We’re a little late to say Happy New Year, but we can certainly say Happy New Decade, and what an exciting 10 years it is going to be in the world of cider. 2019 was a pivotal year, producers coming together more than ever before, the growth interest in natural low intervention cider, the rise of ‘craft cider on keg,’ new festivals being launched and new cider heroes emerging.
2019 was the year of #RethinkCider
But what does that mean?
Well - firstly, it is about educating people that there is more out there than the lifeless and tasteless cider currently in the mainstream (90% of the market). Secondly, it is about celebrating its versatility as a drink. Finally, it is looking at ways the category can innovate without compromise for quality. (learn more here)
If there was one key message to take from 2019, it was that this is just the beginning of this campaign for cider; in the words of Tom Oliver, “we’re in it for the long haul”.
So if 2019 was the year to #ReThinkCider, then 2020 should be about transparency, quality and building on the foundations of the past few years of progress. We’ve rounded up reflections from some of the best of the cider community (producers, experts and distributors) and find their thoughts on what will be prominent in the cider world in 2020 and beyond…
Market Overview: The Ciderologist
You’ll see there is a strong theme around education throughout this article, but to start, education needs the facts. So here we are again talking about one of our favourite themes, and who better to hear from than the champion of transparency himself...The Cider Critic.
“This is becoming a bit of a recurring subject for me, first raising it back in June 2018, after a holiday in Greece, where the mainstream makers list ingredients on their products. Since then I spoke with SICA about the launch of their Quality Mark in June 2019 to promote full juice cider. Although it has gone a long way to help change perceptions, there is still more to do. This was really highlighted again recently when I looked at Fruit Cider and found it very challenging to differentiate between full juice and those using syrups and flavourings, due to a lack of transparency.
In the second half of 2019 the big players (Strongbow & Bulmers) pledged to list ingredients on their bottles, and then they went and did it. So is 2020 the year craft cider as a whole finally step up to the plate, or should I say glass?
Consumers are becoming increasingly discerning about what they put in their bodies, opting for lower alcohol or natural and organic products. Craft cider is uniquely placed to offer that natural less sugar leaden choice. So I foresee many more producers (including myself) will make 2020 the year they open up and offer drinkers an informed choice.” (James Finch - The Cider Critic)
There’s more to this than just listing the ingredients. The language used plays a key part too and Alistair Morrell CEO for ‘Cider is Wine’ sees the advantage of selling cider like wine. A lot of 75cl fine ciders made from 100% apple juice and all natural products have more in common with wines than they do to conventional, mass-market cider or beer production.
“2020 will be another seismic year for cider, driven by a definition of quality that consumers can easily recognise. This continuing shift may not include all ciders and perries, however we can safely say that it will for those made from 100% not-from-concentrate apple and pear juice. Consumers want the real deal and are prepared to pay for it when they see it. They're no longer fooled by terms like ‘craft’ or ‘natural’ which mean little when it comes to authentic product and add no long-term value.” (Alistair Morrell CEO ‘Cider is Wine)
James Waddington, Co-Founder of Crafty Nectar, looks at a new collaborative age of cider making:
“Collaboration is often an overused word in the craft beer world but this does not apply to cider. Due to the fragmented nature of cider makers and smaller scale to craft beer, cider makers have more or less kept to themselves. Contrast this to the urban environment where most craft breweries inhabit; they have scale, communities of drinkers and it's easier to connect and collaborate.
But the tide is turning, social media has opened up places such as Herefordshire and Somerset to the rest of the world, International cider festivals have emerged, and new and forgotten cider knowledge is finally being shared. Tom Oliver kickstarted it and has been producing collaborations with cider makers from all around the world. It all started in 2011 with a transatlantic collaboration with Ryan Burke (head cider maker @ Angry Orchard) to produce ‘Gold Rush,’ and most recently with ‘Four Friends,’ with Oliver teaming up with the exciting brewers Burning Sky, The Kernel and Mills Brewing.
Others have taken inspiration, with Hogans and Ross Cider uniting for two kegged products: Wildsider a 6.3% kegged cider, made with Hogan's special wild yeast and Frontier which is a fully fermented, bone dry cider. Bold cider makers Hawkes have gone from one collab to another, starting with who else but Tom Oliver creating a “truly unique blend of styles” (West country cider and Eastern Counties) with “All Made Equal” and most recently a 4-Way ‘funky and fruity’ collab with Oliver's Cider, ANXO cider (USA) and BlakStoc (Austria).
