Hard Cider Newsletter

Featured Cidery: Sonoma Cider

With the renaissance of hard cider, consumers are no longer restricted to beer, wine or cocktails, and now have access to a wider range of delicious beverages at a reasonable price. One of the companies fueling the exponential growth of this industry is Sonoma Beverage Works, producer of a premium line of organic hard ciders.

In 2013, David Cordtz, a 20-year veteran cider and wine maker, with his son Robert, VP of Operations, and craft beverage guru Fred Einstein, VP of Sales, founded Sonoma Beverage Works and began to produce Sonoma Cider. David has been a longtime force in Sonoma’s artisanal community, producing wine, kombucha, sparkling juice and cider. He was the former CEO of Vibranz Tea, founder and CEO of Sonoma Sparkler, and winemaker at Cordtz Brothers Cellars, in addition to having spent years in the fine wine cellars of Fetzer and Schramsberg. Through David’s experience and knowledge, Robert learned first-hand about production and management of artisanal beverages. Robert has guided small-scale production and managed co-packing for Nestlé and Pepsi. Today, Robert restores vintage bottling equipment and melds it with cutting edge technology to provide the best of the past and present for Sonoma Cider.

David and Robert’s expertise in cider making and production, combined with Fred’s perseverance and background in specialty imports and cider, makes for a bright future for Sonoma Beverage Works. Fred played a lead role in introducing craft beer and cider to make the market what it is today. He’s represented Rogue Ale, Woodchuck Cider, Ace Cider, and Anderson Valley to name a few. Fred’s knack for anticipating trends and capturing ground-level insights makes for the perfect Sonoma Cider business partner.

When David, Robert and Fred decided to jump into the market and start this company, they developed a business plan akin to a tech startup, attracting dozens of craft-savvy investors. The company’s agile but aggressive “whatever it takes” attitude earned Sonoma Cider a spot as one of Forbes’ top ten hot startups of 2013.

They’re well on their way toward significant distribution and sales on the West Coast, Midwest and Southeast US, with plans to expand nationwide in 2015.  The only way for a startup company to generate such impressive numbers in such a short time is to have a compelling brand and impeccable product.

Cordtz’ unique process begins in organic orchards, which yield fewer and smaller apples with more concentrated flavors.  After 20 plus years in the business, he is uncommonly selective about his fruit, selecting fresh apples from the Yakima Valley in Washington and the Columbia Gorge in Oregon. He ferments fresh juice – never concentrate – in micro-batches to offer ciders that are intense yet balanced, fresh and bright, blending in proprietary natural flavors for vivid complexity. 

At the moment, Sonoma Cider has three different ciders available, all certified organic:

  • The Hatchet – A clean, refreshing hard cider with a lively finish handcrafted from a blend of US-grown organic sweet and tart apple varietals to bring out fresh, ripe apple aromas and allow the natural crispness to balance and elevate the bright, complex fruit flavors. Enhances such foods as soft cheeses, chicken, pork, seafood, creamy pastas or intensely flavored Mexican, Indian, Chinese and Thai dishes. (6% ABV)

  • The Pitchfork – A smooth cider with a creamy, intense pear finish made of a unique blend of US grown organic apples infused with essence of pear. Pairs with blue cheese, fresh fruit, barbeque, and sweet or spicy dishes. (6% ABV)

  • The Anvil – A smooth cider with a smoky finish and aromatic profile made of a combination of US grown organic apples and Sonoma Cider’s proprietary organic bourbon flavor (the cider is not bourbon barrel aged). Enhances a wide range of foods including burgers, steak, lamb, hearty stews, smoked foods and charcuterie. (6% ABV)

Each cider is wonderful, but The Pitchfork is a standout for Hard Cider News Publisher, Andrew Calimano, who noted the fresh pear aromas and luscious fruit flavors. Editor, Kristyn Dolan’s, favorite was The Anvil, which she thought tasted like a bourbon-spiked vanilla cocktail. This bourbon-flavored cider was Robert’s brainchild, and an office favorite.

