Hard Cider Newsletter

2 Towns Ciderhouse Expands Portfolio with Hard Seltzer

In March, 2 Towns Ciderhouse will be launching a brand-new line of hard seltzers made 100 percent from real fruit. SeekOut is a natural hard seltzer crafted entirely from real fruit and water, without the use of any refined sugar or artificial flavorings at any point in the process.

“We are excited about the growing popularity of hard seltzers in the market, and we think there is a lot of opportunity to showcase our dedication to craft beverages, and what real hard seltzer can taste like,” said Lee Larsen, CEO at 2 Towns Ciderhouse. “We set out to create a more authentic hard seltzer, by using 100 percent real fruit and water, and never any refined sugar or artificial flavorings. Even the alcohol for these seltzers is from apples, so there’s some real substance behind it, not just fermented cane sugar water.”

SeekOut Real Hard Seltzer will launch with four unique varieties: Key Lime + Mint, Raspberry + Meyer Lemon, Cucumber + Juniper, and Pineapple + Passion Fruit. At 5% ABV, and only 100 calories per can, they will be available in six-pack 12-ounce cans, as well as on draft in 1/2bbl kegs. A variety 12-pack will also be available at launch, containing all four seltzer varieties.

SeekOut will be available starting in March throughout Oregon, California, Washington, Illinois, Idaho, and Minnesota. Once available, fans can use the Seltzer Finder at SeekOutSeltzer.com to find a nearby retailer that carries Real Hard Seltzer. Photos courtesy of 2 Towns Ciderhouse.


Industry’s Largest Gathering, CiderCon, Returns to Chicago Feb. 5-8

More than 900 attendees from across the United States, Canada and Europe and a cider industry trade show with over 100 vendors will meet in downtown Chicago for CiderCon 2019, hosted by the United States Association of Cider Makers (USACM). CiderCon 2019 will be the largest gathering of cider professionals since the group met last year in Baltimore, following its most recent visit to Chicago in 2017. This year’s CiderCon event will take place February 5 – 8 at the Hilton Chicago Hotel.

CiderCon is the premier annual opportunity for the cider community to gather, share ideas, collaborate and learn. Discounted registration pricing ends Monday, January 28 for the multi-day event, which is open only to current USACM members. Cider industry professionals can learn more about USACM member benefits and sign up for membership on the USACM website.

CiderCon 2019 is happening during Chicago Cider Week, a series of cider-based entertainment and education events and immediately before Cider Summit Chicago, a public festival at Chicago’s Navy Pier featuring 150+ ciders, cider cocktails and apple spirits (tickets must be pre-purchased for Cider Summit).

Highlights of CiderCon 2019 Include:

Certified Pommelier™ Pilot Exam. Since 2016, the hard cider industry has had its own Certified Cider Professional (CCP) program, administered by USACM and geared toward cider servers. Next month at CiderCon 2019, USACM will offer the exam for the second level of the CCP program for the first time. Those who pass the test, with its mix of short answer, essay and tasting oriented questions, will earn the title of Certified Pommelier™. The exam is available to members and non-members alike.

Pomme Boots Society Meeting. The Pomme Boots Society will hold its first annual meeting at CiderCon 2019. Established to promote and encourage the involvement of women in the cider industry, the group’s mission is to support positive network connections, education and professional development for women in the dynamic field of cider.

Rare Cider Tastings. One of the best ways to learn about a particular style of cider is to taste it while discussing  its characteristics with others. Natural Style Cider, Spanish-style Sidra Cider, Still Cider and Ice Cider are just some of the cider types that attendees will be able to taste and learn about during focused CiderCon sessions as well as at a gathering of 70 producers pouring samples at the conference welcome reception on Wednesday night. This year CiderCon is pleased to welcome Canada as their featured international guests.

Cider Specific Trade Show. With over 100 cider-industry specific vendors (including a cider making virtual reality booth!), two trade show floor cider bars and a game lounge, the trade show is alone is worth attending CiderCon. The trade show runs Thursday and Friday of the conference.

