Hard Cider Newsletter

Strongbow Original Dry Now Available on Draft

When Strongbow® Hard Ciders re-introduced Original Dry last summer, the brand answered the call from consumers for the crisp, less sweet original hard cider favored by the many devoted Strongbow drinkers. As tastes in the U.S shift toward a preference for less sweet beverages, consumers have been messaging on Twitter and Facebook to “bring back the Original British Dry”, and “call me when the old recipe is back.” Strongbow Original Dry is available in all can formats, and is also now available in 50L steel kegs to bring the fresh taste to on-premise draught programs throughout the U.S.

"We’re responding to consumer requests by bringing back the less sweet, original hard cider that Strongbow drinkers have been asking for to the on-premise in a format that will satisfy on-premise operators and delight cider drinkers," says TJ Keighley, Brand Director for Strongbow Hard Ciders. “The original dry cider is made with a mixture of bittersweet and culinary apples for a crisp, less sweet taste. Original Dry draught will ensure that on-premise operators maximize profits and cider lovers experience the product in its freshest form straight from the tap.”

Like all Strongbow® products, Original Dry is 5% ABV and gluten free. Visit Strongbow.com for additional information about Original Dry and all Strongbow products. Photos provided by Nova Marketing for Heineken USA.


BrewDog Brings Hawkes Cider to U.S.

BrewDog USA officially welcomed ciders into the states with a Columbus’ Cider Fest hosted by DogTap in Ohio. The event celebrated the recent U.S. launch of BrewDog’s cider-making sister brand, Hawkes, and invited Columbus fans to experience a cider tasting event unlike the city has ever seen.

Inside the BrewDog Museum and outdoors on the DogTap patio, fans enjoyed amazingly delicious hard ciders from Hawkes and guest cideries, including Rhinegeist, West End Cider House, Angry Orchard, Downeast Cider and Shacksbury, along with apple-themed activities, food and drink specials, menu pairing ideas and live music from The Broken Relics. Brewed in BrewDog USA’s Canal Winchester headquarters, the three varieties of Hawkes ciders available at the event, and everywhere BrewDog is distributed, included:

• Slam Funk – a full-bodied cider made with a blend of classic cider apples
• Dead and Berried – a smooth-bodied cider infused with strawberry, raspberry and blueberry
• Doom and Bloom – a deliciously sweet apple cider mixed with the bold flavors of rhubarb and the delicate aromas of strawberry

Additionally, several other Hawkes varieties were available on draft for Columbus fans for the first time ever. These included:

• Soul Trader – featuring a balanced twist of apple tart and pleasing acidity
• True Roots – featuring a unique combination of natural ginger, mandarin and kiwi
• Big Wow – featuring a subtle sweetness and medium-dryness
• Pineapple Punch – featuring Braeburn apple juice and pineapple

“BrewDog is constantly on a mission to push the boundaries of craft beer, so to break into the world of ciders here in the U.S. with our sister brand, Hawkes, is a dream come true. Not only is the cider amazing, but Hawkes also continually explores innovative approaches to modern cider making, so we can’t wait to see where this journey takes us,” commented BrewDog USA Head of Retail Jon Quick.

Hawkes, which became a part of the BrewDog family of epic beers in April 2018, was first tried in the U.S. by BrewDog’s Equity Punks at the 2019 Annual General Mayhem shareholders meeting, just in August.

Quick continued, “Fans in our 15-state distribution area can get their hands on Hawke’s three U.S. varieties anywhere BrewDog is available, and there are plans to make it available for purchase online by the end of the year.”

Learn more about Hawkes at WeAreHawkes.com. Photos courtesy of Hawkes.