Expertise and quality ciders have brought immense growth to Sonoma Cider in less than a year. The hard cider company recently signed eight new distribution agreements in March to rapidly expand its territory to cover 14 markets since the brand launched in November 2013. The company partnered with Hensley & Company in Arizona, Elite Brands in Colorado, Bernick’s in Minnesota and Johnson Brothers in Wisconsin. In California, which Sonoma Cider calls home, the cidery already had a strong presence but expanded its reach with Markstein Beverage in Sacramento, Figueroa Mountain Brewery in Santa Barbara, Haralambos Beverage in Los Angeles and the Craft Beer Guild in San Diego.

David Cordtz excitedly stated, “We’re flattered by the enthusiastic response Sonoma Cider has received from the distributor community. Our vision of offering handcrafted organic ciders nationwide is quickly becoming a reality, allowing us to support the growing interest in the category.”

Sonoma Cider’s other distribution partnerships include: Savannah Distributing in Georgia, Louis Glunz Beers in Illinois, Cavalier in Florida, Indiana and Ohio, Beer House Distributing in Kentucky, Imperial Beverage in Michigan, Maletis Beverage in Oregon and Washington, and Bay Area Distributing, Eagle Distributing, Foothill Distributing, Matagrano, North California Distributing, North Coast Mercantile and V. Santoni & Company in California.

“Our goal is to craft intriguing ciders that will attract new consumers to the category,” reported Fred Einstein. “We are pleased to see the growing interest in Sonoma Cider and the impressive overall growth in the hard cider category.”

Sonoma Ciders are available in 12-ounce four-packs (for approximately $10.99) and 22-ounce single bottles for about $7.99. Visit sonomacider.com to find out where Sonoma Cider is available near you. Their taproom, located in Healdsburg, California is set to open later his year. Press on!


Ciderboys Hard Cider Now Better By The Dozen

A new variety 12-pack gives hard-cider fans a dozen reasons to pick Ciderboys Cider Co.’s handcrafted hard ciders when shopping for their favorite beverage. Now available at retail stores, the Ciderboys hard cider variety pack features three 12-ounce bottles each of First Press, traditional hard cider; Strawberry Magic, formerly known as Magic Apple; Peach County, a summer seasonal; and either Raspberry Smash or Pineapple Hula, a new Ciderboys “fruitful pairing” that will make its debut in June. Pineapple Hula combines the big citrus taste of fresh pineapple with the crisp sweetness of apple cider.

“Our new variety pack is a great way to showcase Ciderboys’ family of handcrafted hard ciders and encourage hard-cider lovers to give them a try,” said Joe Martino, Ciderboys Cider Co. Operating Partner. “Ciderboys sales are strong and show no signs of slowing down. This new variety pack will help us maintain that positive momentum so we can continue to spread the word about our unique and flavorful hard ciders.”


Cider Makers Across the United States Announce Award-Winning Ciders

The judges have tasted and the scores have been tallied for a number of recent cider, wine and beer competitions. The results have proved that cider is not only competitive in the market but in profile. Taste will matter as the hard cider industry grows and cider makers will need to continually strive to provide a great quality product.

The 9th Annual Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition (GLINTCAP) held last month in St. Johns, Michigan drew over 530 entries, an overall increase of 20% from 2013 and a remarkable increase in the number of cider producers in North America helping to reflect a 25% increase in the number of entries in the commercial division. Entries came from California to Nova Scotia and from Quebec to Georgia covering 23 states and four Canadian provinces. Entries were also sent in from Australia, England, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, and Spain. With 19 categories of entry, the competition is unique in its high level of inclusiveness. Fermented products of all kinds are welcome – ciders, perries, meads, beers and commercial distillates, provided that they are made with apples or pears.

All judging was conducted using blind panels. Judges were a combination of professional and amateur cider and perry makers, professional from related industries, BJCP-certified judges, experienced non-BJCP judges, as well as academics and other professionals with ties to the food and beverage industry. Eduardo Vázquez Coto, writer for La Sidra and Vivir La Sidra magazines, Claude Jolicoeur, author of The New Cider Maker’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for Craft Producers, Dick Dunn, editor of the Cider Digest and principal author of the current BJCP cider guidelines, Norman Groh of Weidmann & Groh GbR in Germany, Nicole Leibon, a cidermaker at Farnum Hill Ciders, and Dave White, president of the Northwest Cider Association and cidermaker at Whitewood Cider Co. were all judges of this year’s competition.

