These are unprecedented times... a phrase I think I’ve heard more in the last two weeks, than my entire life up till then. However, having the benefit of hindsight, unlike many of those times before, this really does feel like it. You don’t need me to tell you that all of us are facing some significant challenges over the coming weeks and months, but what I do want to tell you about is the plight of craft cider right now.
When the government told people to start social distancing they singled out pubs as one of those venues people should avoid. This resulted in trade for brewers and cider makers (and others) falling of a cliff pretty much overnight. For a lot of small scale cider makers, pubs and bars are their only customers and outlets. This means a lot of small businesses are in real danger of disappearing in the very near future.
Even if they manage to weather through it, most small craft cider makers operate on a seasonal basis; the apple harvest from 2019 will have almost finished fermenting by now in most cases and will start maturing over the coming months. Storing cider takes up a lot of space, is very expensive, and whether you operate on a one, two or three (or more) year cycle you can quickly run out of space if your supply and demand chain is interrupted. I’ve seen posts on social media where makers are very worried about having to pour away cider in order to make space for this year’s harvest, or not harvesting this year. Supporting and buying from them during this difficult time will help free up that much needed space.
So the gist of this article is that I, along with many other cider drinkers, writers, bloggers, champions, lovers, etc. want you, nay, implore you to support and buy from small scale cider makers. They need your custom more than ever and many have online shops and deliver nationally and some of those who don’t, are urgently trying to. None of us know how long the delivery network will be able to cope with the increase in orders as we all now spend our days at home. So as they say, “don’t delay, order today”...far too much rhyming there, nevertheless a great place to start is Crafty Nectar’s Craft Cider Market Place. A new free online portal for small makers to advertise and boost sales. I’ve already made a couple of purchases and you don’t have to order just for you. Why not send a round to a friend and then you can share a drink virtually via video call?
Since I started writing this, CAMRA have created a Cider Initiatives page and Cider Map as part of the “Pulling Together” Campaign.
Along with Dick Withecombe from #RethinkCider on Facebook other bloggers, producers and cider champions have created two extensive lists, both being updated daily
As well as an interactive map.
You can also look out for some fantastic content coming online in the following weeks, bringing cider producers directly to you through guided tastings, interviews and much more. Expect more from me (@thecidercritic) on Instagram in addition to my #fineciderfriday videos, as well lots from The Ciderologist himself, Mr Gabe Cook who’ll be working with producers on the Crafty Nectar Marketplace and others. Make sure you sign up to the #ReThinkCider Facebook group to keep up to date with all the latest content.
I don’t really need to say more; I know many of you have already started supporting and buying online, so don’t need much persuading, but I’ll finish with a final thought on the bigger picture. The craft cider industry is not only vital to our economy, it’s also incredibly important to the environment. Orchards provide habitats for native species of birds, mammals and insects, some of which are endangered. The apple trees themselves provide oxygen as well as mitigate climate change through absorbing carbon dioxide and scrubbing pollutants from the air. What we really need right now is orchard growth, not shrinkage. So by buying from small cider makers during this difficult time and for future years, you’re not only supporting them and their livelihoods, but also helping to improve the environment, reduce the impacts of climate change and safeguard native orchards for future generations. Now there’s something to drink to.