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• Hawkes Ciderama Collab • 440ml // 5.5% vol • @wearehawkes // @olivers_cider// @blakstoc // @anxocider Taking a break from the advent calendar today and cracking open something special. As a celebration of the cider festival over the summer, Hawkes teamed up with fellow UK cider maker Tom Oliver, Blak Stoc from Austria & Anxo from the US. Mad! It’s got a hazy orange colour with a slight fizz and a mainly clean zesty smell. First taste you get some big dry tannic flavours, it soon becomes this spicy mix with a lot going on, getting more of that citrus kick from the orange peel and some hops. This also contains coriander and I’m sorry to say but I’m one of those guys that thinks it tastes like soap, so getting a little of that going into the wine like aftertaste. Wild ride! The design used for the event and what is on the can is decent too - designed by Craig Montgomery (@c_monty22). Very much stands out even against some mad crafts beers that are about. V drinkable, happy with this! Cheers! 🤘🏻💀 . . . #cider #apples #alcohol #drinklocal #craftcider #realcider #London #Herefordshire #Austria #US #drink #cidermaking #sparkling #tannic #dry #spicy #hoppy #wine #intense #balanced #longlivethelocal #rethinkcider #Hawkes #Ciderama #easydrinking #branding #packaging #design #motiographic #motion
Finally collaboration is at the core of Crafty Nectar - from our early beginnings working with cider makers with our cider subscription, to our new collaborative approach to cider making. We’ve constantly been in awe of the craft beer world... inspired by the likes of nomadic brewers such as Evil Twin and Mikkeller beer. They ripped up the rulebook on how craft beer is made… and we see a real opportunity in cider collaborations. We’ve only just started our journey as nomadic cider markers (yes that is now a thing!) and have many exciting collaborations lined up, from a co-ferment with Once Upon a Tree and two other BIG names in cider in 2020. By pooling resources, being bold, brave and adventurous with recipes we hope to create some of the best ciders in the UK." (James Waddington, Co-Founder Crafty Nectar)
3) Lessons from the Craft Beer and Wine Industry
Cider has an amazing opportunity to learn, adapt and flourish, learning from both the wine industry and craft beer world. Almost being the ' chameleon’ of the drinks industry, cider has different styles and versatility to appeal and make an impact on both markets.
So how can we learn from craft beer?
We head up to Manchester to find out as we catch up with Northern cider evangelist, Dick Withecombe. Dick, along with Cath Potter, are key figures and cider heroes who have been rejuvenating the craft cider scene over the last couple of years.
“There are several key themes that cider can learn from craft beer: education, engagement and collaboration. As Paul Jones (Cloudwater Brewing) told me recently; early craft breweries took off by educating customers that there is more out there beyond macro lagers. More recently quality and engagement has been essential; breweries launching Brewery Taps and the growth of beer festivals, have played major roles.
Cider can embrace these lessons through building on events like: the Cider Salon, Ciderama, Ciderlands and TCCPA Craft Con. There are also reports of Cider Taps being launched from Herefordshire to East Yorkshire, one of our personal journeys of 2020 will be to visit as many as we can.
Cider drinkers and enthusiasts can also play a role in collaborating and shouting out positively for quality modern craft cider. It’s been great to see the growth in activity by cider writers like James Finch and Adam Wells, as well as publications like Full Juice magazine.
Finally we need to bring suppliers and wholesalers into the centre of the community. The biggest obstacle to customer engagement with quality cider is supply. We need to both learn the problems that suppliers face with costs and the need for more modern branding; whilst also placing them at the centre of the new trends.” (Dick Withecombe - Manchester Cider Buzz)
Can cider appeal to both cider and wine markets?
Yes, it certainly can.
A new wave of 750ml bottle conditioned ciders have the x-factor to appeal to a wine generation, especially those that are discovering natural, organic and biodynamic wine. Think of all the nuances that exist with fine wine; terroir, vintage, history, a story behind the product and then picture it for cider and perry.
Felix Nash has provided a template in his niche market of Fine Dining, with his focus on the cider makers and their orchards, and the quality and branding of fine ciders. Indeed, prejudices are being broken down, markets are being crossed and cider is being taken seriously as Alistair Morrel extrapolates below:
“In 2019 we saw major communicators start to recognise ciders made like wine and begin to promote those ideas - serious national and international figures like Olly Smith, Oz Clarke and Peter Richards - personalities recognised by millions. Put that together with some serious new national UK distribution and the Cider Is Wine Expo at London Wine Fair with its 14,000 visitors and you have the ingredients for that continuing seismic change”. (Alistair Morrel cideriswine.co.uk)
4) Exciting New Cider Customer Experiences
Part of spreading the word about great cider is creating an experience that not only draws people in but helps them understand the stories and culture behind what they’re drinking.