After scores were tallied, the judges awarded “Best in Class” for a “Standard, Specialty and Unlimited Cider & Perry” to Ontario’s (Canada) Twin Pines Orchards & Cider House’s Hammer Bent Red. Warwickshire’s (England) Hogan’s Cider’s Vintage Perry 2010 won a “Highly Commended” nod in this category as well. Additionally, Vermont’s Eden Ice Cider Company’s Eden Heirloom Blend 2012 won “Best in Class” in the “Intensified Cider & Spirits” category and Colorado’s Colorado Cider Company’s Distraction earned a “Highly Commended” appreciation.

There were many other award winners, but below are the commercial division gold medal award winners by category. Please visit GreatLakesCider.com for a full listing of winners.

New World Cider (110 entries)

  • 2 Towns Ciderhouse – Traditions Ciderworks 2011 Riverwood Brut Jonagold Cider (OR)

  • Bishops Orchards Winery – Golden Hard Cider (CT)

  • Devoto Orchards Cider – 1976 (CA)

  • Finnriver – Golden Russet & Granny Smith (WA)

  • Hoity Toity Cellars – 66 Pick Up (Ontario, Canada)

  • Provincial Beverages of Canada – Thornbury Cider (Ontario, Canada)

  • Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider – Revival Dry (OR)

  • Twin Pines Orchards & Cider House – Hammer Bent Red (Ontario, Canada)

  • Uncle John’s Cider Mill – Baldwin (MI)

  • Wandering Aengus Ciderworks – Wickson Cider (OR)

  • Weidmann & Groh – Speierling (Hessen, Germany)

  • West Avenue Cider – Whetherfield (Ontario, Canada)

Specialty Cider & Perry (70 entries)

  • Angry Orchard Cider Company – Ginger (MA)

  • Colorado Cider Company – Grasshop-Ah (CO)

  • The Infinite Monkey Theorem Urban Winery – Dry Hopped Pear Cider (CO)

  • Vermont Hard Cider Company – Woodchuck Cellar Series Smoked Apple (VT)

  • Virtue Cider – The Mitten (MI)

  • Virtue Cider – The Mitten Reserve (MI)

English Cider (33 entries)

  • Alpenfire Orchards – Pirate’s Plank Bone Dry (WA)

  • Hogan’s Cider – Medium Cider (Warwickshire, England)

Fruit Cider (32 entries)

  • Carlton Cyderworks – Asian Pear (OR)

  • Northern Natural Winery – Blueberry Apple (MI)

  • Windy Hill Orchard & Cidery – Gala Peach (SC)

Intensified – Ice Cider (19 entries)

  • Eden Ice Cider Company – Eden Heirloom Blend 2012 (VT)

  • Eden Ice Cider Company – Windfall Orchard 2012 (VT)

  • Northern Natural Winery – Iced Apple Cider (MI)

Intensified – Pommeau (18 entries)

  • 2 Towns Ciderhouse – Traditions Ciderworks 2012 Pommeau (OR)

  • Colorado Cider Company – Distraction (CO)

Wood Aged Cider & Perry (16 entries)

  • Distillery Lane Ciderworks – Jefferson (MD)

  • Liberty Ciderworks – English Style (WA)

French Cider (15 entries)

  • Domaine de Kervéguen – Cidre Brut (Brittany, France)

  • Le Père Jules – Cidre de Normandie Brut (Normandy, France)

Distilled – Brandy (Oak Aged) (9 entries)

  • Le Père Jules – Calvados Pays d’Auge – 20 Ans (Normandy, France)

New England Cider (7 entries)

  • Snowdrift Cider Co. – Semi Dry (WA)

Cyser (7 entries)

  • Vander Mill – Cyser Van Doom (MI)

Applewine (7 entries)

  • 2 Towns Ciderhouse – Serious Scrump (OR)

  • Twin Pines Orchards & Cider House – Crack Willow (Ontario, Canada)

Traditional Perry (5 entries)

  • Hogan’s Cider – Vintage Perry 2010 (Warwickshire, England)

GLINTCAP compared to other beverage competitions is unique in that it is specifically related to fermented beverages from apples and pears. The competition is stiff because all of the entrants focus on beverages with these two fruits. However, the competition is equally as hard in beer and wine competitions where ciders are judged against ciders with different characteristics due to the limited entry categories. It’s impressive when a cider wins awards in such competitions unrelated specifically to cider/perry. Hard Cider News would like to applaud all of the ciders that win awards in such competitions, like the New York International Beer Competition and Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.

