Introducing Hawai‘i’s First Locally Made Hard Cider
Paradise Ciders started producing hard cider this year, as demand for the beverage grows nationally.
Paradise Ciders is available in more than a dozen bars and restaurants in the Islands, including Square Barrels in Downtown.
Photo: James Charisma
Hard cider may be the fastest growing alcoholic beverage in the U.S., according to Nielsen, but until this year, Hawai‘i didn’t have a single cider company to its name. Which is a shame when you consider the wide variety of local citrus, spices and flavors available in the Islands.
Shaun Peck and Kasey Sulheim noticed this back in 2012, working together as bartenders at Yard House in Waikīkī. The way the menu was set up, hard cider had a prominent placement next to the beers on the list and customers coming in regularly requested a cider from Hawai‘i. There weren’t any.
Peck, born and raised in Hawai‘i Kai, and Sulheim, a transplant from Minnesota living here since 2003, had already been homebrewing beer together for fun. In 2015, they wrote out a business plan, located a warehouse, ordered the equipment, filed the liquor licenses for local and federal approval (this process alone took nine months) and finally started producing commercially available cider in January of this year. All without taking on investors.
“We were still bartending [at Yard House] until a few months ago,” says Peck. “We built this company off saving our tips.”
They launched Paradise Ciders with Lei’d Back Lilikoʻi, using fresh local lilikoʻi, sweet with a tart finish. Peck grew up drinking local juices Hawaiian Sun and Aloha Maid and wanted to recreate those flavors. They soon created a second cider, Kickit Ginger, with local pineapple, citrus and ginger, made exclusively for Maui Brewing Co. in Waikīkī both on tap and in its Maui Mule and Dark & Stormy house cocktails. “And then, by the time mango season came around, we had to do a mango [cider],” says Sulheim.
It’s easy for Peck and Sulheim to play with flavors because making cider is a fairly quick process. It’s more similar in style to making wine than brewing beer, while using apple juice instead of grape juice. Fermentation, carbonation, going into a keg—everything takes just two weeks. Which is good because early demand has been high.
“We went to the Kona Brewers Festival for the first time this year, it’s all outdoors, sunny and hot, and we were actually the first company to sell out completely. That’s a huge personal success for us,” Sulheim says.
Their ciders also boast a higher alcohol content: both Lei’d Back Lilikoʻi and Kickit Ginger have a 6.9 percent strength. More bang for your buck, jokes Peck.
Less than a year on the market, Paradise Ciders is already served at 20 locations across O‘ahu, including Square Barrels in Downtown, Moku Kitchen in Kaka‘ako, Brew’d in Kaimukī, Roy’s Beach House at Turtle Bay Resort, Grace in Growlers in Kailua, Monkeypod Kitchen in Ko Olina and, of course, Yard House in Waikīkī.
“When we first approach restaurants or bars, sometimes they don’t know they can have cider on tap and that it’ll sell as well as their beer will,” says Sulheim. “But there’s definitely a need for it; people now, maybe they have a gluten sensitivity so beer is out but cider is perfect. Or maybe they’re allergic to hops or malts or particular kinds of grain. Cider is a nice alternative to have at the bar.”