In 2019 Hawkes of London put on some amazing experiences to showcase the diversity that cider offers.
“For us at Hawkes, in a year filled with new product releases, festivals and wider distribution, there is always one constant. How are we spreading knowledge and love of good Cider. Last year we began Cider School, a guided seminar and tasting, hosted by our cider making team. By class #2 we’d filled out our space, with a diverse and bubbly group excited to learn more about Cider.
Our cider festival; Ciderama was a blast in 2019, with 25 producers from all over the world (and all sizes) descending on Bermondsey for two days. This opportunity for drinkers to interact with Cidermakers was something the industry needed; as we work to show just how dizzyingly wide and deep cider can go.
We also work hard to spread knowledge of Cider culture. Bringing a 3000L wooden barrel over 500 miles to our taproom was no small feat (and getting it through the taproom doors unscathed definitely caused a few skipped beats), but showing a young and excitable cider drinker a little piece of Basque cider culture is well worth it. This constant of education and goodwill is what will make us as a collective of cidermakers stronger together, it has to be a part of everything we do and it will only make our favourite drink stronger.” (Elliot - Marketing Hawker).
We also caught up with Ross Duncan, 'head of cider' at the Stable restaurants and he highlighted that ‘customer engagement’ and ‘feedback’ are going to be a large part of cider growth in 2020.
“At the Stable we are always looking at how we can showcase cider and put it into a positive light for our consumers. Over the last 12 months we have seen more of our customers willing to try more cider styles, and become more open to the great world of Cider. An example of this would be the engagement we received over this year’s Stable Cider Awards 2019. 8 fantastic ciders were showcased over the summer, and customers voted for their favourite, a staggering amount of over 15,000 votes were casted by the public, across all 16 of our sites. A true testament to amazing cider.” (Ross Duncan, Stable Cider Ambassador)
Watch out for the stable cider competition this year, which is a fantastic opportunity for producers to showcase their ciders to a wider, cider loving audience.
5) Cider Co-FermentsAlthough some purists question cider made with any fruit other than apples or pears; fruit & flavoured cider is a dominating force that can’t be ignored. But instead of heading to the sugar and flavouring laden mainstream creations, look out for exciting pure juice craft creations, especially those where the additional ingredients have been part of the fermentation.
Watch out for Crafty Nectar’s latest collaboration with Once Upon a Tree, a blackberry co-ferment with a hibiscus. It’s part of a new generation of Co-fermented fruit ciders, utilising wine making techniques and natural ingredients of the highest quality.
“In 2018, we saw an influx of artificial fruit ciders enter the market. Our challenge was 3 fold: 1) Create a fruit cider that is exciting and appeals to a new market 2) using the best quality ingredients 3) that honours the apple base. We did just that. Crafty Nectar no.8 won many awards, most notably the Stable Cider Awards (15,000 people voted!) and we’re super proud of this achievement. In 2020 we’ve gone one better, with an absolutely banging cider Co-ferment with the talented Simon Day at Once Upon a Tree.” (Ed Calvert, Co-Founder Crafty Nectar)
Building on the success of Pomme Pomme a Quince infused cider, the King of Keeving, Pilton are releasing a range of ‘Fruit Ciders for Beer Lovers’. That's real fruit, fermented on the flesh and barrel aged which is then blended with keeved cider. The first three include a dry-hopped sour black current and dry herbed cherry.
Hawkes are also experimenting with flavours. 2019 saw them combining fresh Pineapples in their super juicy Pineapple Punch cider (we still think they should have called it Pina-Gala!) which they launched in summer 2019. Look out for more exciting creations from them in 2020 and beyond.
6) Mainstream Market Trends - Sugarfree, Low Carb, Low Calorie?
No, keep it Dry in 2020.
If you're health and fitness focused you may have noticed a plethora of low carb, low sugar hard seltzer options coming into the market. Mainly in the form of can spritzers or hard seltzers, these are 'the next drinking trend' aimed at a health conscious younger audience who count carbs, sugar intake and generally drink less.
Did you know that many dry ciders naturally sugar free and low carb?
