Anthony Chen

Anthony is a cider enthusiast and the Head Brewer at AleSmith Brewing Company in San Diego, CA. Briefly starting as a homebrewer, Anthony transitioned to the professional brewing industry in 2008 and continued producing beers and ciders at home. Since then, he also made the journey in the Beer Judge Certification Program as a Master Level Beer Judge, Cider Judge, and Mead Judge. Anthony has worked as a co-instructor for University of California San Diego’s Brewing Program teaching barrel-aging. He continues to study and play with all types of fermentation from vinegars to soy sauces.

Anthony pursued the Certified Pommelier™ certification out of personal interest in improving his knowledge on cidermaking and sensory evaluation.

Lester Koga

Prior to co-founding Barebottle Brewing Company in 2016, Lester Koga worked at General Electric for 9 years as a Product Manager and Director of Strategy. Barebottle Brewing is one of San Francisco’s largest independent craft breweries, with beer being poured throughout Northern California. In addition to beer, Barebottle has added natively fermented wine and roasted coffee to its portfolio of beverages. Lester is a Certified BJCP homebrew judge as well as a Certified Pommelier™.

Eric Gasser

Eric started his career in fermentation by working as a lab technician and cellar hand in the Paso Robles wine region of California. After a cross-country move to Massachusetts, he and his wife discovered their love for cider for the first time, inspiring the naming of their canine companion, Cider. That passion followed them to Northern Virginia, where Eric joined the cellar team at Lost Boy Cidery, allowing him to share his enthusiasm for apples with customers. He later joined ANXO Cidery, eventually becoming their Assistant Cidermaker, and developing his excitement for the dry, wild, and acid-forward style of Natural Cider. Motivated to learn more about the beverage’s influence within the Basque community, he visited San Sebastián, Spain, and is now actively planning his own Basque-inspired cidery in the Sierra foothills of California. There, Eric looks forward to discovering a terroir of wild apple trees, ready for foraging, and cultivating their journey toward a wonderfully intricate and complex cider. Eric chose to become a Certified Pommelier to better understand the history and spectrum of cider culture. He looks forward to furthering his education and sharing his expertise with customers keen to learn more! You can follow him on Instagram at @cidermakeric.

Brandon Buza

Brandon Buza is a cidermaker, amateur orchardist, educator, and rare pomme fruit nerd. His journey into fermentation started unexpectedly when natural winemaker Tony Coturri gave him 10 gallons of zinfandel must to make wine at home. A number of years later cider making was added to his repertoire after a chance encounter with Andrew Byers at Finnriver in Washington.  The happenstance all of this alchemy drew Brandon to the U.K. and Peter Mitchell’s Cider & Perry Academy.

Although Brandon doesn’t have commercial aspirations, he has high standards for every bottle of wine and cider that pass through his hands. Brandon is invested in every aspect of the process from picking to bottling. In every season his goal is to craft bottles that cleanly reflect the characteristics of the fruit used. In recent years he’s been particularly fascinated in ciders made with quince and sorbus domestica. He’s won top awards for his ciders at Franklin County Cider Days and GLINTCAP, including a gold, best in class.

Over the years, Brandon has found the cider community to be welcoming, passionate and generous.  Accordingly, he enjoys volunteering with a wide range of organizations including the Gravenstein Apple Fair, Historic Filoli Estate, Good Food Foundation (Cider Co-Chair), GLINTCAP and NW Cider Association, to name a few.  Furthermore, as a professional photographer Brandon is always looking for opportunities to showcase cider and the cider community with his lens.

Brandon is excited to join the small, yet growing, family of Certified Pommeliers™ with the hope that he can bring better awareness of craft cider and help standardize the language in which cider is described.

Anthony Lopez

Anthony Lopez is the sidrero (cidermaker) at Casa de Oro Cider. He is a third generation American who can trace all of his lineage to Mexico. While he had to learn to speak Spanish in high school, he grew up with a sensibility of Mexican culture. After he met his wife (who is from Acapulco), he was immersed in a much deeper realm of Mexican culture which is where he found his fondness for traditional Mexican ingredients. It was these unique flavor profiles and uses that inspire his ciders. Anthony loves deep, rich bold, yet dynamic, provoking, and well-rounded flavors in his ciders. Something that can evoke a sense of place and culture, he believes, is a great accomplishment for any sidrero (cidermaker) and something he would like to share with people.

Like many others, Anthony has been teaching himself to make cider for a number of years. He feels this certification adds to the validity of his abilities and backstops his credibility when he discusses his cider with others who may not be very knowledgeable.

Darlene Hayes

Cider expert and author of Cider Cocktails – Another Bite of the Apple, Darlene Hayes has traveled throughout the world interviewing cidermakers, growers, and researchers, all the while drinking many fabulous ciders and trying to wrap her head around cider, past and present. She is a well regarded international cider judge and teacher, editor of the cider zine Malus, and writes about cider for a variety of other publications, including a regular column for Spirited Magazine, as well as at She makes a bit of cider of her own from her orchard where she is conducting research on the impact of terroir on apples used for cider.

Rob Durham

Rob Durham is a cidermaker with durham cider + wine co. They utilize nature’s generosity through the magical meanderings of natural fermentation. The fruit is allowed to speak and then gently guided towards balance without manipulation. The focus is to produce an honest and sincere beverage. They believe that for a cider or wine to truly become a beautiful beverage it should be openly available in a welcoming manner to all showing interest.

Rob does a little bit of everything from sourcing and processing fruit, to fermentation guide, to labeler/bottler, to tasting room attendant and janitor, to dabbling in marketing, sales and customer service. 

Rob chose to become a Certified Pommelier™ to test his knowledge and if deemed adequate help further the advancement and understanding of cider and apple-based beverages on the tables and in the glasses.