Hard Cider Newsletter


Editor’s Note:

Happy Holidays! From all of us at Hard Cider News, we hope that everyone had a safe and joyous holiday, and has an even happier New Year! Please look forward to the next edition of Hard Cider News in mid January.

Kristyn Noren
Editor, Hard Cider News

Featured Cider Company: Rowan Imports, LLC

Operating out of Queens, NY is Rowan Imports, the importer and distributor of fine cider co-owned by John Belliveau-Flores and his brother Anthony Belliveau-Flores. The young sibling-run business is the result of a shared love of traveling, eating and drinking.

John was first introduced to “sidra” [or “hard cider” as we refer to it in the United States] while he was traveling in Spain. John fell in love with the taste and the showmanship involved in serving cider. Bottled cider was poured in front of him in the traditional “escandiador” style from 6 ft. above the glass to release the cider’s natural effervescence; and “draft” cider was released directly from giant 20,000 liter stainless steel barrels where the pressurized volume shot the cider out providing a nice, crisp and clean glass of cider. John’s sidra experience, made him want to open a cider bar.

However, after talking to people in the bar industry, trying to find locations, and reaching out to distributors to find what ciders are available, John discovered that there are only three Spanish ciders available in the US market and the other ciders didn’t provide the taste he fell in love with while in Spain. Furthermore, the ciders he was interested in were very costly. Surprised, since sidra is so widely abundant in Spain, he talked to Anthony while he was teaching in Vietnam and they decided to change the business plan and look into what it would take to get an importers permit.

Of all the tasks involved in starting Rowan Imports, Anthony said, “getting a federal importers permit was actually the easiest part.” On the other hand, he continued “getting a distribution license in New York State took six months and it was very costly.” One of the reasons it is costly is because you need to have your warehouse space/location secured before you can even apply for the license. Therefore, you are paying at least six months of rent on essentially a “dead space.” The good thing is that while John and Anthony were waiting on their paperwork to process they were able to connect with a friend who was integral in helping them meet with all 32 commercial cider producers in the country.  Together, they were able to taste the sidras of all the producers who were big enough to export with consistency and quality.

When John and Anthony made their return trip from Spain, they brought 55 different bottles of sidra back with them. They then had friends in the restaurant industry (sommeliers, bartenders, etc.) who knew cider well sit down with them and figure out which ones were the favorites and would do well in the US market. After the favorites were selected, John and Anthony then told the cider producers that they wanted to import their ciders and the business bloomed.

Today, Rowan imports and distributes seven different ciders including the following:

  • Españar by El Gobernador
  • 20 Manzanas by Valverán
  • Val d’Ornón Sidra Natural by Menéndez
  • Castañón
  • Villacubera by Sidra Cortina
  • Emilio Martínez by El Gobernador
  • Sparkling Cider (Brut) by Valverán

All of the Spanish ciders that are imported by Rowan are DOP regulated and certified which means that all of the products are estate produced and bottled. This ensures that the products are their very best and the true representation of what would be found at the ciderhouse.

Although Rowan Imports has only been in business for four months, the two-man operation has been a huge success. They are already on their third shipment of bottles and are hoping to get kegs shipped to the US before the new year. To give you an idea of how much cider they are going through, an average shipment is 10 pallets each containing 60 cases of bottles. It is the brother duo of non-stop deliveries and sales that made them a profitable business by their second month! Both John and Anthony share the labor of stocking the warehouse, making deliveries, doing sales calls, and hosting tastings daily.  Anthony joked, “I go through a pair of shoes every 3-4 months since we started this business due to the [at least] 10-15 miles I walk a day carrying samples and my briefcase selling our products.”

With the addition of kegged cider to the Rowan portfolio they can only grow. John and Anthony take great pride in making sure their products are affordable to the demographics they cater to and kegged cider will enable them to reach new demographics.

For more information about Rowan Imports and to find their products, you can visit their website RowanImports.com. You can also purchase their products online at CyderMarket.com or TintoFino.com.


Pop More Than Just Bottles This New Year

With the recent launch of StartCap, you can pop a bottle and start a whole event! Cider giant, Strongbow, teamed up with the UK’s Mobido Communications to create an innovative, digital bottle top. The bottle top is the first bottle top to ever be produced and has the capability of triggering “events” when the bottle top is opened like playing music or triggering confetti to burst.

Jennifer Wright, Owner of Mobido Communications who envisioned the bottle cap, explained, “The StartCap is able to function through a unique smart RFID chip which is embedded in the cap. The chip is carefully secured beneath transparent paper to ensure it doesn’t snag on the bottle top’s sticky foil and the foil is perforated on one side to ensure it easily breaks when opened-propelling the tag away. The bottle cap becomes a trigger when popped and the RFID scanners in the environment in which the bottle is opened are activated.” Basically, the RFID chips operate like credit cards telling antennas, satellites, or [in this case] scanners to do some remote action.

During the first public release of the limited-edition Strongbow bottles with StartCap in Budapest, Hungary on December 9th, StartCaps turned on lights, played juke boxes, operated fountains and set off glitter showers. David Moore, Global Marketing Manager for Strongbow Gold told the UK’s Business Telegraph, “StartCap is an exciting digital innovation for Strongbow Gold. It combines technology with the product experience to give added enjoyment to our consumers, to provide a fresher start to their evening.” Click here to check out some video footage of the events.

