Hard Cider Newsletter


Pennsylvania’s Newest Cidery Has Officially Opened

Grand Illusion Hard Cider, Carlisle, Pennsylvania’s only cidery, opened its doors this month. This hard cider and wine bar showcases 15 innovative hard ciders, which are produced both in house and from available cider makers throughout the state and region, five unique craft beers, and six of the state’s most enjoyable wines. Also of note, Grand Illusion serves artfully crafted local cheese and charcuterie boards, a few inspired small plates, and a variety of hand-made flatbread pizzas.

This isn’t your typical cidery that you so often visit. Grand Illusion decided to take on a unique business model. Rather than selling its own craft cider, Grand Illusion showcases the bounty of hard ciders from Pennsylvania and surrounding regions, in addition to beers and wine. Not only does their dedication to local craft beverages set them apart from the competition, their staff is highly trained and has a high knowledge of the cider they are selling.

“All of our servers must achieve the Level 1 Certification from the United States Association of Cider Makers,” explained Chad Kimmel, owner of Grand Illusion Hard Cider. “We aren’t just selling cider, beer and wine, we are sharing the stories of the makers, the history of the product, how it’s made, what makes it special…”

Grand Illusion made its home in an early 19th century brick building located in Carlisle’s most prominent commercial block. The large front windows and grand entrance make this old, showstopper building difficult to just pass by. The details don’t stop on the outside. The two story building has a bar and entertainment spaces on each floor with turn-of- the-century magician posters inspiring the décor and brand. “There is something interesting at every corner,” laughed Kimmel.

For more information regarding Grand Illusion Hard Cider, please visit GrandIllusionCider.com. Photo courtesy of Grand Illusion Hard Cider.

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Golden State Cider Announces New Heritage Ciders

The founders of Golden State Cider (GSC) announced the release of The Elder Tree, the first of their new Harvest Series Ciders; a seasonal product line featuring traditionally fermented local and estate California heirloom apples. Barrel fermented in neutral oak and aged for 12 months, The Elder Tree features a blend of apples and is blended over multiple vintages. The result is a rich and refreshing cider experience that appeals to cider, wine, and traditional beer aficionados alike.

"We're excited to continue raising the bar in the world of cider, offering our customers a flavor profile that is unprecedented and in a format that you don't find heritage ciders of this caliber packaged in: 16-ounce cans," states Jolie Devoto, Golden State Cider co-founder and orchardist. The inaugural Elder Tree release marks our vision of what we want the Harvest Series to represent: the unique, terroir-driven fruit character that gives people a real sense of our home in Sebastopol (California)."

The Elder Tree Cider has a 7.5% ABV and it is recommended that it be served at 55 degrees Fahrenheit in a bulbous glass. The cider pours a fine, fleeting head and leaves a tarnished gold color, with a touch of coral hue. The initial aromas bounce between two of the prominent varietals of this blend: Newtown Pippin and Arkansas Black. The Newtown Pippin exudes prominent pome fruit with notes of tree nuts and brandy. The Arkansas Black offers notes of leather and older oak, reminiscent of the GSC barrel room. The overall bouquet speaks to the agedness of The Elder Tree, which is blended across multiple vintages, with components of the blend spending as long as 12 months in oak barrels. The mouthfeel is full and coating, favoring the top of the mouth, but is not overpowering nor does it overstay its welcome; it fades away slow enough to enjoy, and stays long enough to be remembered. On the palate, The Elder Tree is smooth and balanced between acid and low impact tannins, which is accentuated by the dryness of this cider. Notes of apple brandy, strawberry jam, oatmeal cookies, and beeswax shine through in this elegant, yet robust cider. One might want to pair the cider with savory foods like mushroom risotto, shepherd’s pie or leg of lamb pilaf; but the cider can also pair with sweet foods like cider doughnuts, dulce de leche and oatmeal cookies.