From Soda to Cider: Three Corporate America Veterans Tap Into NY Cider Scene

Merchant’s Daughter Premium Hard Cider, launched this Fall, at two premier New York events, Pour the Core: A Hard Cider Festival and Cider Week NYC. The Merchant’s Daughter Ciderworks team is headquartered in Purdys, New York, and was founded by three members: Christine Sisler, Dan O’Brien, and Amy Wirtanen. These three first met at PepsiCo, based out of Purchase (NY) and came together again years later as entrepreneurs. Collectively they have 67 years of corporate experience in Product Development, Innovation, Brand Marketing, and General Management at companies such as Starbucks, Nestlé, and Pepsi. In 2018, they saw an opportunity to create a business of their own by following their personal passions and tapping into the growing hard cider category. The hard cider category is now 10x bigger than it was ten years ago and is one of the fastest growing categories in the alcohol market. In addition, the category reflects the trend towards increasing demand for local products as the growth is driven by regional brands which are up 19%, as per Nielsen.

Christine Sisler, CEO of Merchant’s Daughter Ciderworks said, “We were new to the world of hard cider, but we were able to leverage our years of experience in product development and innovation. So we took an intentional approach to both the creation of our cider profile and our brand. We talked with growers, fellow producers, experienced cidermakers, consumers, and retailers; all with the desire to enter the market with our best possible product.”

Merchant’s Daughter hard ciders are made using 100% New York apples from the Hudson River Valley. According to Dan O’Brien, Head Cidermaker, “We worked very closely with our growers to select the right apples for our hard ciders, including some hard-to-find high quality heirloom apples. As a small-batch producer we were able to experiment with these apples to find an ideal blend for our hard ciders.” Dan O’Brien previously left corporate life to become a winemaker in Napa Valley and New Zealand. He now applies that wine-making approach to his hard cidermaking, developing each batch to pair perfectly with food.

They came up with the brand name Merchant’s Daughter after time spent in their headquarters. Amy Wirtanen, CMO explained, “Our Merchant’s Daughter brand story is rooted in our Purdys, NY, headquarters which is located in a historic 1880’s property. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th century, it was the general store for the community and was passed down from generation to generation via the daughters of one family. We loved the idea of honoring the hard-working families and their businesses that built New York. As a women majority-owned business, we especially liked the idea of highlighting the role the wives, mothers, and, of course, the daughters of these families played in the growth of their communities.”

Merchant’s Daughter hard cider is available in three varieties: Dry, Semi-Dry, and Clara’s Reserve, all in 750ml bottles. The taste-profile is sophisticated, apple-forward, with a bright, clean finish. Merchant’s Daughter hard ciders are currently available at MerchantsDaughter.com and at fine retailers and restaurants in Westchester County (NY) with plans to expand distribution to Upstate New York, New York City, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Photos provided by Merchant’s Daughter.


Ciderboys Announces Banana Bliss

Ciderboys is shaking things up with a new limited release, Banana Bliss, that came out last month. The first of its kinds, this banana-infused hard cider balances flavors of freshly-picked strawberries, delicious tart apple, and aromatic banana for a smooth finish.

Ciderboys hopes consumers can relive summer vibes all fall long; Banana Bliss is like a smoothie in a glass. This apple strawberry banana hard cider can be found wherever Ciderboys products are sold now through the end of fall, while supplies last, in six-packs of 12-ounce longneck bottles.

“The pairing of strawberry and banana is classic, and we were ready to put our spin on it with hard cider,” said Julie Birrenkott, Ciderboys’ Marketing Director. “The pairing is so refreshing, whether you’re drinking it on a warm fall day picking apples or on a cool night by the campfire. Some might say Banana Bliss is an ‘appealing’ opportunity we couldn’t pass up.”

Ciderboys Cider Co.’s unique “fruitful pairings” blend unexpected fresh fruit flavors with the crisp taste of apple cider — and that’s the recipe for Banana Bliss, too. Chief Cidermaker Mike Schraufnagel and his team blended a balanced combination of natural strawberry and banana, which paired wonderfully with the apple goodness Ciderboys is known for. As Mike states, “When drinking Banana Bliss, the first thing that comes to mind is fresh strawberries, followed with smooth banana notes. In the end, it’s a great combination and it comes together very nicely.”

