stuff like Woodchuck, but someone introduced me to Spanish cider, and my mind was blown. It was sour and funky and regional and just so cool. Cider was also experiencing a renaissance in New York around then, and I caught the bug. There’s a lot of really fascinating, beautiful history in apples and in cider in America. Now I’m a farmer-ish and cider maker (I’m also head bartender at Broken Land, at least in normal times, and wow I miss my regulars so much!)
No three words will get me jazzed more than Greenpoint, Hudson, and apples. Naturally, we all love Greenpoint, but Hudson may be one of my favorite towns in New York. What’s it like to shuttle back and forth between these two little havens for your work?
I feel super lucky to have the best of both worlds: nature and also the city I love so much. The cidery and orchard are just outside Hudson proper on about 80 acres some friends own. There are fields, forest, a creek to swim in, other dogs for my pup to play with, and friends to lend a hand when I need them. A dream that keeps me sane. I’m usually too busy working when I’m upstate to enjoy Hudson itself, but it’s a lovely town I’m grateful to have access to.
How long has your business been around, and how has it evolved? What are the challenges and rewards?
About 5 years? It’s changed a lot. I started the business with a partner, on a different property, with the goal of opening a cider-focused bar ASAP. Now I run it solo, and last year I moved everything onto this new space where I can focus on honing my craft, growing sustainably, and keeping an eye to opening a tasting room when the time is right. I do everything: build the fence, maintain the trees, make the cider, design the labels, clean the kegs, and, now, make home deliveries. It’s a lot for one person, but I love to work hard and to create something that brings people joy. It’s also been a wonderful lesson in patience and flexibility. Growing apples and making cider is a slow process, and Mother Nature doesn’t f*ck around, you know? You have to pay attention, and roll with the punches.
Do you distribute to bars and grocery stores, or just operate on a customer delivery basis? And what’s the best way that we can support you?
I do! But obviously bar and restaurant orders have died off. The state just started allowing home delivery in response to COVID-19, so that part is very new to me.
You can support me by placing an order! My delivery zone is literally the whole city, minus Staten Island. If you like it, tell your friends (or even order a few bottles to be sent to them). I’m working on adding shipping to the rest of the state, and you can also follow me on Instagram and/or subscribe to my mailing list. If you have a shop and are interested in carrying my cider, please reach out. I’m still taking wholesale orders and can do socially distanced tastings.
We’re so proud to highlight creatives in this series, and that absolutely includes culinary ones, especially those who represent our vital small businesses. As the leader of a small business, what’s something you’d like to share with our community at this time, or wish our community knew about managing a small business?
I know it’s a treat for customers to get home delivery, but it’s also a treat for me to meet everyone face-to-face. My cider work is usually very solo. All the positive feedback has really helped buoy me as I pivot and pivot again, planning for the short and long term, whatever that may look like. I’m not naturally inclined toward salesmanship, but I’m working on letting people in more on my process. People seem to like that, and they want to help, and that feels really good. So thank you!