Category Archives: Cider

Convention of American cider makers in Chicago Feb. 5-7 will draw 300

Cider Summit, a public tasting expo on Feb. 8 at Chicago’s Navy Pier, expected to draw up to 2,800 cider devotees.

Cider con logoWith hard cider’s popularity sweeping the nation, members of the year-old  United States Association of Cider Makers (USACM)  will gather in Chicago on Feb. 5-7 for CiderCon, the industry’s the annual meeting and conference. 

Educational workshops and a trade show will be held at the Westin on Michigan, with the focus on stewardship, the conference’s theme.

“Cider is quickly setting itself apart from the rest of the beverage industry,” Mike Beck, owner of Uncle John’s Cider Mill in Michigan, and current USACM president, said in a press release. “With this increased visibility, comes a greater sense of responsibility. We chose stewardship as our theme in order to focus on how to grow our industry together in the best way possible.”

Beck added in a telephone interview: “We’re all in this together. There’s plenty of room in the market for everyone. We’re all in an open, sharing environment.”

This year’s CiderCon is sold out and is expected to draw 300 attendees from the most recognized U.S. cider brands as well as small craft cider makers and orchardists.  Beck said attendance is up substantially from last year, when USCAM was established. USCAM now has 149 members.

From 2007 to 2012, hard cider revenues more than tripled in the U.S., from $178 million to $601 million, according to the market research firm IBIS World.

In addition to business sessions, the conference will feature workshops focused on production, marketing, research and apple growing and sensory tasting seminars featuring cider and cheese pairings, apple brandy, and ice cider.

A day prior to CiderCon some attendees will explore cider houses Vander Mill and Virtue Cider on a bus tour to Michigan.

Separately, on Feb. 8, Cider Summit, a public tasting expo, will take place at Navy Pier, with sessions from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Alan M. Shapiro, president of SBS Imports, of Seattle and the Seattle Beer Collective, organized cider Summit. Shapiro, who imports Aspall ciders, said this event, too has grown substantially in terms of vendors and attendees. He expects to Cider Summit to sell out at 2,800 tickets. The first Cider Summit was held in Seattle in 2010; Portland was added in 2012, Chicago in 2013 and in April, a Cider Summit will take place in Berkley, Calif,

The Chicago Cider Summit will feature more than 100 ciders from 36 producers throughout the U.S., England, Scotland, France, Spain, and even New Zealand.

“It’s 1988 in the craft beer world for cider right now,” said Shapiro.

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Gov. Cuomo says MTA will expand Taste NY, offering beer, wine, and foods at Grand Central Terminal

taste-ny-logoThe Metropolitan Transit Authority plans to add a Taste NY store in Grand Central Terminal, the Midtown Manhattan transportation, tourist and shopping hub.  The store will sell food and beverages produced in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.

Cuomo has being pushing the Taste NY initiative since earlier this year to boost awareness and sales of New York produced foods and beverages, particularly to consumers in New York City.

There are already some of the stores at rest stops along the Thruway and the MTA recently introduced New York-made wine, beers and distilled spirits on bar carts on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad. Signage on the carts promotes the products and, according to officials, the products have been selling briskly since being added last month.

“Taste NY is all about highlighting the world-class food and beverages that are produced all across New York, which supports tourism and economic activity in communities around the state,” Cuomo said in a Sept. 14 statement, noting that a store at Grand Central “is a great way to showcase the wealth of products that New York’s agricultural industry has to offer and encourage travelers to explore what they’ve been missing.”

“With the explosive interest in artisanal and craft foods and beverages and New York’s long tradition of wine and beer-making, the time is right for the producers of New York’s great foods and beverages to break into and tap this great marketplace of commuters, travelers, tourists and shoppers,” said MTA chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast.

The MTA’s Metro North Railroad issued a request for proposals several weeks ago seeking operators for the store. The request for proposals targets the state’s wineries and other retailers as potential operators of this first stand-alone Taste NY shop. The MTA estimates that 750,000 people pass through the terminal daily. The terminal serves commuters  from Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, and Rockland counties and in Manhattan, the Bronx, and southwestern Connecticut.

Crain’s New York Business reported that the Papyrus stationery store on the ramp up to E. 42nd St. in Grand Central Terminal will close next year to make room for the Taste NY  store. It also reported that Taste NY stores will open in Penn Station, and at LaGuardia and JFK airports.   Taste NY stores  also are planned for Delta Air Lines’ Terminal 2 at JFK and at the US Airways terminal at LaGuardia, the publication reported.

The New Baltimore rest area in Greene County on the New York State Thruway has a dedicated Taste NY space within the Travel Mart store that began selling New York food items in August. HMS Host Corp. operates the New Baltimore Service Area. Additional locations are soon expected to open at other Thruway service areas in Western and Central New York.

Also, the state hosted a Taste NY tent at Farm Aid 2013 concert in Saratoga Springs in September offering beers and wines.

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Hard cider generates a buzz at LI fest

Pour logoCider, cider everywhere and every drop to drink.

For cider aficionados and a host of newbies among the 2,000 participants at the 2nd annual Pour the Core cider festival on Oct. 9 at Peconic Bay Winery on Long Island’s North Fork, there were hard ciders aplenty from near and far and places in between.

From near, imbibers could sample True Companion and True Believer, both produced at Peconic Bay, as well as ciders from Woodside Orchards down the highway in Aquebogue and Cider 139 from Wolffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack. There were ciders from Upstate New York, New England, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, California and the Pacific Northwest. And there were ciders from abroad, from England, Scotland, France and Spain. There were ciders from small artisanal producers as well as large industrial manufacturers.