The 3rd Annual New York International Beer Competition (NYIBC) drew in over 400 beers and ciders from over 20 countries and awarded less than 35% of those who submitted a medal. The hand-selected panel of ‘a-list’ and trade-only judges made up of beer buyers, beer retail storeowners, restaurant/bar proprietors, beer distributors and importers, and generally those that have the unique ability to make a direct impact on sales awarded the below cideries with medals:

Gold Medals

  • Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider – Revelation Newtown Pippin (Category: Common Cider)

Silver Medals

  • Cidre Baupre – Original (Category: Common Cider)

  • Woodchuck Hard Cider – Amber (Category: Common Cider)

  • Ace Cider – Joker (Category: English Cider)

  • Weston’s Cider – Stowford Press Medium Dry Cider (Category: English Cider)

Bronze Medals

  • Ciderboys – First Press (Category: Common Cider)

  • Pommies – Dry Cider (Category: Common Cider)

  • Samuel Smith – Organic Cider (Category: English Cider)

  • Weston’s Cider – Premium (Category: English Cider)

  • Ace Cider – Perry (Category: Fruit Cider)

  • Ciderboys – Mad Bark (Category: Fruit Cider)

  • Ciderboys – Magic Apple (Category: Fruit Cider)

  • Ciderboys – Peach Country (Category: Fruit Cider)

  • Finnriver – Pear Cider (Category: Fruit Cider)

  • Magner’s – Pear (Category: Fruit Cider)

  • Original Sin – Pear (Cateogry: Fruit Cider)

NYIBC also awarded Weston’s the international award for “England Cider Producer of the Year” and Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider the US domestic award for “USA Cider Producer of the Year.” Further, Ace Cider won “California Cider Producer of the Year,” Woodchuck Hard Cider won “Vermont Cider Producer of the Year” and Ciderboys Cider Company won “Wisconsin Cider Producer of the Year.”

At the 14th Annual Finger Lakes International Wine Competition (FLIWC) held in Rochester, New York, over 3,756 wines were entered from 887 wineries, 20 countries, 6 Canadian provinces and all 50 United States. Known as the world’s largest wine competition to support a charity, the competition judges awarded 140 Double Gold, 284 Gold, 1,466 Silver, and 1,294 Bronze medals this year alone. “This year’s Finger Lakes International Wine Competition has the most diverse international group of judges ever assembled on the East Coast of the US to give entrants the best possible global palate and global opinion,” said Competition Founder Peter Parts.

The 75 renowned national and international judges representing sommeliers, educators, enologists, winemakers, writers, importers, retailers and industry consultants from around the world awarded the following Double Gold and Gold medals at this year’s competition for apple/pear related products. For a full list of award winners, please visit FLIWC.com.


  • Miel Nature (Quebec, Canada) – Pomme et Miel

Ice Cider
Double Gold

  • Cidrerie du Minot (Quebec, Canada) – Du Minot des Glaces 2010

  • Cidrerie du Minot (Quebec, Canada) – Du Minot des Glaces – Recolte d’Hiver 2011

  • Coteau Rougemont (Quebec, Canada) – Cidre de Glace Grande Reserve

  • La Face Cachee de la Pomme (Quebec, Canada) – Neige Premiere

  • Le Flanc Nord, Verger & Cidrerie (Quebec, Canada) – Cidre de Glace 2012


  • Champlain Orchards (VT) – Sparkling Ice Cider

  • Domaine De La Source A Marquerite (Quebec, Canada) – La Cuvee Des Ti-coq Ice Cider

