When Sgt. Jason Duren returned from Afghanistan, he faced the long medical retirement process. He had suffered two traumatic brain injuries from multiple IED blasts and was facing the end of his career.
To keep busy, he and his brother, Josh, began experimenting with cider production. The duo celebrated Veterans Day by opening Cider Corps, a brick-and-mortar taproom in downtown Mesa. Their first endeavor was offering juice and coffee before the East Valley Veterans Parade in downtown Mesa on November 11th.
Soon, Cider Corps will open its doors on select days during build out, and the brothers hope to have regular hours in the spring.
It’s all been a labor of love.
“We started the journey toward the commercial part of it in 2015,” Josh says. “We basically spent two years going through all the paperwork, looking for a location.”
The brothers, who were raised in Kansas, had the help of Neighborhood Economic Development Company (NEDCO). The organization, dedicated to rebuilding the economic base in Downtown Mesa, saw the importance of having a taproom in the area.
“One of the loan requirements was to be located along the Light Rail in Downtown Mesa,” Jason says.
“We were looking at Tempe or Chandler. Then we started getting phone calls from the city (of Mesa) saying they really wanted us down here. That sucked us into Downtown Mesa.”
While most cideries are in orchards, Cider Corps is in an 1800s-era building that was once the 4,500-square-foot Mesa police station. Jason used his degree in sustainable horticulture to develop fermentation techniques for cider. He moved to Arizona originally to obtain a fire science degree and to pole vault for Mesa Community College.
“Being that it was the first of its kind here, it took some extra work to figure out how we had to classify it (since) there aren’t rules about cider in the state,” he says.
Classified as a farm winery, Cider Corps released its first two ciders in September, which are available at Valley bars and restaurants. The Durens continue to create more styles, while building out the taproom — a space where patrons can honor the sacrifices of veterans, and raise awareness for the challenges they face at home.
“The taproom is the embodiment of Cider Corps’ mission,” says Josh, who earned a degree in graphic design. “Drink great ciders, honor great sacrifice. We want it to be a platform for veterans to be honored through times of awareness. Giving the community a way to ‘own’ this space with us is huge.”
Cider Corps, 31 S. Robson, Suite 103, Mesa, cidercorpsaz.com.