Hard Cider Newsletter

New Hard Cider Company Wants to Bring Change to West Virginia

Swilled Dog Hard Cider, a new and exciting hard cider company and the second hard cidery in the state of West Virginia, will be opening for business very soon. Located in Franklin, WV, the family-owned and operated company, which prides itself on blending new age cider techniques with old traditions, will be looking to bring its passion for cider-making to the people of West Virginia and beyond while making an impact in their local communities.

“We are thrilled to bring our ciders to the marketplace,” said Brad Glover, one of the family’s owners. “This has been something that our family has wanted to do for quite some time. We have received such a great response from everyone, and we can’t wait to launch this brand in West Virginia.”

Swilled Dog is also passionate about making an impact. Glover said, “It is extremely important for us to give back and use our company as a platform to make a real impact in the communities in which we operate and do business. We love the state of West Virginia and want to make sure we are not only giving financially but also giving our time to the causes that we feel most passionate about supporting. Cider is very important to us, but equally important is being part of the solution and to lead the effort in making a real impact in the state through agriculture, education and championing our favorite animal causes.”

Because of this, Swilled Dog has committed to not only give its time, but to also give at least 1% of its annual sales to local communities and charities. As the company grows, Glover said that this number would easily be increased.

Transparency is also a major focus for the Swilled Dog team. “We want to make sure we are open and completely transparent about our cider-making process and our ingredients,” Cider Maker Mike Gallaher stated. “We take great pride in our blending of new cider making techniques and traditional processes we have grown accustomed to enjoying. We think that the cider industry has come a long way in bringing new styles to the market. From flavored ciders using hops and other natural flavorings to making more traditional artisanal ciders, we will continue to embrace the trends that move the category forward. We also make sure that the majority of our apples and juice are sourced directly from local West Virginia orchards and farmers. Even with our own orchards being planted with cider-specific apples, our goal is to only increase our percentage of locally-sourced ingredients.”

One of the first ciders Swilled Dog will be selling is its 2016 limited edition West Virginia Scrumpy. All of the apples in this cider were donated directly from generous West Virginia residents. Barry Glover, one of the other family member owners and the company’s Operations Manager couldn’t believe the response. “It was a lot of knocking on doors. Everyone seemed very excited about the prospect that his or her apples would be used in making a local West Virginia product. Once word got out, we had people calling us to see if we wanted to come look at their apple trees. We couldn’t believe all of the generosity.” The West Virginia Scrumpy is an off-dry cider with a tart finish and a 6.9% ABV.

Not only will the company be offering the West Virginia Scrumpy, but their line-up will also feature:

  • Apple Bottom – a semi-dry more traditional cider

  • Bunny Slope – a hopped cider produced to attract the craft beer crowd

  • Pumpkin Patch – a cider flavored with actual pumpkin and chai tea spices

  • Caramel Apple – a caramel flavored cider

As they continue to experiment with new flavors and apple blends, plans are in the works for more.

Swilled Dog is planning launch events across West Virginia now. Operating without a tasting room, the company will focus on creating fun and exciting events and featuring their products on tap and in bottle at local restaurants and bars. Brooke Glover is the company’s Director of Sales and Marketing and thinks that West Virginia has a tremendous opportunity to put its mark on the hard cider industry that is experiencing quite a resurgence. “You only need to look across the state’s borders to see the impact hard cider is making in Pennsylvania and Virginia. As hard cider across the country continues to become a bigger segment of the market, West Virginia needs to catch-up and show its heritage for apple cultivation and hard cider. Our focus is to first build our brand in the state but quickly become regionally focused. We have big plans for this brand and look forward to putting our mark on the recovery of the industry across the country.”

To learn more about Swilled Dog and its launch and events, please visit SwilledDog.com. Photos courtesy of Swilled Dog.


Nine Pin Vanilla Chai Cans Now Available

Nine Pin Cider Works, New York’s first farm cidery, announced it has released its first specialty cider of 2017, Nine Pin Vanilla Chai.

A local collaboration made Nine Pin Vanilla Chai possible. Aged on vanilla beans and infused with chai spiced tea from Guilderland-based tea producer, Short and Stout, this cider is crafted from a farmhouse blend of apples from Samascott Orchards in Columbia County.

“Our Vanilla Chai is a unique cider that is refreshing yet comforting, making for the perfect winter warmer,” said Alejandro del Peral, Co-founder and Cider Maker.

Nine Pin Vanilla Chai cider combines the smooth flavors of vanilla and molasses with familiar notes of warming chai spices. Starting this month, four-packs of 12 oz. cans are available in the tasting room (in Albany, NY), farmers markets, and at select retailers carrying Nine Pin. Vanilla Chai is listed with an ABV of 6.7%.