  • Domaine De Lavoie (Quebec, Canada) – Cidre de Glace Cuvee Speciale

  • Eden Ice Cider Company (VT) – Eden Heirloom Blend

  • Eden Ice Cider Company (VT) – Eden Honeycrisp

  • Eden Ice Cider Company (VT) – Newhall Farm Ice Cider

  • Eden Ice Cider Company (VT) – Windfall Orchard Ice Cider

  • La Face Cachee de la Pomme (Quebec, Canada) – Neige Recolte d’hiver

Hard Cider
Double Gold

  • Sheffield Cider (WA) – Harvest Crush

  • Warwick Valley Winery (NY) – Doc’s Draft Hard Pear Apple Cider

  • Wort Hog Cidery at Earle Estates (NY) – Porky’s Pleasure Cherry Hard Cider


  • Cidrerie du Minot (Quebec, Canada) – Du Minot Brut

  • Cidrerie du Minot (Quebec, Canada) – Mystique

  • Sheffield Cider (WA) – Double Black

  • Wort Hog Cidery at Earle Estates (NY) – Wort Hog Hard Cider

Double Gold

  • Coteau Rougemont (Quebec, Canada) – Poire de Glace

Congrats to all of the recent award winners!


North America's First Cider Magazine

From Sip Ventures, the privately owned and operated publisher behind the award-winning regional beverage publication Sip Northwest, comes CIDERCRAFT—the first North American magazine dedicated to cider. CIDERCRAFT devotes itself to shining a light on the evolution and resurgence of one of the oldest beverages on the continent, bringing both education and appreciation of the drink to the thirsty people.

With circulation for the inaugural issue commencing at 25,000, the bi-annual CIDERCRAFT magazine will profile the artisans behind the craft, while exploring the regions and orchards, meeting the movers and shakers of the industry, listing original cocktail recipes from nationally renowned bar-chefs, recommend pairings with cider-friendly cuisine and aid as a connection between the consumer and cider producers.

“I am immensely grateful for the editorial team of international cider writers and experts we have enlisted for this first issue,” said Erin James, CIDERCRAFT Editor-in-Chief. Contributors include World’s Best Ciders authors Bill Bradshaw and Pete Brown, along with international cider aficionado Rowan Jacobsen and many more talented cider wordsmiths. “The response we’ve had from food and beverage writers has been very inspiring,” James said. “We knew we could acquire a stellar set of professionals.”

The favorable reaction wasn’t just from passionate drink writers, but from North American cider producers as well. “Cider is in a state of incredible growth right now, however, few people really know what cider is all about or the diversity the craft of cider represents,” James Kohn, co-owner of Wandering Aengus Ciderworks in Salem, OR, said. “CIDERCRAFT will be huge for the burgeoning cider industry because it will show cider for what it really is—a diverse and legitimate drink.”

Vermont Hard Cider COO/CFO Dan Rowell, who sits on the United States Association of Cider Makers Board of Directors with Kohn, echoed the same sentiment. “The cider category is growing quick and pulling drinkers from beer, wine and spirits alike,” Rowell said. “Interest in cider is rising, which leads to the desire for knowledge and a thirst for trying new cider styles. Having a publication focused on delivering the story of cider and of the many great cider makers across the country will drive greater interest and growth in the cider category.”

To subscribe, visit CraftCiderMag.com.


Austin Eastciders Launches First Texas-made Canned Hard Cider

Austin Eastciders is proud to officially unveil their first cider to be available in cans, Eastciders Original, which will be sold at select HEB groceries and other fine grocery stores throughout Texas beginning in late April. In addition to the launch of Eastciders Original, the craft cider company’s Gold Top cider now has the most draft taps in the cider market in Austin, with over 50 locations now serving the dry, wild-fermented cider.

Hard cider, the original drink of America pre-Prohibition, is making a massive come back, and Austin Eastciders, makers of craft ciders in Austin, Texas, are experiencing rapid expansion as the industry grows. Nationally, in 2012, hard cider sales in the United States jumped 62 percent, and sales in 2013 are expected to close at 100 percent growth for the industry, according to reports presented at CiderCon 2014 in Chicago. The growth of the cider industry is dramatically outpacing that of craft beer, and is inspired by the locavore movement, the naturally gluten-free nature of the drink and cider’s appealing, refreshing taste.

