Sales of hard cider are exploding across the country, although consumption tends to be restricted to states where apples are grown. For Jon Nolli, proprietor of Pierced Ciderworks in Fort Pierce may just be the next epicenter of cider production. “I’ve always been a fan of craft beer,” he says, “but I became more interested in cider over the years. It’s light, refreshing, and easy to drink, especially in the Florida heat.”
Nolli hails from Vermont, in the heart of apple country. He also owns Jojo’s Raw Bar & Grill in Wellington, a craft beer destination with 30 varieties on tap. He discovered that when he installed two cider taps at Jojo’s, it was the perfect solution for customers who didn’t care for the dark, bitter taste of some craft beers. So in February 2018, he opened Pierced Ciderworks.
The facility is located in the former headquarters of Sailfish Brewing Company, a historic, 117-year-old building in the Edgartown section of downtown. The building was originally owned by Henry Hill, a beekeeper and photographer who met Henry Flagler when the oil baron was building his Overseas Railroad to Key West. Flagler loved Hill’s pictures and hired him to photograph the progress of the railroad as it headed south.
Nolli sources a blend of apples from orchards in northern states. In explaining the production process, he stresses that cider is fermented (like wine), rather than brewed (like beer). After the initial fermentation, cider maker Chelsea Luper is left with a carbonated wine that resembles Champagne. The cider is then back-sweetened with additions such as apple juice, pear juice, or blackberry puree to create the desired effect. Of the dozen taps at Pierced Cider, two are devoted to local craft beers, while the others dispense a rotating variety of flavors.
Luper currently has nearly 100 variations in her cider repertoire. The most popular are Coco Loconut (“tropical coconut in a glass”), Purple Drank (infused with all-natural blackberries), and ’Merica Dry (crisp and well-balanced). Nolli’s favorite is Peach Habanero—he’s intrigued by the “playfulness between sweetness and heat” and says it leaves a tickle of heat on the back of your throat.
Although his product is currently only offered at the facility itself, as well as sold in kegs to local restaurants and bars, Nolli is planning a canning line to enable him to sell in retails stores. His goal is to be the largest cidery in Florida, and he hopes to be nationwide within five years. “Going in, I realized it would be an uphill battle,” he says. “But I also knew there were no cideries in this area, and I believed that with proper education, Florida could be a market for cider.” 411 N. 2nd St., Fort Pierce; 772.302.3863