Meet Marine Sgt. Jason Duren. He was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom 12.2 from May 6, 2012 to February 8, 2013. In 2014, he medically retired from the Marine Corps due to wounds sustained in combat. Today he lives in Gilbert with his wife, Melissa, and their two children where he co-owns Cider Corps, a cidery and taproom, with his brother, Josh. Duren was awarded a Purple Heart, Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal and a Combat Action Ribbon.
How did you get into the cider business?
Cider Corps is a veteran-owned and -operated company built by myself and my brother, Josh. Cider Corps’ beginnings were not typical, but have shaped the vision and mission of what it is today.
While deployed in Afghanistan, I suffered two traumatic brain injuries from multiple IED blasts. Upon returning home, I faced a long road toward medical retirement and an unknown future. During the retirement process, we began experimenting with cider-making as a hobby and therapeutic outlet. Out of this hobby has come a unique technique for cider-making, and over the past 3 ½ years, this technique has earned Cider Corps outstanding reviews from significant people within the beverage and culinary industry. With these reviews, we were encouraged to move this hobby into a business.
For the two years after deployment, I struggled through the medical retirement process. Through hundreds of appointments, frustration with care and struggling to move forward, it became apparent that disabled veterans needed more support. All of these experiences became the crux that propelled Cider Corps into blending the love of crafting cider with the desire to serve and give back to fellow veterans.
Today, it’s defined in our mission: Drink Great Cider. Honor Great Sacrifice.
Why the name Cider Corps?
Corps means a body of people engaged in a particular activity. This is one of the greatest things about the Marine Corps—while there are many occupations within the corps, we all work as one well-oiled machine to accomplish the mission. Cider Corps is a catalyst to bring people together for the sake of bringing awareness to veterans and to veterans’ hardships, as well as their successes.
How long does it take to make a cider?
Our process takes about a month from start to finish.
Do you have any favorite ciders?
Currently, Semper Vera–Dry is one of my favorite ciders on the board. While it is completely dry—meaning it has zero sugar—it retains a smooth apple flavor without the acidity you typically find in dry ciders.
You offer a veteran discount, correct?
Cider Corps offers $1 off pints for veterans.
You are located in an interesting building…
Cider Corps is located in Historical Downtown Mesa. It is located in a building that was built in the early 1900s, and it used to be the stables for the Mesa mounted police.
Can Cider Corps ciders be found anywhere else besides your location?
We currently have ciders on tap at nearly 80 locations around the state.
Do you have any favorite places around the Valley?
My favorite craft venues to frequent are Crêpe Bar and Copper & Cotton.
Any advice to those trying cider who aren’t familiar with it?
While cider is one of the oldest drinks in America, it is still relatively new to the craft scene. Approach it like you would beer. There are many different styles and techniques used in the making of hard cider.
Cider Corps uses a blend of the highest quality heirloom cider-making apples from Yakima Valley, Washington, which is the No. 1 region in the United States for growing apples. The process starts with using isolated strains of wild yeast that impart their own unique background flavors. After the wild strains have fermented, 10 percent of the natural sugars, one or multiple strains of beer and wine yeast are pitched for the primary alcohol conversion. Tannin adjustments are made midway through fermentation, if needed, to enhance texture for a full-bodied, balanced cider.
The process ends with malolactic fermentation (MLF). MLF usually occurs shortly after the end of the primary fermentation (when the apple sugars have been converted to alcohol by yeast). It is undertaken by the family of lactic acid bacteria (LAB), Oenococcus oeni and various species of Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. The primary function of all these bacteria is to convert one of the major apple acids found in cider called malic acid, to another type of acid, lactic acid. This conversion is accompanied by the production of carbon dioxide (hence the term, fermentation).
Lactic acid tastes markedly less sour than malic acid. In addition, lactic acid has a mouthfeel of "softness" about it in comparison to the often described "hard" and "metallic edged" malic acid. In short, MLF results in a natural de-acidification and results in a mouthfeel softening.
The end product is a perfectly balanced cider unlike anything you have tasted. This process also allows us the ability to not use any additional flavoring extracts or sugars other than what is provided by the apples or other fruits.
The Cidery & Taproom is located at 31 S. Robson Drive, Mesa.