2014 Coastal New England Rising Star Artisan Eli Cayer of Urban Farm Fermentory

2014 Coastal New England Rising Star Artisan Eli Cayer of Urban Farm Fermentory
April 2014

Urban Farm Fermentory
200 Anderson Street - Bay 4,
Portland, ME 04101



Eli Cayer isn’t just a fermentor. He’s a Mainer, slaking Mainer thirsts with local products and feeding into the Maine community well beyond the realms of food and drink. In 2010, Cayer founded the Urban Farm Fermentory, a now 10,000-square-foot space that houses a community market and features Maine producers, artists, and artisans—all while Cayer’s Fermentory puts out beverages that emphatically represent his surroundings (think 100 percent Maine hard ciders that have been wild-fermented).

Finding instant success with his meads, Cayer moved on to fermenting both ciders and kombucha, producing one of the last and best exemplars of the slightly higher ABV style. When he’s not brewing, Cayer’s community-oriented Fermentory hosts workshops on beverage-making and lacto-fermentation. Ready to welcome a vegan bakery, an organic ice-pop maker, a pie company from Brooklyn, and an apothecary and creamery, Cayer has plans to grow his space with a new tasting area and a 1,500 square feet greenhouse—to better harvest Maine flavor.

I Support: Mensk


About: Mensk supports all kinds of creative minds in Maine by helping people bring their ideas and dreams to fruition, especially with the legal and logistical aspects of achieving their goals.

Interview with Coastal New England Rising Star Artisan Eli Cayer of Urban Farm Fermentory – Portland, ME

Meha Desai: How did you get your start in the industry?

Eli Cayer: I got my start through bee keeping. One year I had a lot of honey. I ate some, gave some away, and still had lots left over. So, I decided to ferment the rest and make mead. This was in 2002. I started doing more and more research and reading books about mead. That’s how I learnt. We started out as a winery.

MD: What is your most important fermenting rule?

EC: Have patience, and when its time for action, get it done.

MD: Your favorite brew you’ve made…

EC: One of my favorite cidahs has been the ICHI san, for which I used sake yeast to do the job of fermentation. It had a delicious peppiness to it that worked so well with the brothy one pot noodle dishes I love. We've done so many fun kombuchas. Hopped kombuchas rock, the Strawberry kombucha is amazing but the ghost pepper kombucha tends to blow people’s minds and is a very nice addition to any beverage. I'm a big fan and thoroughly encourage the blending of all our beverages in growlers.

MD: Where do you most want to go for culinary travel?

EC: Honestly I’m down to check out the locally enjoyed foods from wherever I am. I remember going to Hawaii once and all I wanted was native foods... fresh and dried fish, kelp, fruits but everyone I asked pointed me to McDonalds. I finally found what I was looking for but it sure took longer than I expected! I've traveled all over North America so I would love to check out traditional foods from every where else on the planet. I know that’s pretty broad so let’s narrow it down to either Europe or Asia.

MD: On your night off you drink…

EC: If I am in the mood for an adult beverage, saisons are generally my jam, but lately I’ve enjoyed a hoppy brew called The Substance from the boys at Bissel Brothers. I really like the farmhouse styles from my homies at Oxbow Brewing. I tend to shy away from spirits, but Maine Craft Distilling’s Ration rum is super sippable.

MD: What’s your 5 year plan?

EC: At the moment we have a 10,000 square foot space where we make mead, kombucha, and ciders, have a tasting room and a community market with local farmers and artisans. We’re building a greenhouse in the back to grow our own herbs and other ingredients for our brews. We distribute all over Maine now. The big vision is to just keep expanding. I would love to include lacto-fermented foods like kimchi. I’m creating a larger scene, with pieces people are drawn to so they can know what’s in their backyard and how they can use it. Eventually I would like to have UFF in other states—but use what’s local and relevant to them for fermenting. I also have plans to get in to grain fermenting as we get more space, since right now we can’t have grains and a winery in the same space. A brewery would be great!