For more information about Nine Pin and where Nine Pin Cider can be found, visit NinePinCider.com. Photos courtesy of Nine Pin Cider.


Bold Rock Hard Cider Becomes Sixth Largest Hard Cider Company and Releases New Citrus Cider

According to recently released IRI data, the award-winning craft cider company, Bold Rock Hard Cider, which makes a variety of hard cider styles from apples picked in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina, sold 45,000 barrels in 2016, up 70%. It’s remarkable growth for a company that started in 2012 as a small operation and has grown to include two production facilities in Nellysford, Virginia and Mills River, North Carolina, and distributes in nine states between Eastern Pennsylvania and Georgia.

With over 75 full-time employees, Bold Rock now produces 12 styles of hard cider, including the popular originals, Apple and Draft, and a rotating mix of seasonal ciders that include Peach and Blood Orange cider. Bold Rock’s IPA (India Pressed Apple) is now the best-selling hopped cider in the U.S. These authentic varieties of cider have found favor with a wide range of customers and throughout the industry, as Bold Rock has won over 100 awards in hard cider and wine competitions since first launching.

Bold Rock Hard Cider was founded by partners John Washburn and Brian Shanks. Washburn owned a scenic piece of farmland in Nellysford, a bucolic small town in Central Virginia’s Nelson County, now well-known for its many craft breweries and wineries. For his land, Washburn had the vision to go in a different direction and produce craft cider with the region’s abundance of locally grown apples. To fulfill his ambition, he sought out New Zealand native Brian Shanks, a master cider maker and world-renowned expert with more than three decades of experience in the industry at numerous cider companies. The two fast friends have since put together a rapidly growing operation, turning Bold Rock into the largest independently owned craft cidery in the United States.

Starting in a small barn, Bold Rock expanded on its original property in 2015, building a $6 million state-of-the-art, production facility and tasting room overlooking the Rockfish River Valley. In November 2015, Bold Rock opened a second production facility and taproom in Mills River, North Carolina, utilizing the abundance of premium apples grown in the state’s western mountains.

“We’ve experienced tremendous growth, but as we continue to expand we will not compromise our craft and the quality of hard cider,” says Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing Jeff Liebhardt. Jeff joined Bold Rock in 2014 after 25 years of experience in the beverage industry working for E. & J. Gallo Winery and the Boston Beer Company.

To kick-off growth in the New Year, the company has released its latest seasonal cider, Bold Rock Citrus. This cider has a complex lemon-lime flavor profile accentuating local Granny Smith apples while keeping a smooth finish. Similar to the Blood Orange, Bold Rock’s last seasonal of 2016, Bold Rock Citrus has a haze comparable to fresh squeezed lemonade. Citrus is crisp and refreshing with an off-dry finish allowing for supreme drinkability.

With recent infrastructure expansion, Bold Rock now has the capability to produce 150,000 barrels of cider per year, and this year the company is forecasting production of 65,000 barrels. In addition to expanding distribution and tap room sales, Bold Rock also participates in over 300 festivals a year, bringing authentic craft cider to people throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions.

For more information about Bold Rock Hard Cider and Bold Rock Citrus, please visit BoldRock.com. Photos courtesy of Bold Rock.


Stem Ciders Launches Off-Dry Series and New Distribution to Illinois

Stem Ciders, of Denver, Colorado, is starting off 2017 with a new cider release – Off-Dry Apple Cider. This first release of the cidery’s new Off-Dry Series will launch across Colorado beginning Monday, January 30th.

Best known for making dry ciders and the line, “Yeah, it’s Dry. Drink it Already”, Stem’s Head Cider Maker Ian Capps details the challenges met in producing the cidery’s first off-dry product, without adding sweetness. “Instead of fermenting to complete dryness and back sweetening with juice to reach the ideal off-dry qualities, we halt fermentation at the precise moment just before all the natural sugar in the juice is fermented. This process allows us to retain the integrity of the original apple.” The result is a juicy, clean cider with balanced acidity and a distinct apple aroma, with a 5.8% ABV. Off-Dry Apple Cider will be available in 4-packs of 12-ounce cans and on draft.

With this new series also comes a shift in the branding of their core ciders: Malice, Remedy, Branch & Bramble, to focus on the ingredients used and the qualities of the product itself. Beginning in February, you’ll find Malice as Real Dry Apple Cider, Remedy as Hopped Apple Cider, and Branch & Bramble as Raspberry Apple Cider. The new branding showcases the ingredient list placed on the front side of the can as a key design element, while keeping the original design shape of the brands in place. “As we say, ‘the measure of a good cider is in each of its parts.’ It starts with quality ingredients, and the fewer the ingredients, the closer we are to the apple,” said Courtney O’Rourke, Director of Marketing. “We wanted to bring the quality and integrity of our products to the forefront. If it’s real dry apple cider, then why not call it Real Dry Apple Cider? Keep it simple, keep it craft."

