Mount’s START-UP NY partners with Graft Cider

Successful Newburgh business to take on Mount intern, aid in science courses
March 20, 2017

Kyle Sherrer, founder of Graft Cider


Mount Saint Mary College is proud to announce its START-UP NY partnership with Graft Cider.

Located at 218 Ann St. in the City of Newburgh, Graft Cider will enjoy ten years of tax-free operation in New York State.

“We are just now in the beginning stages of our business growth, but START-UP NY has provided us with the ability to get off the ground and running much more smoothly,” said Graft Cider founder Kyle Sheerer. “It has also helped us start to bring in skilled workers with better wages.”

Graft Cider brews a variety of hard ciders, three or more per month. The ciders are aged for about eight weeks each and the cidery currently produces about 5,000 gallons a month.

Since moving into the space in November, Graft Cider is already selling their products on draft and in cans. The company’s hard cider can be found in about 300 establishments in the Hudson Valley, including stores, bars, and restaurants, as well as in locations in Washington, D.C. and Maryland.

Before founding Graft, Sheerer worked with his father to create Millstone Cellars in Maryland. Millstone, he explained, makes high-end, wild yeast-fermented, dry oak barrel aged ciders.

“The goal with [Graft Cider] is to make that style of cider, which is predominantly enjoyed in Europe, and bring it to the masses both through a lowered price point and more accessible packaging – cans,” explained Sherrer.

The START-UP NY initiative at Mount Saint Mary College was spearheaded by James Raimo, vice president for facilities and operations, and Michael J. O’Keefe, executive director of operations and risk management.

Aside from bringing more businesses into Newburgh to improve the city’s economy, O’Keefe says the program will also enhance the educational experience for students of the Mount.

“There’s been excellent synergy between the company, the college, and our academics,” O’Keefe said.

In the fall 2016 semester, the students in assistant biology professor Evan Merkhofer’s genetics course applied their classroom knowledge to the real world. Through a technique called DNA barcoding, which uses short genetic sequences to identify DNA’s source organism, Merkhofer’s students pinpointed the unknown wild yeast strains that are being used in fermenting Sheerer’s ciders.

“This allowed the students to utilize genetic techniques and analyze data in tackling an interesting practical question by pairing with a local small business,” Merkhofer explained.

Additionally, Sherrer says he will hire a summer lab intern through the Mount. He or she will work on yeast propagation and isolation to help build up the company’s “house culture” of yeast. The intern will also analyze microflora in fermented ciders and work on production aspects of the company.

“We hope through on the job training, [the intern] can pick up real-world skills that will get them a foothold into the burgeoning craft beverage industry or potentially a job working at Graft,” Sheerer said.

Merkhofer echoed the sentiment: “This will give the student the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in classes such as microbiology and chemistry while giving them an experience in the burgeoning field of fermentation technology.”

Thanks to his partnership with Mount Saint Mary College, Sheerer says the future of Graft Cider is looking bright.

“The goal is to organically grow the company and open up more locations for distribution, as well as getting our onsite cider garden and tasting room up and running,” he explained.