A subsidiary of the Stevens Point Brewery, the Ciderboys Cider Co. makes its carbonated hard ciders with natural fruit and apple juice from fresh Washington State apples. No sugar is added to Ciderboys products, which are naturally gluten free.

For more information and where to find Ciderboys products visit Ciderboys.com. Photos courtesy of Ciderboys.


Bold Rock Joins Artisanal Brewing Ventures

Bold Rock signed a partnership agreement to become part of Artisanal Brewing Ventures (ABV), a unique platform created to support the growth ambitions of leading regional craft adult beverage companies. Through this partnership, Bold Rock becomes ABV's fourth partner brand, combining with its existing craft portfolio of Sixpoint Brewery, Southern Tier Brewing Company and Victory Brewing Company.

The partnership signals ABV's move to continue to extend beyond craft beer and meet the needs of the changing adult beverage consumer. Bold Rock's 80,000 barrels of craft cider and seltzer solidifies ABV's position as one of the nation's top ten regional craft adult alcohol beverage platforms. ABV now has a leadership position in eight of the country's top 50 markets for craft beer, hard cider, hard seltzer and premium spirits-based canned cocktails.

"The founders of Bold Rock should be incredibly proud of what they and their hard-working, dedicated team have created – the #2 cider brand in the country. With the addition of Bold Rock, ABV is strongly positioned to address the evolving needs of the craft consumer. Bold Rock's portfolio is a perfect complement to ABV's other partner breweries by bringing consumers a leading hard cider, a new hard seltzer and a line of canned cocktails. Adding Bold Rock to the ABV family shows a commitment to bring craft consumers great brands across segments to best meet the needs in all of their drinking occasions," said John Coleman, CEO, Artisanal Brewing Ventures.

Bold Rock will gain access to ABV's shared network of best-in-class production facilities, professional sales team, and broad distribution footprint to help fulfill the dream of Bold Rock founders John Washburn and Brian Shanks, who opened the company in 2012.

"Our dream was to bring people together to create special memories and meaningful experiences while enjoying our products. Since then, we have formed a number of phenomenal relationships with consumers, distributors, and retail partners, as well as with our own employees. Now, by joining ABV, a very talented, passionate, and high performing beverage company, we can extend our brand to new consumers up and down the east coast, creating more special memories and unique experiences," said Washburn, who along with Shanks, will remain with the company in leadership roles.

In addition, Bold Rock's four taproom locations will be added to ABV's current footprint of nine open or announced taprooms, giving the company access to over two million customers a year. Bold Rock will also partner with Sixpoint, Southern Tier and Victory to leverage their collective consumer data and insights to build an impactful innovation program and marketing approach.

Founded in 2012, in its home state of Virginia, Bold Rock is the largest overall independent craft brand across both beer and cider. In 2019, Bold Rock also launched a line of hard seltzers that feature a unique apple-based alcohol, as well as a line of premium ready-to-drink canned cocktails.

Founder, Brian Shanks, a world renowned 30-year master cider maker from New Zealand, is also excited about the potential of the partnership. "We are grateful for the incredible opportunity to join such a strong craft beverage organization in ABV. Many consumers, distributors and accounts have urged us to expand to their areas. Now, we have the resources and capabilities to do just that while also creating more growth opportunities for our team. We look forward to taking Bold Rock and ABV to new heights together."

The transaction is expected to close before the end of the year. Cowen served as exclusive financial advisor to Bold Rock. Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP acted as legal counsel to Bold Rock. Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson, P.A. acted as legal counsel to ABV.

This partnership announcement comes on the heels of the recent release of Bold Rock’s winter seasonal White Cranberry which hit shelves October 26th through the cider company’s current distribution area consisting of ten states between Eastern Pennsylvania and Georgia.