Over 40 Educational Cider Workshops. From technical workshops on cider production to marketing workshops on working with distributors, these workshops help cideries expand their skills and knowledge whether they are established or just starting-up.

Food & Cider Tours. If you want to learn more about pairing food with cider from some of Chicago's hottest cider spots, these tours are not to miss. Each spot will feature a flight of cider paired with bites, and each pairing will highlight a different pairing principle.

“CiderCon is designed to allow cider producers to meet their industry colleagues to exchange ideas on best practices, innovations and trends,” says Michelle McGrath, the executive director of USACM. “The discussions that take place at CiderCon provide a foundation of strength and diversity for the industry. With pre-registration numbers at record levels, CiderCon 2019 promises to be a great event for anyone involved in the cider industry.”

To register, obtain a complete schedule and learn more about CiderCon please visit CiderAssociation.org/cidercon2019. Photos provided by the United States Association of Cider Makers.


‘Great Blakes’ Latest Kinder Cider From Blake’s Hard Cider

Blake’s Hard Cider Co. announced the third ‘Kinder Cider’ in the rotating philanthropic series this month. Great Blakes is a seasonal coffee-infused semi-sweet hard cider made in support of non-profits working to preserve and protect the Great Lakes.

Founder and co-owner, Andrew Blake says, “This movement really started from the idea of taking a stand for causes that reflect our values as a company through our ciders; in one year we’ve launched campaigns through the #KinderCiderSeries to raise money for the LGBTQ community, shelter animals, and veterans around the country.”

Through Great Blakes, the craft cidery is working with Freshwater Future, a non-profit that works to educate and engage with communities on clean water practices and has provided nearly $3 million in grants, with a focus on the preservation of rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Director of Marketing, Chelsea Iadipaolo adds, “Being that we are located in the Great Lakes State and believe that clean water should be easily accessible to everyone, choosing our next cause was an easy decision. When we learned of the great work Freshwater Future has been doing, especially 50 miles from our farm in Flint, we knew this is where we should focus our efforts.”

Great Blakes was made with homegrown apples direct from Blake Farms and 100% sustainably sourced Peruvian coffee beans. “Through and through we wanted to craft this cider to reflect our great state in every way; we called our friends at Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company in Detroit and they were elated to be a part of the cause, donating all of the beans,” says Production Manager, Matt Wiles.

Great Blakes will be available beginning in February throughout the entire Blake’s footprint which includes Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Dakota, South Dakota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Virginia & D.C. Cider and coffee enthusiasts will be able to find Great Blakes wherever quality craft hard cider is sold.  

Learn more on how you can help Blake’s raise funds for Freshwater Future by visiting BlakesHardCider.com/greatblakes or picking up a can! Photos provided by Blake’s Hard Cider.


Virtue Cider Launches Lower-ABV ‘Mezzo Spritz’ Line

Virtue Cider launched a new line of canned beverages, Mezzo Spritz, a classic Italian cocktail with an American twist. This low-ABV beverage is made with cider, sparkling water, and botanicals. The brand will stand separate from Virtue, as a standalone line of cider-based spritz beverages, beginning with Mezzo Spritz Blood Orange.

The idea for Mezzo Spritz comes from Gregory Hall, Virtue Cider founder and former Goose Island brewmaster, who devised and launched the infamous bourbon-barrel aged beer, Bourbon County Brand Stout. Hall continues to innovate on craft beverages with this low-ABV beverage inspired by the classical Italian cocktail, the Aperol spritz.

“We’re always drinking cider, and we were playing around with what to do with it,” Hall said. “We put some bitters in there, thought it was good, put some orange bitters in there, and that was really good, then we put some sparkling water in there, and that was just great. It became our go-to lunch-friendly drink.”

Good things come in threes. The classic spritz is made with three ingredients: prosecco, sparkling water, and an aperitif. Mezzo Spritz is made with three ingredients: cider, sparkling water, and botanicals. And there are three ways to enjoy Mezzo Spritz: drink it right out of the can, over ice, or mixed into a cocktail.

