Craft Cider Culture: What Is It All About?

Cider… I’m wondering where to begin.  I don’t know a damn thing about cider and I’m supposed to host an event next Monday at Tryst. I know this is a beverage category that I could spend a lifetime learning about.  I have bills, and sitting around reading cider books certainly isn’t going to pay ‘em.  Good thing I’ll have cider expert Brian Shanks of Bold Rock Hard Cider with me to chat people up.  I have an arsenal of questions myself.  I’ve done a little investigating; here are my thoughts about the cider industry so far…


A Brief History (Pulled Out of My…)

     The craft cider industry seems to be about where the craft beer industry was 20 – 30 years ago. I wasn’t there for it, but based on recounts from seasoned beer industry vets, the old craft beer industry had a ‘new frontier’ feel.  There was a lack of polish across the industry; a beer may taste a little different than the last time you bought it, but that was ok because nobody else made pale ale at the time.  You were so thirsty for anything with taste, that unbridled passion and enthusiasm would wash away the grey areas on both the producer and consumer ends.  At the time this was entirely acceptable.  Now, you’ve got educated and innovative brewers who grew up in a world of craft beer that consistently make mind-blowingly awesome products.  In fact, All About Beer just released a 30 under 30 features which hit newsstands today.  As a result of talented brewers, the current craft beer drinking populous is well educated and significantly less forgiving.  Dare I say this point of maturation is a brave new world for beer?  Lets hope we never go the way of snobbery

Enthusiasm Trumps Polish (For Now)

     Enthusiasm does have the ability to trump polish, for a period of time.  I think this is where we are with small-batch-hand-crafted-artisan-cider right now.  People with gluten intolerances will provide a significant portion of the small but passionate fan base willing to drive and seek out tiny cideries.  We’re seeing the appeal of cider spread out beyond the walls of those with gluten intolerance as well though.  It’s no longer just ‘I need to have one’ category for bar and restaurant managers.  It’s becoming a ‘hey this is cool’ category.  All this enthusiasm is just what the cider industry needs right now.  I’m jumping on the bandwagon and I won’t be critical of weird experimental ciders, for now.

BFF with Beer or Wine?

     There is a fair amount of crossover/interrelatedness in the craft cider culture that you may see in the craft beer scene.  Namely, the fanaticism and storm-the-castle-passion that has driven the US craft beer industry for so long.  One interesting nuance is the geographic restrictions associated with the production for cider.  The climate that provides for great cider production is not too different than that of wine.  It will still be seen whether cider shares more qualities with the beer or wine industry in the US, but for now its just good to see an explosion in a whole new beverage category.

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