Along with new branding this February, Stem Ciders will also be expanding its distribution outside of Colorado with Breakthru Beverage Illinois. Distribution in the Chicago market and throughout the state of Illinois will begin February 1.

“Illinois represents a tremendous opportunity for us to expand our distribution footprint outside of Colorado to another savvy market that’s thirsty for our style of clean, craft ciders,” said Matt Hoskins, Director of Sales at Stem Ciders. “With a partner like Breakthru, we think the sky is our only limit. We look forward to a long and healthy partnership in Illinois and beyond.”

Stem Ciders plans to launch both cans and draft throughout Illinois. The cidery will bring their flagship ciders: Real Dry Apple Cider, Hopped Apple Cider, Raspberry Apple Cider, along with the debut of the first from their new Off-Dry Series, Off-Dry Apple Cider.

“Stem Ciders is going to be a welcomed addition to the Illinois market,” said Breakthru Illinois VP of Sales, Jeff Roth. “Their dedication to producing the highest quality cider possible and innovative packaging sets a high bar in the category. We are very bullish on the future of craft cider and we feel Stem Ciders is going to be a major player in the category for a long time.”

The launch of Stem Ciders in Chicago is perfectly timed with the United States Association of Cider Makers annual conference, CiderCon. Stem Ciders will launch in celebration with CiderCon, Chicago Cider Week and Cider Summit Chicago. Illinoisans are invited to attend a series of events throughout the city in celebration, February 3-18. For a complete event listing, visit StemCiders.com/events.

Further details about Stem Ciders can be found at StemCiders.com. Photos courtesy of Stem Ciders.


Strongbow Hard Apple Ciders Welcomes Spring with New Orange Blossom Flavor

Strongbow Hard Apple Ciders, the number one global cider brand, according to Canadian Research, Inc.’s 2015 global sales volume of largest single cider brands, unveiled its newest flavor, Strongbow Orange Blossom. The new flavor delivers a fresh, spring-like orange blossom aroma with a touch of sweetness and a juicy apple finish. Strongbow Orange Blossom, along with all Strongbow products, contains no artificial flavors or colors.

“We are welcoming spring this year with the newest edition to the Strongbow family of hard ciders, and are excited to share Strongbow Orange Blossom with our fans!” said Jessica Robinson, Senior Director  of Strongbow, who was involved in the development of the new flavor. “Strongbow Orange Blossom, a fresh remix of natural flavors, has received consistently high taste test ratings, appeals equally to men, women, cider and non-cider drinkers, and has a higher trial potential than the leading hard soda brand (according to TNS Product Concept Test 2016). Consumer research during the new flavor development also revealed that 8 out of 10 consumers say Orange Blossom is “good tasting,” “easy to drink,” and “refreshing.” And overall flavor trends are on our side – orange is a top three flavor driving growth in flavored spirits, Robinson continued.”

Over the past year, Strongbow has outperformed the hard cider category by over 20% and grew to become the second hard cider brand in the U.S. Its Gold Apple flavor was recognized as the Best Tasting Hard Cider in the Common Cider category for two years in a row at the World Cider Championships (2014 and 2015).

“Strongbow is known for its 125 years of cider-making heritage and its portfolio of award-winning flavors, and we know our consumers are curious and always looking for new and exciting flavors,” said Robinson. “Strongbow Orange Blossom represents our relentless commitment to quality, taste and product innovation. We recommend serving Orange Blossom over ice to help bring out its distinctive orange blossom aroma, and enjoy its crisp refreshing taste.”

Supported by TV advertising, consumer sampling, and in-store merchandising, Orange Blossom will be launched in 6-packs during the month of March and will simultaneously replace Strongbow Ginger in the 12-bottle Strongbow Variety Pack, alongside Strongbow Gold Apple, Honey, and Cherry Blossom. To drive trial and awareness of the new flavor, the same four flavors will be offered in limited edition 4-pack mini cans for a suggested retail price of $1 starting in March. Strongbow Orange Blossom will also be competing at the 2017 World Cider Championships.

All flavors in the new Variety Park are gluten-free and sold in 11.2-ounce bottles. Strongbow Gold Apple and Honey are 5% ABV, while the new Strongbow Orange Blossom, Cherry Blossom and Ginger are 4.5% ABV. To find all Strongbow flavors near you, please visit the product locator at Strongbow.com. Photos courtesy of Heineken USA.


Get Ready for Cider, Chicago!

Members of the cider community from across the United States are planning to attend not one, not two but three hard cider events taking over the city.