The cider is made of a refreshing union of Blue Ridge apples paired with the distinctive flavor of white cranberries. Harvested just before peak freshness, white cranberries have a pronounced, bright tartness. Inspiration came from the holiday table setting, making White Cranberry the perfect pair for your holiday feast or relaxing by the fire.

Visit BoldRock.com for additional information about all of Bold Rock’s products. Photos provided by Bold Rock.


Virtue Cider Installs Solar Panels at Farm

Virtue Cider, a Michigan-based craft cidery located among miles of orchards and vineyards in Southwest Michigan’s Cider Coast, is greener than ever! The company just completed the installation of a 78-kilowatt (kW) solar array next to its cider houses, which means that more than half of its purchased electricity will be coming from renewable sources and is equivalent to 150,000 pounds of CO2 avoided each year.

Apples are solar powered after all, and now Virtue Cider is too. The new solar array includes 200 panels installed on the north side of Cider House 1, which will help offset the company’s already very low electricity use for its cidermaking and farm operations. The array will be capturing over 100,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean, renewable electricity each year, helping to offset 58% of Virtue’s current electricity usage.

“For generations, Michigan farmers have worked from sunrise to sunset, now Virtue Farm works from dawn to dusk generating green electricity with our new solar panels,” said Gregory Hall, Virtue Cider founder. The installation of solar panels at Virtue Cider is part of a larger company-wide commitment from Brewers Collective, the craft business unit of Anheuser-Busch, in which all craft partner brewery and cidery locations plan to have solar panels installed by the end of next year. Hall was a critical member of the advisory team that brought the initiative, called Elevate, and its environmentally friendly commitments to life.

Virtue’s new solar project also contributes to Michigan’s goal to produce 15 percent of all electricity from renewable sources by 2021 as part of the State’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.

Virtue worked with ForeFront Power and PCI Solar to design and install the solar array. Construction was completed in August 2019, and interconnection to the electrical grid was completed in early October. The system is currently generating electricity, and visitors can view the panels on-site when exploring the cidery’s trails.

“Each pint of cider produced by Virtue Cider is now cleaner than before,” said ForeFront Power CEO Paul Walker. “Brewers Collective made a unique commitment to solar energy across the country and Virtue Cider is one of the first craft partners to reap the benefits of this initiative. We have really enjoyed working with their incredible team to make this a success.”

This installation continues Virtue’s mission of making proper farmhouse cider the greenest way possible. Virtue’s cider houses were designed and constructed in 2012 to use as little energy as possible: Cider House 1, which includes the Taproom and Bottle Shop, as well as the apple pressing and barrel-aging rooms, has no central cooling or heating; Cider House 2, which holds 22 2,000-gallon fermentation tanks also has no central cooling or heating, was also built with a recessed floor underground. By being underground, the building maintains an ambient temperature year-round, and the ciders can ferment naturally without other energy expenditures such as heating or cooling the tanks.

The rest of Virtue’s 48-acre property is dedicated to reestablishing the historic homestead, which used to be an apple orchard in the late 1800s. Presently, 15 acres have been reseeded with native grasses and plants, which attract more than 200 bird species and countless butterflies, honey bees, and other pollinators.

In addition to the young orchard and cider houses, Virtue’s farm is home to a variety of animals, through its heritage breed rehabilitation program that includes Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs and Icelandic sheep. These animals enjoy a safe environment and daily care, and help keep the property trimmed and keep the soil healthy through a rotational grazing program. The beloved animals are also a farm visitor favorite.

Virtue is also a certified farm via the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program. Check out VirtueCider.com for more information. Photos provided by Praytell for Virtue Cider.


Eat This…

Drink That…

Apple Pie
From Virtue Cider inspired by Bang! Bang! Pie!

Fruit Spritz
From CBS Sunday Morning via Molly Baz for Bon Appétit

Photo Credit: Virtue Cider

Credit: Bon Appétit/Photographer: Michael Grayon + Nikole Herriott; Food Styling: Rebecca Jurkevich; Prop Styling: Kalen Kaminski