“It’s a sessionable drink for the cocktail crowd: appropriate for midday occasions as well as a lower-ABV choice for post-holiday resolutions,” Hall said.

Mezzo (pronounced “metz-oh”), is the Italian word for “half.” At 80 calories and 3.5% ABV, Mezzo Spritz is half the calories and half the ABV as the traditional spritz cocktail.

The new Mezzo Spirtz Blood Orange contains blood orange oil, sage and spearmint for its botanicals. Upon pouring, one would find a hazy orange-rose appearance and a bright fresh-squeezed blood orange nose with light floral. The taste is fruit forward with blood orange, a dry, soft middle, and a crisp, complex bitter orange peel, cocktail-bitters type finish.

Mezzo’s launch comes on the heels of a positive year for cider, and for Virtue Cider as well. The segment is up 10% YTD for total US, according to IRI. For Virtue’s part, the craft cider brand is up 325% YTD for total US, and is up 230% in its home market of Chicago. On the spirits side, Aperol is up 31% globally YTD, providing runway for Mezzo’s low-alcohol version of the popular spritz drink to pick up speed in 2019.

Mezzo Spritz Blood Orange soft launches now in select on- and off-premise locations in Chicago and New York. Look for the sleek 12-ounce cans in six-packs during the full launch of Mezzo Spritz in March throughout Chicago and New York where you would find hard seltzers for a suggested related price of $11.99. For more information, visit MezzoSpritz.com. Photos provided by the Praytell Agency for Virtue Holdings.


Certified Pommelier Objectives Announced for Certified Cider Professional Program

The beer, wine and spirits industries all have recognized certification programs designed for food and beverage professionals. The hard cider industry has had its own version—the Certified Cider Professional (CCP) program—since 2016 through the United States Association of Cider Makers (USACM). Until recently, the CCP program only had one level, geared toward cider servers. Next month USACM administers the exam for the second level of the CCP program for the first time. It will be offered in Chicago during their annual trade conference, CiderCon. Those who pass the test, with its mix of short answer, essay and tasting oriented questions, will earn the title of Certified Pommelier™. USACM announced a study guide for test-taker hopefuls on their website.

The study guide covers six sections: Apples, the Orchard & History; Cider Making; Flavor & Evaluation; Cider Styles (US and Europe); Keeping & Serving; and Food & Cider. These are the same topics covered in the level one exam, but there are noticeable differences in the suggested study concepts for the two tests. To start, the list of apples to know is greatly expanded for the new exam. Test takers are told they should be able to assign to the apples to region, style and class: bittersharp, bittersweet, sweet or sharp. These classes are determined by acid and tannin levels, and are laid out in the study guide. The second key difference is the inclusion of traditional European cider styles for the UK, Spain, France and Germany. Lastly, there are many more concepts listed in the Certified Pommelier™ study guide than in the Level 1 study guide.

“The test is designed to be challenging,” says USACM’s executive director, Michelle McGrath. “Studying is highly recommended. We have some handouts on certain topics available on our website, but the books in our recommended reading list are going to be very helpful preparation.”

The blind tasting and sensory portion of the exam may be difficult for those new to the cider world. If test takers don’t have experience identifying cider flaws, McGrath suggests signing up for the ‘Elements of Cider Workshop’ being offered in Chicago on February 5.

The expansion of the CCP program is all part of the association’s vision that bars, restaurants and retailers celebrate the diversity of the cider category. USACM’s recent release of version 2.0 of their cider style guide works toward that same goal.

“Cider sales were up 10% in 2018,” added McGrath. “Enthusiasm is growing, and we hope, an expanded awareness of the cider category as a whole can help further sustain this growth.”

The association plans to offer the test four additional times in 2019. Dates and locations are yet to be announced. You can sign up for the Certified Pommelier exam and find study aides at CiderAssociation.org/certification. Tasting photo credited to Amanda Klamrowski/Pexels. Exam photo credited to Skitterphoto/Pexels.