CiderCon 2017, presented by the United States Association of Cider Makers (USACM), from February 7-10 at the Hilton Chicago Hotel in downtown Chicago, Illinois, is the premier annual opportunity for the cider community to gather, share ideas, collaborate and learn. Discounted registration pricing ends January 31 for the three-day event, which is open only to current USACM members.

“Members of the cider community from across the country want to advance positive changes in cidermaking, cider fruit production, the cider market and cider regulations,” says Michelle McGrath, the Executive Director of USACM. “CiderCon is designed to allow cider producers to meet their industry colleagues to exchange ideas on best practices, innovations and trends. The discussions that take place at CiderCon provide a foundation of strength and diversity for the industry.”

Key benefits for attendees of CiderCon include:

  • Opportunities to learn about key topics such as:

    • Blending craft ciders

    • Cider lab analysis

    • Cidery expansion planning

    • Cidery sensory analysis

    • Cider trends in the US and abroad

  • The ability to meet with more than 80 vendors who will be part of the CiderCon trade show

  • Optional participation in an Advanced Cider Orchard Production workshop

  • Choice of five focus tracks: production, business, sales, marketing, cider orchard or cidermaking

  • Opportunity to take advanced tasting courses from cider experts

USACM’s CiderCon conference is also a great venue for sponsors and vendors to interact with leading cider makers and members of the cider industry from across the United States.

Chicago Cider Week, a series of cider-based entertainment and education events, will also be taking place at the same time as CiderCon from February 3-11.  This is the first annual Chicago Cider Week with events including tastings at bars and restaurants across the city, community gatherings, and educational opportunities. This week-long festival is a unique opportunity to spend time with and learn from makers, growers and cider drinkers. Chicago Cider Week will highlight, promote and inform the community about where and how to enjoy Chicago’s many cider offerings.

Some of the Chicago Cider Week events include:

  • Chicago Cider Week Kick-off (2/3 at 5pm, The Northman) – Start the week off right by having PMG Promotions make you some cider week swag right in front of you!

  • Cider Breakdown with Bog Evan of Vander Mill Cider (2/7 at 7pm, Binny’s Lincoln Park) – Learn all about cider making, pairings, history and more! Reservation required along with $15 event fee.

  • E. Z. Orchard Dinner with Kevin Zielinsky (2/8 at 7pm, Mortar and Pestle) – Reserve your tickets for a special evening with the Cider Maker of EZ Orchards, sipping a limited selection of delicious heirloom ciders perfectly paired with a five-course dinner.

  • Michigan Cider Night (2/9 at 6pm, Villians Chicago) – A pay as you go event featuring cider from seven Michigan producers including Balkes, Starcut, Uncle John’s, Virtue, Vander Mill, Sietsema, and Farmhaus.

Chicago is a cider town, boasting two cider makers, Begyle and Right Bee Cider, as well as the forthcoming Eres Cider House. It also has a cider bar, The Northman, in addition to countless bars and restaurants with great taste in cider. Chicago is blessed to be smack dab in the middle of the Midwest, with all sorts of apples from Michigan, Wisconsin, and Northern Illinois being turned into truly delicious cider. Cider is Chicago’s drink for celebrating, being merry and keeping warm through the cold Windy City winters.

The week-long series of cider events is culminated with Cider Summit on February 11, 2017. The fifth annual event will be held in two sessions – 11am-3pm and 4pm-8pm – at the Aon Grand Ballroom at the Navy Pier.

Presented by Binny’s Beverage Depot, Cider Summit Chicago celebrates local, regional and international artisanal ciders and cider makers. As in years past, Cider Summit will feature over 150 ciders from at least seven states and six countries, including regional favorites and international classics. Cidermakers and importers will be on hand to inform and guide guests through the tastings poured into the commemorative festival glassware. For the first-time, the event will include a regional small producers pavilion – premiering with eight cider makers from the Northwest.

Additional features include a Cider Cocktail Lounge area presented by Woodford Reserve, an expanded selection of food pairings, and the Cider Summit event store featuring event merchandise and various cider souvenirs.

“This is a milestone event for us,” noted event co-founder, Alan Shapiro. “We had no idea if Chicagoans would even be interested in our festival when we started in 2013. It has now become our best-attended event among our four cities. We look forward to welcoming the area’s cider lovers and cider curious to our most diverse selection of ciders ever to celebrate our 5th anniversary.”

All event tickets are sold online through Bold Type Tickets. General admission tickets are $35 and include a souvenir tasting glass, eight tasting tickets and a $1 donation to Heartland Alliance.

For more information, please visit CiderSummit.com.


Eat This…

Drink That…

Alpenfire Glow Rose Cider-Poached Salmon
From Brooklynn Johnson of CIDERCRAFT Magazine

Strongbow Cider Pomegranate Punch
From Chilled Magazine

Photo Credit: Alpenfire Cider

Photo Credit: Strongbow Hard Cider Company