If only every business idea hatched during an after-work drinking session were this successful.
More than a decade ago, Brandon Boren wasn’t getting regular work as a building contractor, so he started working for another contractor named Mark Frederick. After knocking off for the day, they would unwind over some hard cider.
Except they didn’t particularly like what they were drinking.
“We had a lot of sweet ciders,” Boren said. “We wanted to try something different.”
Frederick thought they should make their own cider and entrusted the task to Boren. The two builders became partners, and by 2016 they had started 6 Point Cider in Leavenworth.
What did Boren know about cidermaking at the time?
“Absolutely nothing,” he said. “I was a carpenter.”
Making a dry cider
Frederick and Boren learned the business, including the many regulations that govern cidermaking. (Governments classify cideries as wineries.) For instance, Boren had to make sure his product didn’t exceed certain levels of alcohol or carbonation, otherwise the federal government would tax them at a higher rate.
Boren also learned the craft. A widescreen TV perched high in the production room has been used to show instructional YouTube videos about cidermaking.
Boren drives to Yakima once every two weeks to pick up 1,200 gallons of apple juice. He buys an 80% Golden Delicious blend because it’s inexpensive and readily available.
He brings the juice back to his production facility — a converted goat barn on Piper Lane south of Twisp — for fermentation and canning.
Golden Delicious apples naturally have a high sugar content, so Boren doesn’t need to add sugar during fermentation. Boren ferments the juice “to complete dryness,” converting all the sugar into alcohol, yielding 6.9 percent alcohol by volume.
Boren has been experimenting with a variety of juice concentrates and has landed on five to flavor his base cider: tart cherry, apricot, elderberry, blackberry and plum. Cherry and apricot are available in 12-ounce cans at grocers across the state, or in kegs at various drinking establishments in the Methow Valley. The other three flavors only come in kegs.
People have mentioned to Boren that the name “6 Point Cider” is close to the name of another valley cidery, Sixknot Cider. Sixknot, made at Sinclair Orchards, started marketing its hard organic cider in 2014. John and Beth Sinclair opened the Sixknot Taphouse in downtown Winthrop two years ago.
Sixkknot and 6 Point are similar in name, and of course both are ciders, but otherwise they have little in common.
Sixknot and Methow Valley Ciderhouse, which has a restaurant in Winthrop, both grow apples in their own orchards, making cider out of varieties of apple that don’t have household names because they aren’t palatable as raw fruit. Sixknot ciders take months to ferment and are distributed in kegs or individual bottles. Boren’s product goes from juice to cans in about a week.
6 Point’s name originated in Dryden, where Boren grew up. A neighbor with an orchard would ask Boren to get on a snowmobile and chase the elk away from his trees. Watching elk rip up apple trees in the winter was a dramatic sight for the young Boren, and the image inspired the logos for his brand: an elk rutting against a tree with an apple stuck in one of his antlers, and a red apple pierced through by two of the six points of a shed antler.
Hence the name: 6 Points. Several shed antlers and even a full elk skull with two six-point antlers decorate Boren’s cidery.
Boren works with juice in bulk rather than pressing individual apples due to a second guiding principle at 6 Point. In addition to “complete dryness,” 6 Point is aiming for affordability.
These principles seem to be working. Boren works 12 hours a day, seven days a week to keep up with demand. He spends much of that time filling and sealing 5,000 cans per week by hand, one at a time. Earlier this month he hired his first full-time employee.
“It was unexpected, the growth that happened so fast,” he said.
Last month, 6 Point Cider reached maximum capacity at its Piper Lane facility. By next summer, the cidery plans to move production to a commercial building in Twisp and hire two full-time employees.
As part of the expansion, Boren is getting a machine that can seal 60 cans a minute — fast enough to reduce a week of canning work to about an hour and a half.
This might enable Boren to reap an especially coveted benefit of business success: a day off.