Meet the Cider Maker: Scott Patterson of Long Road Cider

Scott Patterson of Long Road Cider prides himself and the cidery on being unique and different than any of the other cideries in the state of Tennessee. Focusing on oak-aged dry ciders using foraged fruits whenever possible resulting in spontaneous fermentation, brettanomyces, and some interesting adjuncts, Long Road Cider Co. is known for these special, small-batches of ciders.  While visiting Long Road Cider Co., you will also find a selection of southern comfort food that rotates with the seasons.  Keep reading to find out where Scott gets his inspiration, favorite apple varieties to work with, and more!  

Tell us a little bit about yourself! Where are you from? What is your background in?
I'm 38 years old, from Memphis, TN. I hold degrees in musicology, marketing, and Portuguese; and have over 20 years experience in the food and beverage industry.

When did you become involved in cider making and production?
I made my first cider in 2009. The results were good and, within a year, I had lost interest in brewing beer and was focused solely on my ciders. After a few years of making cider at home, the encouragement of others, and a pile of medals from various homebrew and cider competitions, I felt confident in my decision to make the hobby a career.

What are some of your favorite apple varieties to work with, and why?
Apples are sparse in my little corner of the world. The predominant local variety would be Arkansas Black, which produces some quality cider - very bright! Pears and crabapples also do well in west Tennessee and they usually make up at least a few percent or more of every barrel we fill.

Long Road Cider has some very unique ciders and you focus on oak-aged, dry ciders.  Tell me a little about that.
It's interesting...when I made my first cider, it was an attempt to replicate the drier ciders I'd discovered while in Europe. Dry cider was completely unavailable in my local market, and in those days, harder to find even in larger markets. So, it started as a purely self-serving venture -- quenching my own thirst. Of course, I soon found that recreating French and Spanish ciders without French and Spanish fruit is impossible, and it being no secret that access to proper fruit is limited in this part of the country, we take advantage of wild and alternative yeast and bacteria, oak, and adjuncts to complement the dessert varieties that are most accessible to us. 95% of our production is fermented and aged on the lees in oak barrels of various origins, which brings a character that I feel many modern ciders lack. My background in kitchens and as a brewer have led to some crazy stuff! Queen Mary features sea salt and rosemary and employed the same microbes and process used to produce a Gose-style beer; Loomiamiana (an annual Valentine's Day aphrodisiac) was rested on loomi lemons and damiana tea; Sweet Potato Pie was our middle finger to the pumpkin trend; lots of "bourbonized" ciders because of our proximity to barrel vendors in Kentucky, and so on. Of course, we have a couple clean flagships that we also keep in rotation -- Slingshot is fermented to be crisp, clean with a champagne yeast and our Rhonissippi balances a dash of tart with a splash of sweet.

With a market that is becoming dense, what are you and your brand inspired by and how are you making a splash within the industry?
Honestly, it's just so exciting to find discussions and resources becoming more common and available. When we formed the company in '13, cider seemed like such a foreign concept to so many people. I won't pretend to be 'making a splash' in the industry - there are some truly impressive ciders being made right now, and I look to those makers for inspiration. Hopefully, my enthusiasm carries over into my ciders.

Any big future plans for Long Road Cider?
There are! We are currently working on a second production facility and tasting room, with plans to expand our barrel program and make our ciders available regionally.

If you were going to give a new cider producer your best advice, what would it be?
Quality should always be number one, but quantity is key to success in this industry. Go big, or stay home!

Long Road Cider’s tasting room is open on Thursdays and Fridays from 4pm-9pm and Saturdays from 12pm-9pm at 9053 Barret Road, Barretville, TN 38053. For more information on Long Road Cider Co. please visit them on Facebook at Long Road Cider. Photo provided by Long Road Cider.

Interviewed By: Kristen Sarcone, Staff Writer of Hard Cider News


Eat This…

Drink That…

Cider-Mustard Braised Chicken Thighs
From Meredith Deeds for the Star Tribune

Apple Tom Collins
From Lisa Longley for Real Housemoms

Photo Credit: Meredith Deeds

Photo Credit: Lisa Longley of Wine & Glue