The Elder Tree is sold in four-packs of 16-ounce cans and kegs only in Sonoma County, California. Expect to find The Elder Tree cider at farm-to-table restaurants in Sonoma County, like Handline. Find it at retailers like Whole Foods Markets, Oliver's Markets, Beercraft, Big John's Market, and Bottle Barn. The Elder Tree is the first of three Harvest Series Ciders that will be released throughout the year until they're sold out - only 250 cases were made available. The three new Harvest Series releases (The Elder Tree, Fool's Gold, and Save the Gravenstein), will gradually replace the cidery's three Devoto Orchards Cider brands, the farm's namesake and original brand that the founders sold exclusively at Bay Area farmers markets for the first couple years.

With the release of the Harvest Series, GSC also welcomed Chris Lacey as Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Chris brings over twelve years of experience in the area of sales, marketing and business development for wine, beer and spirits. With his strategic and tactical industry insights, Chris has the unique combination of expertise, industry relationships and creativity to introduce GSC and the growing craft cider category to a wider audience. Chris will also join the executive team at GSC.

Prior to joining Golden State Cider, Chris was Constellation Brand Manager at DBI Beverage for San Francisco and San Mateo counties (in California) where he grew incremental volume and brand awareness for some of the fastest growing beer brands in the country: Corona, Modelo, Pacifico and Victoria.

In Seattle, Chris was Marketing Director for Precept Wine, the largest privately-owned winemaker in Washington State. He developed branding strategies for twenty core wine brands from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, New Mexico and Australia. Chris experienced the rise of craft beer during his time with Rogue Ales & Spirits in Oregon, one of the oldest and most innovative craft breweries in the country. Ultimately rising to Vice President of Sales, Chris was instrumental in creating brand-defining new products, reinforcing Rogue's unique culture and growing sales significantly over 50 states and 25 countries. Lacey's leadership will help bring GSC to a broader audience by way of quality apples and cider, the foundation on which the GSC brand was built.

To learn more about Golden State Cider’s new heritage cider series and more, visit DrinkGoldenState.com. Photos courtesy of Golden State Cider.

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Sly Clyde Hires Head Cider Maker

Sly Clyde Ciderworks in Hampton, Virginia, has officially named Brent Miles as their head cider maker. Brent is a nationally acclaimed cider maker who helped start Seattle Cider Company as the first head cider maker, where he led the development of the industry-shaping Semi-Sweet and Dry ciders that brought Brent’s name to the national stage.

Brent has twice been a lecturer at Oregon State University’s Craft Cider Start-up Workshop, presented on cider company growth at national conferences, and named one of the top “Cider Makers to Watch” by Serious Eats in 2014. His ciders have won numerous awards including multiple gold medals at GLINTCAP, the largest cider competition in the United States.

Doug Smith of Sly Clyde Ciderworks stated, “After a global search for the planet’s best cider maker we are happy to announce that we were very successful with the hiring of Brent Miles. Brent has the experience and drive we needed to create amazing local craft ciders in Hampton Roads and build the foundation for a major East Coast craft beverage brand. We could not be more pleased.”

Brent recently moved to Hampton from Belfast, Northern Ireland to take the post with Sly Clyde Ciderworks and will reside in Phoebus, just blocks away from a new production facility built to his specifications, designed for an initial capacity of 3,000 barrels.

“I love every aspect of the start-up process – recipe development, production planning, branding – and am eager for the construction process to finish up so that everyone can taste what we’ve been working on,” explained Brent. “What drew me to Doug and Tim [Smith] was their commitment to putting great cider into cans and their focus on creating a community-focused tasting room.”

Sly Clyde Ciderworks is set to open this Spring (2018). The addition of Brent Miles as head cider maker was the next step towards the cidery’s public opening at is Phoebus (Virginia) tasting room and retail outlets throughout Hampton Roads. For more information, please visit SlyClyde.com. Photo courtesy of Sly Clyde Ciderworks.

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Alpenfire Cider Releases Discovery Trail “Cider on the Go” Collaboration

Alpenfire Cider has announced its partnership with the Peninsula Trails Coalition of Washington state to create a very special cider benefitting the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT). A percentage of each cider bag sold will go to assist in expanding the trail as well as trail care and maintenance.