Unlike other ciders on the market, Austin Eastciders uses bittersweet cider apples to produce a drier, smoother, more complex taste. Bittersweet apples, which were traditionally used for cider Pre-Prohibition, went out of use due to destruction of many cider apple orchards during Prohibition. Since then, the majority of hard cider has been made with eating apples. Austin Eastciders brings back the traditional flavor of the ‘Original Drink of America’ with the use of bittersweet cider apples, which creates a delicious tanginess, bitterness, and much greater depth of flavor, with a refreshing dryness and astringency. Austin Eastciders is one of very few cider companies in the United States producing ciders using these varieties of apples.

Austin Eastciders Gold Top cider, which is currently available on draft at locations in Austin and San Antonio, will also now to be available in glass bottles at select HEB stores and other groceries throughout Texas. Gold Top is made with all-natural ingredients and more than 40 English bittersweet apple varieties resulting in a medium dry cider with a full, complex, bold flavor. This wild-fermented cider is 5.6% ABV and is served in 16.9-ounce glass bottles.

New to the market, Eastciders Original is a combination of American dessert apples and European bittersweet apples resulting in a blend of old and new world cider styles. Eastciders Original is light, crisp and ‘easy-drinking,’ making it the ideal summer cider. Eastciders Original is 4.8% ABV and is served in a 16-ounce can – the perfect format for packing along for an outdoor adventure. The can design is inspired by old Prohibition-era beer and soda brands using fluid hand-drawn scripts by Austin-based designer Simon Walker placing the brand firmly in the Austin-Americana design style. The Austin Eastciders brand style aims to evoke the feel of a long lost Texas cider brand from the early 20th century ‘Golden Age’ of cider.

Both Eastciders Original and Gold Top pair perfectly with barbeque, cheeses, pizza, picnics, a day at the lake, a music festival, exploring outdoors or a night out with friends at a favorite bar – Austin Eastciders is set to be the taste of Texas Summer! The cider is priced at $7.99 for a 4-pack of Eastciders Original, and $5 for a bottle of Gold Top. For more information, visit AustinEastciders.com.


Reverend Nat's Hard Cider Celebrates ¡Tepache!

Move over apples, there's a new fruit to ferment. Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, Reverend Nat's Hard Cider introduces an amazing pineapple brew. “Padre Nat's ¡Tepache!” will be available in 22-oz bottles and on draft in the first week of May. The hometown crew will celebrate the unique drink and the holiday at their Portland taproom on Cinco de Mayo, May 5th 2014.

“Tepache is a traditional Mexican drink, frequently consumed out of a plastic baggie with a straw, sold by street vendors in Jalisco and throughout Mexico. Ours is made from fresh Costa Rican pineapples, pure Michoacan piloncillo sugar and a blend of three spices for a deep unique flavor,” said Nat West, founder of Reverend Nat's. “I drink mine with two parts Tepache, one part Dos Equis in a tall 20 ounce glass while I relax in my hammock.” 

Reverend Nat's ¡Tepache! has a relatively low alcohol content (3.2%) and a subtle sweetness like a Summer Shandy or Radler due to a partial fermentation of the pineapples. Whole fresh pineapples are crushed and fermented on the skin to make this perfect summer sipper. Serve straight from the bottle, mixed with a low-hop pale beer or cider or in rum or bourbon cocktails for a special party addition.

A ¡Tepache! release party is scheduled for 5 to 10 pm on Monday, May 5th (Cinco de Mayo) at Reverend Nat's Cidery and Public Taproom (1813 NE 2nd Ave). $15 buys two 20-ounce glasses of Tepache and one tamale from Portland favorite Tamale Boy. Buy tickets in advance at the cidery and http://revnatscider.bpt.me. Only 150 tickets will be sold to this event and pre-purchase is recommended. 

Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider opened in the fall of 2011 in Portland, Oregon and uses only fresh whole apples from Oregon and Washington growers. Reverend Nat's creates ciders that reflect the region’s strengths and reinvigorate the historical position of hard cider in America. To learn more, check out the website at reverendnatshardcider.com or find us on Facebook or Twitter @revnatscider.


Eat This…

Drink That…

Cider-Poached Shrimp
From Southern Living (Sept. 2013) via MyRecipes.com

Garden & Orchard Punch
From Art Colored Glasses

Photo Credit: Hector Sanchez

Photo Credit: Kathryn Sparks