Thanks for Everything, Nat.
On September 5, Nat West announced that after a dozen impressive years in the hard cider business, he was shuttering operations and moving on to write his next chapter. Here's a brief note from Jeremy, founder of Fortune & Glory Cider Company (formerly Reveille Ciderworks):
Looking at the photo above, I can't help but grin. I've had the pleasure of calling Nat my cider-making friend for many years. Always a text message away, he has been a true rock in this business.
The photo above was taken in 2018 directly after I dropped off my very first hopped cider (Pieces of Eight) to be included in Nat's hopped cider festival. I held out a long time, not really wanting to make a hopped cider... then Nat sent an email, stating, "Hey, just make one." That's all the convincing I needed. Knowing how Nat approached his craft, I felt that any fear of failure that I had was misplaced at best. Nat may have experienced fear, but you'd never know it. His ciders were amazing experiments in just how far someone could press our understanding and expectations of what a cider could or should be. That's why his ciders were so amazing: Nat never accepted that the rules were meant to remain unbroken.
Reverend Nat's Hallelujah Hopricot was one of the very first hard ciders (crafted at Nat's house) that convinced me that I should take the plunge into making cider as a career. The fact is, Nat showed me what a farmhouse cider could be, validating my ideas and hopes by showcasing that there was never any one right way to make cider. He showed that the process of crafting cider was simply a journey, and as craftspeople, we owed ourselves to throw everything into said journey, forging our own path without (or perhaps in spite of) the fear of failure.
I remember the day in 2016 when I sent an unsolicited email to Nat. We'd met once before, but hadn't spoken since. I was asking if he would take a look at a floor plan idea I had for a little cidery I was considering for Astoria. Just like the reception I received from Jack Harris at Fort George and Dave Kroening at Buoy Beer, Nat responded to my email the same day --happy to lend a hand to some guy with a dream, no matter how small. But that wasn't where it ended. Nat and his amazing partner Sarah showed up at Reveille for our opening weekend, bringing along a couple of fantastic ciders for me to put on tap next to my very first commercially produced cider: Wallonia. He then went two steps further, giving me some much needed advice on my menu ("How about you put your own cider at the top?") followed by leaving a very generous review online--my first review ever.
Nat's departure from the industry is indicative of the current shift in the craft beverage industry. We've lost so many great cideries the past few years. This business has never been easy and it certainly isn't a surefire path to fame and fortune (or... ahem... Fortune & Glory). That aside, Nat remains an inspiration, even through the final chapter of his cider story, choosing to leave on his own terms --which is the most that we can all reasonably hope for.
Fortunately, Nat's story won't be defined by his departure, instead highlighted by the massive, reverberating impact that his presence has had for the past 12 years. Fortune & Glory simply wouldn't have existed without Nat West. I'm forever grateful to Nat for all he has been to our industry, but especially for all he has been to me. This weekend, tip a glass of your favorite cider, beer, soda, etc. to Reverend Nat. I know I will. Cheers.