I don’t know about you, but I can still recall the first mouthful of alcohol I ever swallowed.
I’m not talking about the times I stole sips of my father’s bottle-shop red when he left his glass on the kitchen bench. No, I’m talking about my first fully-fledged, ‘holy heck I’m old enough to drink’ mouthful.
Funnily enough, it was a mouthful of apple cider. I chuckle now, as I remember the vague sense of panic that came over me as I stood for the first time, alone in my local BWS, with bottle upon glaring bottle looming in above my head. At barely eighteen years of age, I hadn’t the slightest clue what I was doing, or what I was searching for. The stolen sips had been enough to suggest that I was less-than-fond of wine, and I wasn’t yet game enough to venture into the seemingly-limitless realm of beer. As such, when I caught a glimpse of that 5 Seeds Apple Cider six-pack, I heaved a sigh of relief. “Apples,” I thought. “This seems manageable.”
I will note that my palate has developed when it comes to wine, and over the years, I have become an avid explorer of beer. However, although my drinking habits may have changed since eighteen, my love for cider has not. I’ve sampled more fruity brews than I can count, and as with alcohol of any nature, some stand out more than others.
Another first I can recall is the first thought that sprung to my mind when I met Nathan Silm: “Geez, this guy’s tall.” Five minutes into the most informal job interview I’ve ever taken part in, however, and this thought was replaced with, “Geez, this guy knows what he’s about.”
Now, don’t get me wrong: Cedar Creek Cider is phenomenal. I would even go so far as to say that it is my new favourite, my go-to when it comes to apple cider. I wholeheartedly believe that this product can - and will - make a name for itself in the Australian craft cider scene. But it would be amiss of me to say that this belief is due only to how good the bubbles taste against the back of my tongue. I believe in the future of Cedar Creek Cider not because of the cider, but because of the man who makes it.
Nothing is simple, not when it comes to running a business, and especially when that business is one so small as Cedar Creek Cider. Success calls for more than just a good - or even great - product. Rather, success calls for resilience, for creativity, for patience and, of course, for dedication. And from the moment I met Nathan, it was clear to me that he carried these qualities in spades.
In early 2019, Nathan was stretched paper-thin, alternating between working night shifts at the Tahmoor mines and brewing up Cedar Creek's first batch of cider. Less than two hours after he delivered the first round of orders, he received a phone call informing him that the packaged cans had begun to explode. This phone call was to be the first of many, and ultimately, Nathan was forced to send out a recall on the entirety of that first batch. In the words of the man himself: “Oh, it was fucked. No, it was not fun at all.”
Fast-forward to 2020, and Nathan has recently been nominated as a finalist in Awards Australia’s Small Business Achiever Awards. The consensus implies that it’s recognition well-deserved, but when I asked Nathan how he navigated from can-catastrophe to nomination, he shrugged it off.
“It’s stressful, every time you go into business,” he told me. “Almost every day, there’s a new hurdle you have to jump over. I think an unlock is to put it into perspective.” It would seem, for Nathan at least, that this (rather large) setback was nothing more than a cider-soaked step forward. “I spend a fair amount of time trying to picture the future,” he went on. “Analysing what I see happening, how do we get there, what do I need to do. I tend to think about the long-term, rather than the day-to-day stuff.”
There’s assurance, there - knowing that Nathan has his sights set ahead. I asked him what it is that he hopes for Cedar Creek Cider, in the long-term. His answer was perhaps not what most would expect. And yet, if you know Nathan Silm, you’d not be surprised.
“I’d like to say that, in ten year’s time, we’ll still be a family business.”
And this is why I believe in Cedar Creek Cider: because it is about so much more than just cider. Each can of the stuff carries not only the efforts of Nathan himself, but four generations of back-breaking work, of passion and persistence, and of love. “I think people are drawn to Cedar Creek Cider because our story is essentially us,” Nathan theorised. “We have a very good story to tell.” The resolve that I see in Nathan is the same resolve I see in his father, Mark Silm. It’s the same resolve that echoes throughout the stories shared with me of Nathan’s grandfather Roland: the man who shaped Cedar Creek Orchard into the destination it is today. And if nothing else, I’ve learned that a Silm never says die.
Whether or not you enjoy the tang of Cedar Creek Cider, you’d have to be rather blind not to recognise the heart that Nathan has put into giving it life. As he himself admitted, there are obstacles ahead - of course there are, there always will be. But my apple cider-loving heart believes in Cedar Creek Cider. At the end of the day, this is because I believe in Nathan Silm - and Nathan believes in Cedar Creek.
“Cedar Creeks is everything I’ve grown up to know,” he explained, smiling ever-so-slightly. “It’s where I want my kids to grow up. This is a business that I want to grow, to support my family. Cedar Creek is where I wanna be for the rest of my life.”