Discovery Trail Cider is a traditional style, still cider - dry and delicious - with a 9% ABV. It pours a dark straw color, has a fiery nose that is sharp and spirituous, and a full and round flavorful hot kick in middle with a medium astringent finish. Alpenfire's organic bittersweet cider fruit and Olympic Peninsula grown organic heirloom apples including Macintosh, Cortland, Jonagold, Foxwhelp and Kingston Black are blended together to produce light tannins and refreshing acidity. The apple juice was cold fermented with champagne yeast for seven weeks and then spent seven months maturing in stainless steel. The cider is presented in a 1.5 liter recyclable bag that is also BPA Free. It is lighter and has an 80% lower carbon footprint compared to conventional glass bottles - perfect for a trek on the trail! The cider is currently available in Port Townsend (Washington) at the co-op, Getables, and the Alpenfire tasting room when it opens again in March. Those in the greater Puget Sound area of Washington should look for the cider soon, as well. Only 180 bags were released.

Discovery Trail cider is being used to raise funds for the Peninsula Trails Coalition goal of completing the ODT. The trail will eventually extend approximately 130 miles, connecting Port Townsend at its eastern end to the Pacific coast on the western end. It is available to walkers, hikers, bicyclists, and in many sections, equestrians. The vision of the ODT was formed over 30 years ago and the actual trail is now about 65% complete, with several beautiful stretches just recently opened.

Along with the Discovery Trail Cider’s release, Alpenfire Cider is also celebrating over a decade of certified organic cider making. To mark the celebration, the company has rebranded, revamped the website from the ground up, and will be releasing six new vintaged ciders throughout the year into 2019. Alpenfire planted their first 900 trees in 2003 specifically for making cider, focusing on apples you could not buy like Kingston Black, Dabinett, Vilberie and Muscadet de Dieppe. They chose these varieties to give their cider enticing earthy flavor and tannic structure you cannot get from the average apples commonly available and widely used in the Northwest U.S. Keep an eye out for the new releases!

For more information on Alpenfire Cider,  visit the cidery online at AlpenfireCider.com. Photos courtesy of Alpenfire Cider.

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Lovestruck at Awestruck

Awestruck Ciders has released its 2018 Lovestruck, their coconut rosé cider. Lovestruck is a gleefully sweet, bright and bubbly, almost creamy, coconut cider with a captivating pink hue. The striking logo features their big “A” for Awestruck with the inner exclamation point altered to show Cupid’s arrow. The design catches your eye and the cider inside wins your heart.

Lovestruck has a medium sweetness and obtains much of its rosé color from fresh hibiscus calyces. The cider is effervescent and bright. The aroma reminds you of tropical fruits, mainly due to the coconut addition. The coconut is highlighted largely on the finish though, particularly after you swallow and breathe out. Lovestruck embodies the feeling of being swept off your feet. It is romantic and something that makes you feel warm from the creamy coconut and light from the bright bubbles, at the same time.

Awestruck Ciders is owned by a young couple local to Delaware County, New York. They traveled the world for years, learning about other cultures through their food and drink. When they returned home they wanted a way to honor the land that they came from so cider making was a natural fit as New York is known for their apples and historically hard cider was extremely prevalent in the area.

“We’re excited to see a wave of new rosé ciders hitting the market,” a representative from Awestruck said. “...but we still keep coming back to this incredible flavor combination in Lovestruck. The cider is pleasantly sweet, not overpowering and the coconut provides this amazing sensory experience where it presents itself after you swallow and it fills your head, a bit like eating truffles. We know once you try it you’ll be smitten.”

Lovestruck is available in 750ml bottles and is available for sale in their taproom in Sidney, New York, as well as select stores throughout the state and through their online store, which is currently hosted via Facebook. Only 500 bottles were produced so find it while you can! Visit AwestruckCiders.com for information on their ciders and more!

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CiderCon 2018 Wraps-up with Newly Elected Board

The United States Association of Cider Makers (USACM) elects new directors and officers each year at their annual meeting which takes place during CiderCon, the industry conference for USACM members held each February. CiderCon 2018 took place at the Baltimore Waterfront Marriott from January 30 to February 2 this year, and was quite successful!

