"Uncle" Steve Brancato
CEO and Founder of Banter's Hard Cider
After visiting a local cidery in Ontario while on vacation with family in 2009, "Uncle" Steve Brancato returned to the states a few days later and took the first steps toward what would become a seven year journey into creating Banter's Hard Cider. With little doubt in his mind that he could recreate the deliciousness he had tasted a few days earlier in Canada, the over-excited Brancato rushed off to his local homebrew supplier and purchased the equipment and ingredients needed to make a one-gallon batch of hard cider. He cleaned, he sanitized, he fermented, he transferred, he bottled. Just like the 150 word article he read on cider making told him to. Three weeks later, it was time to enjoy the fruits of his labor. "What's that floating on top?" his wife, Krista asked. Before Steve had a chance to answer she fired off another question. "Am I going to get sick if I drink this?". "No" he replied..."Probably not" he soon after corrected. Even after swirling it around and smelling smells that would tell most human beings to stay away, she did what any good wife would do. She took a sip. "Is this how it's supposed to taste? This isn't really how the one in Canada tasted." Disappointed but still determined, Steve retreated back to his basement and fed the rest of his first batch to a utility sink underneath the bar.
It would be six months before Uncle Steve attempted to create another hard cider. Those six months were packed with research and countless hours in homebrew forums and message boards.
Alas! The time had finally come to start Batch 2. Armed with an arsenal of information, Uncle Steve was certain all the studying and the advice he received from his chatroom pals, ciderlovr1880, alwasyincider11 and AndyOrchard would prove to be the difference in creating an award winning cider. He cleaned, he sanitized, he fermented, he transferred, he bottled. Three weeks later, the wait was over. It was time again to indulge. Donning a nervous smile, Krista agreed (or felt obligated) to again be Steve's guinea pig. She took a sip. "Did you do something different this time?" she asked. "Yes, do you like it?" Steve enthusiastically responded. "Umm, Sure" Krista answered. "Sure? What kind of answer is that?" he inquired. "Well, it was better than the first one you made...I guess" she said. With a nearly full bottle in hand, Steve headed back to the basement. He sat down at his bar and filled up a glass of his own. After giving it a swirl and a sniff, he took a sip. Certain that his wife just didn't get it, he convinced himself that what he had just tasted wasn't all that bad. Rather than making another deposit into the basement sink, he thought he'd set aside some bottles for his buddies that would be over in a few days to play cards.
Poker night arrived and about midway through, Uncle Steve popped the question: "You guys want to try some hard cider I made?". A resounding "YES" echoed off the basement walls. He pulled out some pint glasses and poured away. After a few of the guys took a sip, Steve noticed that initial enthusiasm had quickly left the room and no one was asking for seconds. "Maybe you should try making beer" one attendee suggested. Poker night ended early and it was back to the lab again for Uncle Steve.
Nine more months would pass before he was ready to give it another go. In addition to even more research, he spent time chatting with, and on some occasions, visiting established cider makers and industry professionals. After spending the majority of his work life in corporate America, Steve was blown away by the "local" brewer's willingness to help and the camaraderie these individuals had for one another. It was during this time when Steve realized that, while his ciders weren't quite yet up to par, he wanted to be working in this industry. His obsession with making the perfect cider wasn't normal and was unlike any hobby he'd had before.
It wasn't until a St Patty's Day parade after-party at his home in 2011 that Uncle Steve saw his dream may someday become a reality. His entire stash was consumed. He witnessed party-goers
reach past their regular cans of brew and grab one of his creations. He heard comments like "You seriously made this?" and "Can I take a couple of these home?". His friends talked about ways he could bring his ciders to the masses and put in requests for future blends. The reaction from the people he was closest to, the people he can always count on to provide him with 100% honesty, was all the motivation he needed to put his foot on the accelerator and move forward with a plan to create the company that is now known as Banter's Hard Cider.