Strongbow hasn’t said if and when they will release the limited-edition bottles with StartCap anywhere else, but they are looking to make the StartCap the focus of a campaign to introduce Strongbow in countries where cider consumption is low.

For more information, please visit Start-Cap.com or StrongbowGold.com.


Cider Stomp Brings Out The Best in Bluegrass, Bites & Craft Cider

Ecotrust & Edible Portland came together to present Cider Stomp on November 2nd at the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center in Portland, Oregon. The sold out event brought hard cider aficionados together to explore the next wave of Northwest craft beverage to the thumping tunes of showcase music and autumn nibbles paired with local ciders.

Cider producers were on-site to sample their products and also talk about apple varietals, fermentation and craftsmanship of hard cider. Some of the food and cider pairings available at the event included:

  • Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider paired with food from Simpatica
  • Wandering Aengus Ciderworks paired with food from Culinary Artistry
  • Bull Run Cider paired with food from Crave
  • 2 Towns Ciderhouse paired with food from Food In Bloom
  • E.Z. Orchard Willamette Valley Cidre paired with Phresh Organic Catering

Additional information can be found by clicking here for the Cider Stomp website on Ecotrust.


More Plans for Cider in the Texas

With Leprechaun Cider Company and Argus Cidery already taking off in Texas, it comes as no surprise to see others trying to get into cider production. Keep an eye out for Bishop Cider Co. in the Bishop Arts District of Oak Cliff (near Dallas). Husband-wife homebrew cider makers, Joel and Laura Malone, hope to open Bishop Cider Co. in early 2013 where they will produce and sell hard cider but also host art shows, music performances and events.

The Malones have already leased a space over 700 square feet in size and received the necessary federal permits/licenses. They also received the support of the City Plan Commission earlier this month. However, they are awaiting the City Council’s approval on zoning matters and a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission permit (the last step!) to begin production.

When Bishop Cider Co. is officially open, you can expect them to make two to three styles of cider and some seasonals with an alcoholic content of 5-8 percent by volume.


Beer Festival Brings More Than Just Beer… Hard Cider!

At this year’s 2nd Annual Valley Forge Beer Festival, Spire Mountain Cider made its debut and rocked several thousand attendee palettes.  Held on December 8th at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, Valley Forge Beer Festival attendees couldn’t get enough of Spire Mountain’s “Dark & Dry Apple Cider.” The cider’s assertive tartness mixed with a hint of molasses and brown sugar made the cider appealing to beer, wine and cider enthusiasts alike. As one of  the attendees stated, “It tastes like drinking a less sweet version of a caramel apple.”

Spire Mountain isn’t new to the recent cider boom or hype though. The Washington based cidery that is owned by Fish Brewing Company was founded in 1985 and is America’s oldest operating craft cider maker, producing a traditional apple and pear cider as well. “Dark & Dry Apple Cider” won a 2009 North American Brewers’ Association gold medal.

For more information and where to find Spire Mountain Ciders, please click here for the website.


New Release! Argus Cidery - Lady Goldsmith

Founder, Wes Mickel, of Argus Cidery, the first American Hard Cider made in Texas, is dusting off the oak barrels that Lady Goldsmith hard cider has been aging in from 2011 and releasing the hard cider to the public. Lady Goldsmith has a nice buttery, oak taste and was made with Pink Lady, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, and Granysmith apples all grown in Texas. With the cider aged on American oak barrels, it is more acidic but the dry taste still yields subtle apple and carries an oaky, spicy finish. Mickel says, “We create our unique taste by using mostly supersweet apples. The sweetness is then balanced out by using different oaks and long fermentation times, like a winemaker would do.”

Lady Goldsmith joins a growing portfolio of hard ciders that Mickel has crafted. Below are additional ciders that Argus Cidery produces:

  • Bandera Brut – a vintage comprised of a blend of five different apples [including Texas Gala, Jonathan, Crispin, Early Fuji, and Cameo] that are aged on a combination of French and American oak resulting in a champagne like cider that is dry with notes of apple, citrus, and wildflowers
  • 2011 Bandera Brut – a blend of four different apples that are aged on a combination of French and American oak, resulting in a crisp and dry taste
  • Cameo – a vintage cider comprised of 100% Cameo apples aged on new American Oak providing notes of toast, butter and a floral apple bouquet
  • Malus Opus – a cider composed of Gala, Cameo and Jonagold apples that are aged on sweet, toasted French oak and untoasted American white oak for a stone fruit and vanilla bouquet with a dry finish

Argus ciders can only be found in Texas (primarily Austin and Houston) and limited locations in Little Rock, Arkansas. However, you can purchase the ciders via ArgusCidery.com or by visiting them at their ciderhouse (to open soon).



Eat This…

Drink That…

Vanilla Cider Pork with Pears
From Debby of “A Feast for the Eyes”          

From Liza Utter of “Liza America’s Host

Liza’s Champagne Cider Cocktail

Hard Apple Cider
Dry champagne
Vanilla vodka

1. Pour 1/3 glass of hard cider.
2. Pour 2/3 dry champagne.
3. Add 1/2 shot of vanilla vodka.

Tip: When pouring champagne, fill the glass 3/4 of the way to allow for the bubbles to settle without overflowing.