The 8th annual CiderCon was attended by representatives from 41 states with the most coming from New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Maryland, and California. Members from 12 countries also attended including: Argentina, Austria, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Kazakhstan, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand. Overall, 1,100 people attended the conference (including vendors)! This growth in attendance is no coincidence. In the opening session, research firm Nielsen reported that off-premise cider sales in the United States have increased 5% in the past five weeks vs. the same period last year. Additionally, off-premise market share grew 30% last year for regional ciders, reflecting consumer interest in locally-sourced products.

This year’s CiderCon placed special emphasis on heritage ciders, which are orchard-based, regional ciders made with heritage apples using traditional cider making techniques. Furthermore, emphasis was given to the USACM’s Cider Style Guidelines which were introduced last October (2017) as a non-competition based style guide for ciders.

CiderCon also took place during Cider Week Baltimore which consisted of more than 35 cider focused events that took place around the city including cider tasting events, tap takeovers, intimate cider dinners and the Pour the Core: Hard Cider Festival at the B&O Railroad Museum.  

As CiderCon came to a close, the USACM welcomed new leaders and thanked those retiring their service for all they have done to support a growing cider industry. Paul Vander Heide of Vander Mill, a cider company based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was been elected to the office of President for the 2018 USACM Board of Directors. He replaces USACM veteran and cider pioneer, Bruce Nissen of Jester & Judge Cider Company, who ended his board tenure this year after three terms of dedicated service. 

Paul has served on the USACM board since February 2016. During that time, he has served as committee chair for USACM's Certified Cider Professional program, a cider credentials program similar to Cicerone for beer. He was also the sitting Secretary for those two years.

"My goal as board president is to listen to our members and my fellow directors," said Vander Heide. "We are a big tent organization, so hearing many diverse viewpoints on how USACM can help grow cider's market share will only help us." Vander Heide also sits on the boards of the Michigan Cider Association and the Cider Institute of North America.

Trevor Baker of Noble Cider in Asheville, North Carolina was elected once more as USACM's Vice President of the Board. Ben Calvi of Vermont Cider Company in Vermont was elected as Treasurer, replacing Eleanor Leger of Eden Specialty Ciders who ended her service with the board this year after an extremely productive term. Eric Foster of Stem Ciders in Colorado joined the board's executive committee as secretary.

Michelle McGrath, USACM's executive director, is thrilled with the board's new executive committee, "This is an exceptionally balanced group when it comes to leadership styles, resources and skills. I work very closely with the executive committee throughout the year, and I am looking forward to doing so with this group."

Nearly 50% of USACM's voting members participated in an election at CiderCon 2018 to select new directors for the board. Trevor Baker (Noble Cider) and Ryan Burk (Angry Orchard) were both re-elected by their cider making peers to represent the South and cideries making more than one million gallons of cider a year, respectively.

Sam Fitz of ANXO in Washington DC and Brooke Glover of Swilled Dog Hard Cider in West Virginia were newly elected to join the board. Sam oversees the ANXO cider brand as well as two brick-and-mortar establishments in Washington, D.C., including the award-winning restaurant ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar. While Fitz and ANXO recognize there is no right way to go about making cider, he and his company hope to be a voice for traditional cider making and the orchardists, producers and restaurateurs that embrace it.

Brooke is a West Virginia native. She and her husband opened Swilled Dog Hard Cider there in 2016. The apple culture of West Virginia is part of her passionate devotion to cider. She has experience working closely with West Virginia’s congressional representatives and has a background in business. Brooke intends to use her experience as a new and small cider maker to inform her contributions to the board of directors.

In addition to the aforementioned directors, the following individuals continue their board service in 2018: Dan Wilson of Slyboro Cider in New York, Dan Young of Tandem Ciders in Michigan, Marcus Robert of Tieton Ciderworks in Washington, and Brian Shanks of Bold Rock Cider Company in North Carolina.

To become a member or learn more about the US Association of Cider Maker’s work, visit the association online at CiderAssociation.com.

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Eat This…

Drink That…

Bacon Jam & Cider Pinwheels
From Margo Greenman via CIDERCRAFT Magazine

The Force
From Jesse Card of the Bit House Saloon in Tasting Cider by Erin James via Imbibe Magazine

Photo Credit: Margo Greenman

Photo Credit: Antonis Achilleos