MATT NEILSON (left) and Denny Neilson with the first shipment of ciders and lemonades leaving for America.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Buster’s Beverage Company in the Noham (Sorek) Industrial Area, near Beit Shemesh, has exported 17,000 bottles of Kosher-for-Passover hard lemonade to stores in New York and New Jersey.
Denny Neilson, the owner and brewmaster of Buster’s, couldn’t contain his delight and enthusiasm with the deal. “We are so happy that we were able to do this. For us, it’s not just exporting our products to the US. It’s building our connection with the Jewish community there, with people who have a love interest with Israel.”
Neilson and his family made aliyah from California via Tennessee around 16 years ago, and shortly after he began to make beer and wine, and teach home-brewing and wine-making at his home in Mevaseret Zion. Today, he runs Buster’s with his son Matt, who is responsible for sales and marketing.
“Tourists often asked us if we export,” continues Neilson. “Although we’ve been thinking about if for a long time, we have not solicited exporters. I’ve always believed that we would start when the right person walked through our doors.”
Well, that happened about six months ago. Some ultra-Orthodox visitors arrived at the brewery who happened to be owners of bottle shops in Brooklyn and Teaneck, NJ – as well as importers for stores in five other states.
“They loved our three varieties of apple cider and our two hard lemonades,” Neilson proudly states. “And they were even more excited to hear that all of those drinks could be certified kosher for Passover.”
Even though Buster’s is under the kosher supervision of two Israeli rabbinical authorities, the visitors wanted to examine the facilities for themselves before deciding to purchase any of the beverages.
“This led to a return visit with five rabbis from America,” Neilson continues. “They checked out every inch of our brewery and asked the right questions. In the end, they agreed to accept our ciders and lemonades as kosher for Passover, and they placed a large order to be shipped to their stores in America.”
Neilson explained that the window for producing the kosher-for-Passover drinks is very narrow. All traces of the beer that is also brewed in the building have to be cleaned out before work can begin on the Passover products.
“We have a little over two months to complete all of our Passover production,” Neilson says.
Twenty-five thousand bottles were packed and sent to America in two shipments. Neilson, his son Matt, and the entire crew worked day and night to get them ready. The first shipment had about 8,000 bottles of all the ciders and lemonades not kosher-for-Passover, for sale before the holiday. The second shipment sailed about a month-and-a-half before Passover, and contained 17,000 bottles of the kosher-for-Passover lemonades.
Even though the production for export took up a lot of time, Buster’s is not ignoring the local market by any means. “We have taken steps this year,” Neilson adds, “to ensure that there are enough bottles of cider and lemonade for everyone in Israel who wants to enjoy these drinks on Passover.”
Five different Buster’s beverages were prepared for Passover for the local market and for the export project:
• Dry Apple Cider – 6.7% alcohol; dry and tart, English-style cider.
• Sweet Apple Cider – 4.8 %; no added sugar.
• Spiced Apple Cider – 4.8%; with honey, cinnamon and cloves.
• Classic Lemonade – 5%; made with sour, fresh lemons.
• Pink Lemonade – 5%; with cranberries.
The lemonades are now being sold in LeChaim Kosher Wines in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, FillerUp Wines in Teaneck, New Jersey, and other stores in the New York area.
“This deal opened up my eyes to how important export is,” claims Neilson. “It’s a tangible connection between Israel and Jews in the Diaspora. We’re very happy to bring a little bit of Passover ‘cheer’ to our brothers and sisters in America.”The writer is owner of MediawiSe, an agency for advertising and direct marketing in Jerusalem. He writes a web log on Israeli craft beers at IsraelBrewsAndViews.blogspot.co.il.
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