“I’m the mad scientist,” said Tom Hoey, 70, the founder and sole operator of The Sow’s Ear Winery, which churns out all-natural, pesticide-free, hard apple ciders and fruit wines outside Brooksville. “It’s all done by taste.”
Cider is hip now, but Hoey’s been pressing and fermenting it for 25 years from the 60 apple trees he planted behind his tasting room (which he built himself).
At different points in his life, Hoey has been an arborist keeping Maine trees healthy, a dairy farmer driving tractors in Pennsylvania and a Peace Corps volunteer helping irrigation efforts in India. But throughout it all, he has loved being outdoors.
“I like being my own boss and I like being outside,” he said.
In the winter, Hoey cross-country skis and he often naps in the hammock hanging in his testing room. The cider maker claims he’s trained himself so that if he hears a car arrive he can get out of the hammock and hang it up by the time visitors are walking in.
Hoey’s keep-it-simple lifestyle also applies to how he makes his cider.
“You can make it without a lot of processing,” he said. “All you gotta do is press the juice out of the apples and let it ferment.”
That kind of simplicity also appeals to the organic food movement, which Hoey thinks has helped cider regain some of the popularity it once enjoyed 200 years ago, when it was the people’s drink because it was easier to make than beer.
“It’s found its niche,” Hoey said. “I’m trying to take advantage of that.”