Nissen leaves corporate world behind

Finds success in making cider
By: Michael Kirby
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Bruce Nissen, president of Fox Barrel Cider Company in Colfax, left the corporate world four and a half years ago looking to build something of his own. Joining him in making the occupational lifestyle change was Sean Deorsey, who helped found Fox Barrel Cider. While the Colfax resident’s expertise is corporate sales and business management, Desorsy’s focus is accounting. The company is now poised to become a major part of the cider market. “All the ciders on the market when we opened were all the same, and not the kind of ciders that we enjoyed drinking,” said Nissen. “We thought that much like the craft renaissance the beer industry went through in the 1990s, we felt ciders had an opportunity to become something more and follow a path similar to beer.” Though sold in a similar bottle as beer and bottled with similar equipment, making cider is more like making wine. Fox Barrel is licensed as a bonded winery. “We ferment the apple juice the same way a wine maker would ferment grape juice, so up until packaging it’s much like a wine process, though we do infuse carbonation,” Nissen explained. Settled in larger facilities, located less than a mile from the site Fox Barrel debuted, production is up and steadily increasing. Adding new bottling equipment, a high-speed labeler and conveyer belt system, the manufacturing operation now has the ability to produce a quarter of a million cases of cider a year. “In October we had a great month making 14,000 gallons of cider,” Nissen said. “That was a record month for us. Prior to installing the new equipment, 4,000 gallons a month was an average month. Now we can process enough product to really be a player in the cider market.” Nissen admits the road to success has not been easy with many challenges to overcome. “Our suppliers and others in the industry have been amazed that we have kept at this long it and that we’re still even around,” said Nissen. Next year looks to be a break out year for Fox Barrel Cider as their production and market areas keep expanding. Fox Barrel’s line of pear, apple, and now black currant ciders, are available in gourmet markets, specialty stores, supermarkets and selected pubs in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Arizona. Their tasting room, located at 1213 So. Auburn St., is open seven days a week. Ciders are also sold on site. “Over the last four years we’ve really established the brand, and it’s got a great following,” he said. “Just today we had at least 10 people visit the tasting room. These people are stopping here because they really like the product.” Fox Barrel’s efforts have been recognized with numerous awards for their naturally crafted ciders, including winning gold medals at the California State Fair in 2007 and 2008.