During fermentation, yeast converts sugar into alcohol. Cider that’s fermented to “dryness” (when all of the sugar has been converted) will have no residual sugar. So forget the latest alcopop in a colorful can, keep it ‘Dry and local’ this 2020. Don’t just take our word for it, cider expert and writer Susanna Forbes has her say on this:
"Dry cider - well really dry cider - is going to re-emerge as the choice for the drinks explorer. As more people have a chance to try balanced dry cider, with good fruit and balanced acidity, they'll find out we don't need to hide behind sugar. The Dry Cider Society (@DryCiderSoc), set up by Albert at Ross Cider and James at Little Pomona, will spearhead this, culminating in their Dry Cider Competition on 17 September 2020. Watch this space." (Susanna Forbes, Little Pomona Orchard & Cidery, editor Full Juice)
We saw this first hand this January at the Manchester beer and cider festival, with the #ReThinkCider bar outselling the 2019 festival bar by 15% - most notably dry cider outselling fruit cider. Quite simply, consumers won’t be sold on beverages that may be short on alcohol but stuffed with sugar and additives. This is where simple quality ingredients and natural flavours come into their own.
7) Cider Education
Jane Peyton, founder of School of Booze and accredited Pommelier had the following to say about this exciting cider education trend:
“Cider has appeared on the radar of several drink writers, especially beer writers, who are celebrating the producers and the advocates of real cider and perry. In 2020 even more writers will discover there are myriad stories to be told about cider and perry and eager audiences to read them. Listen out for the launch of the new cider podcast ‘Cider’s Web’ in February 2020. Cider’s Web is produced and hosted by leading beer writer and broadcaster Emma Inch. Subscribe via Apple podcasts, Spotify and other podcast services.” (Jane Peyton, School Booze Founder & Cider Pommelier)
Many of these new educational experiences are being led by women, and they play an increasingly influential role in a male dominated industry. This leads us effortlessly to Cath Potter and why women are leading the charge in cider.
“It has long been recognised that the gender balance amongst cider drinkers is much more even than in beer. In addition, there has been an increase in the numbers of women cider makers. In recognition of this a new organisation was formed in 2019 – Cider Women. This is a new group aiming to champion the role of women in Cider, raising the profile of women and promoting inclusivity on all fronts within the cider community. 2020 will see many more events, some with an educational theme, others continuing to showcase the excellent ciders made by women. Cider Women will reach out and make links with women involved in other areas of the beverage industry such as Women on Tap, Beardless Beer and others who have had such a positive influence within beer.” (Cath Potter, Cider Buzz Mcr & Cider Pommelier)
What does that mean for the future of women in cider?
“Well, it means we're no longer invisible, as history had conveniently made us so (go see Elizabeth Pimblett’s wonderful exhibition at Museum of Cider), and I for one hope that it will inspire other flavour-inspired women into the field.” (Susanna Forbes)
8) Craft On Keg 1.1
Craft Beer taprooms from London to Inverness have added cider or increased their range. As Gabe mentioned to emulate craft beer levels of interest in the category then, ‘craft keg cider is the only way forward’
“These craft keg ciders are made with skill, packed full of expensive raw materials and are wonderfully, wildly diverse in aroma, taste and mouthfeel.” (Gabe Cook, Imbibe, Craft on Draught)
Yes, ‘craft on keg’ was the highlight of last year's report, but the offering has come on leaps and bounds within the past 12 months. Innovative young cider maker Albert Johnson of Ross Cider explains the advantages for keg and why keg-condition is the way to go for cider makers.
“Keg conditioned cider is a great opportunity for cider makers to take hold of with two hands. It provides the perfect platform to express the apples and pears of our orchards and do so in a manner consistent with our shared philosophies: wild fermentation, minimal intervention, full juice. It’s greatest advantage is shared with a bag in box - low setup costs. It’s critical that all cider makers can participate in the keg revolution, and conditioning as an approach allows for you to do just that. A focus on clean, honest cider will benefit all of us in the long run.” Albert Johnson (Ross on Wye Cider & Perry)
We’re excited to support the keg-conditioned revolution in 2020 with producers such as Ross Cider and Little Pomona leading the way.
Summary: ‘Twenties’ the Decade of the Real Cider Revolution
Wow, what a collection huh!?
The amount of exciting trends ahead of us speaks volumes for how far cider has already come and the amazing journey still ahead of us. If we can leave you with one message to take away, it would be to “go forth and explore”. We encourage all our readers to seek out new ciders, challenge your taste buds, choose craft and support the real cider revolution, as 2020 begins a new decade of the new wave of cider resurgence in the UK and the rest of the world.