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“I wanted to drink dry cider,” says Nate Chase, the owner and operator of Saltbox Cidershop, the Haverhill-based cidery that opened in 2021. Chase, who grew up in Newburyport, spent several years thinking about the project—and going back and forth on permitting—before he launched Saltbox. “It started as a hobby. And then, you know, sharing with friends and other people. Everybody else really enjoyed it. So it was kind of what started me down the road,” he says.

Each week, Chase says, he produces about 20 to 25 cases of cider, all in a dry style. These days, most of Saltbox’s production takes place in Lawrence, although the original Haverhill barn, which is not open to the public, remains the unofficial face of the nascent business. “I do a lot of the work here still,” Chase says of the Haverhill space. “But most of the actual making of the cider is there.”

As far as the hard cider itself is concerned, Chase’s has a profile: dry, dry, dry. Cider aficionados might put Saltbox in a league with traditional English ciders, Spanish sidras, or French cidres, most of which have little to no residual sugar. Prominent on the palate: the round notes of the fruit itself, but not the sugar from it. In other words: Angry Orchard these are not. Although Chase says that some drinkers have been surprised by the dryness, he describes an overall positive reaction to the ciders, particularly at recent tastings. “We sold a lot,” he says of a tasting in North Andover. “A lot more than I was expecting, actually. It was great.”

Chase purchases juice for cider-making, he says, from nearby orchards, like Carlson Orchards in Harvard. “Carlson’s the one that has the most cider available,” Chase says. “One advantage of using cider that I buy: That product is very consistent.” The consistency, he says, yields a product that tastes the same with every single fermentation.

Chase also produces a “Champagne-style” cider. When Champagne is produced, a secondary fermentation, which creates carbonation, occurs within the bottle. Bottles are then disgorged, the sediment is removed, and they are then re-sealed with a Champagne cork. Champagne must be aged a total of 18 months before release, but Chase alters his procedure slightly, aging his Champagne-style ciders six months before releasing them.

Learning to make cider was, Chase concedes, a matter of trial and error. “I started hobby-brewing beer a while ago, kind of off and on,” Chase, who is also a lifelong chef, says. The licensing process for Saltbox took longer than expected, which gave him plenty of time to learn the cidering ropes.

“It was kind of a blessing in disguise that the whole licensing process took so long, because I was able to make a batch once a week, and after a couple of years, that’s 100 batches of seeing what works, what didn’t work, and sometimes not even knowing why it worked or not,” he says. In the end, though, he landed on a process—and a product—that he was happy with, and a level of expertise that he may not have been able to achieve without putting in the sheer hours, although he adds that his job managing large dining programs and feeding thousands of people daily has set him up for success. “Food production—food safety—is something I am very familiar with,” he says.

Currently, Saltbox Cidershop’s hard ciders are available for purchase at local retailer Wine Connextion, in North Andover. Although he’s currently a one-man operation, Chase is looking to take on a salesperson so that he can expand his business. The Haverhill barn is for back-of-house operations only, but the cider-thirsty can find Saltbox Cidershop’s wares elsewhere in the area.

This summer, Saltbox’s ciders will appear at CiderFeast New England, an all-access cider-tasting event that will take place in Haverhill on June 20. Guest participants will be able to meet with cidermakers from all over New England, will receive a souvenir tasting glass with the price of admission ($80 for two or $45 for one) and will be able to sample craft American ciders. Chase is also looking into taking Saltbox to some of the North Shore’s farmer’s markets, like Haverhill’s own, which runs on Saturdays from June through October on Bradford Common.

As for what the future holds for Saltbox Cidershop, Chase is optimistic. He has experimented, he says, with the fermentation of other fruits, like cranberries (a tart option, he notes, since they already contain limited sugar and a lot of acid). His hope is to continue moving forward, introducing his product to more palates and more retailers along the North Shore.