Editor's Note: Cider Corps announced the closing of its Gilbert location at the end of 2022. The company is planning to expand its Mesa location and continue operations from there.
“Drink great cider. Honor great sacrifice.” That’s the idea behind Cider Corps, an East Valley cidery run by brothers Jason and Josh Duren. The duo ventured into the unknown territory of cider-making after Jason returned from serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan. Having suffered two traumatic brain injuries during his service, Jason was encouraged by doctors to find a hobby that would help him hone his processing skills.
The brothers started making cider in a garage, and Jason then began studying sustainable horticulture at Arizona State University. That helped the pair understand, from a scientific perspective, the things they were learning about the fermentation process. “For me, it became a therapeutic hobby,” Jason says. “It was something I felt passionate about doing, and I kind of fell in love with the process.”
Cider Corps began distributing its ciders to bars and restaurants in September 2017. When the brothers opened their Mesa taproom on Veterans Day that year, they sold 2,600 pints on the first day. Since then, the business has continued to grow and expand, and it now includes a production facility that opened in 2022 in Gilbert and houses a cidery and taproom.
Finessing the process of making cider has taken time and patience. According to Josh, the key is keeping the yeast healthy during the monthlong fermentation process. “It’s a living organism, so we have to make sure it’s fed and happy and within specific temperature parameters,” he says.
Currently, Cider Corps offers 15 to 20 ciders on tap, and five or six are available in cans. The ciders are made with two different bases: citrus and terpene. The citrus base produces tropical flavors such as mango, orange and guava, while the terpene base has the earthy characteristics found in apple cider. The bases can be combined to produce unique flavors such as a red citrus blend, which is similar to a sangria.
“We don’t use extracts, essences or extra sugars,” Josh says. “We try to make ciders from all over the board, from completely dry to pie ciders that mimic our favorite summer pies.”
The variety and quality of ciders has made Cider Corps a big hit in the community, but for the Durens, it’s about more than business success. Jason’s experience with the military medical retirement process brought to light the struggles many veterans face when returning home, and the Durens have made it their goal to spread knowledge of those issues. “It’s the consistent awareness that these men and women are your neighbors — they’re all around you,” Josh says. “Although they might look like they’re just having a good time like everyone else, there’s a lot that they’re processing and going through.”
The Durens have made a point of creating a welcoming environment at both of the taprooms. “We don’t have a crazy amount of music, and we don’t have televisions,” Josh says. “Everything is very intentional for people gathering together with their friends, or maybe making new friends at a communal table.”
For Jason, Cider Corps has helped him find a purpose and continue to serve the community in a new way, and he hopes that serves as inspiration for other veterans. “It’s not what I thought it’d be, but I think it’s just as important, if not more important, to have a voice for other people like me who have lost their purpose,” he says. “You never know what’s going to happen. We had never been in food and beverage before, and it’s not something I would’ve ever thought I’d be excited about, but now, seeing how the cider is a catalyst to give us a voice in the community, it’s given me a whole different perspective on life.”
In addition to spreading awareness, Cider Corps has an ongoing partnership with the 22 Jumps charity and Cohen Veterans Bioscience to raise money for brain injury research. That happens via the 22 Jumps cider, which is always on tap, and collaborative events throughout the year.
“It’s nice to see change happening in the community,” Jason says. “It’s not just helping veterans — it’s information that helps people overall.”
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