And not just apple cider. Pear cider, also known as perry, also could be found, albeit in smaller numbers. And, yes, beer, too.

Apple ciders, however, became my focus as most of the perries sampled were too sweet, too watery or worse.  And beer, that’s just a different story.

Most of my cider picks among the offerings  tended to on they dry side.  Many of the cider offerings, particularly those made in the USA, were more reminiscent of wine coolers or worse, sodas. Swedish ciders, which listed their prime ingredient as local water, also were no-shows as far as I was concerned.

High on my list of favorites were the two cider offerings from Virtue Cider Co., a relatively new producer established by former Goose Island brew master Greg Hall.  His Redstreak was dry, crisp and refreshing with just a hint of apple, very much in the traditional English style. Virtue’s Sidra de Nava, done in the Spanish style, was tart like a beer in the lambic style.

Also very dry and much to my liking were a trio from England’s Aspall Cider, the very pale original and the equally light hued Organic, both were quite dry. Aspall’s Perronelle’s Blush Cider, made with added blackberry juice, also proved to be tart with an unmistakable berry character.

Another English winner, Thatcher’s Green Goblin was deep gold, full-bodies, crisp, some what tannic and with notes of oak.

A Scottish import, Thistly Cross, had a golden Champagne color and was eminently drinkable with its medium dry character.

Bob Gammon of Woodside Orchards, Aquebogue, pours his hard cider.

Bob Gammon of Woodside Orchards, Aquebogue, pours his hard cider.

I also enjoyed Woodside’s Traditional, made from a blend of eight culinary apple varieties, a crisp cider with the aroma and taste of just-picked apples.

Another local product, Wolffer’s 139, also was tart, dry and refreshingly enjoyable.

Anthem Cider, a cider label of Wandering Aengus Cider works of Salem, Ore., made from culinary apples, was deep gold, refreshing and off dry. The Wandering Aengus Blossom Cider, made with traditional English and French cider apple varieties, also was very English in style with an apple-pie nose and a mix of sweet and tart notes.

Another American offering, also on the dry side, was the brilliantly gold-hued Angry Orchard Traditional Dry, dry from start to finish with an occasional sweet note in between.

Four Screw from Harvest Moon Cidery in Cazenovia, NY, was surprisingly dry, tart and winey, and is sweetened, apparently, just a tad, by maple syrup.

Two canned ciders from Pennsylvania’s Jack’s Hard Cider surprised. Jack’s Original was quite dry, crisp with soft notes of apple. Jack’s Helen’s Blend was more piquant and quite tasty, too.

One of the more unusual ciders I’d tasted was the 10% abv  (really an apple wine) from Silver Mountain Ciders in Lempster, N.J. Cloudy from bottle conditioning with oak flavors from oak aging and tart apples notes intertwined. A bit extreme, actually.

Among my biggest disappointments were two offerings from Anheuser Busch-InBev:  Michelob Ultra Light Apple Cider, which had a passing resemblance to water kissed by apples, and Stella Artois Cidre, a sugary offering with notes reminiscent of a chemistry lab.

Also, perplexing was the variety of flavored pear ciders from Sweden’s Rekorderlig, which were served on ice with a strawberry and bit of mint. Not for me!

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An English cider hobbyist turned pro, wins medals and now exports his wares

Award-winning Hogan’s Ciders, now available in the U.S., are produced in a small town in England’s West Midlands. They are the product of cider maker Allen Hogan, who produced homemade ciders for 25 years before turning pro.

Allen Hogan last harvest. (Courtesy Hogan's Cider)

Allen Hogan last harvest. (Courtesy Hogan’s Cider)

After 17 years of working in sales for Hewlett Packard, Allen Hogan says he began to feel frustrated working at a large corporation. Eight years ago, he chucked his job to become a professional maker of traditional hard cider and perry. He hasn’t looked back.

Hogan, now owner of Hogan’s Ciders in Haselor, Alcester, a tiny rural village in England’s West Midlands, not far from Stratford-Upon-Avon, had been making cider and perry as a hobbyist for 25 years.  After leaving HP, he said, he studies cider at industry consultant Peter Mitchell’s Cider Academy, took a job selling cider and then went into business for himself.

Hogan's offices,tasting room and storage facilities in Haselor.

Hogan’s offices,tasting room and storage facilities in Haselor, Alcestor in West Midlands, UK.

Today, of course, he operates on a much grander scale than he did at home. In the coming harvest, his rented cidery nearby at Castlemorton in Malvern Hills, will have the capacity to produce almost 674,000 liters annually. He says he’s reached a level where the business “has reached a critical mass” and “is now viable.”  He bottles and stores his products in a large corrugated-steel warehouse situated off a gravel road in Haselor.

Indeed, Hogan’s foray into cider now is paying off. His products have medaled at international competitions, including a major contest in Somerset, the heart of England’s cider country, and in the U.S., his dry cider was awarded best of show at the 2011 Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition.

Some of Hogan's awards on display.

Some of Hogan’s awards on display.

And he is now exporting his wares to the United States, Hong Kong and Russia. Belchertown, Mass.-based Shelton Brothers, is his U.S. importer, an arrangement that came together after an introduction by another English cider maker, Tom Oliver. Hogan’s Cider is available in a number of states, said Lauren Shepherd, who oversees the brand for Shelton. “We really love his cider and perry. It’s really something different.

Hogan seems to be in the right place at the right time.  The market for cider, particularly in the U.S., is exploding. “For us, the more cider there is, the bigger the market place,” Hogan’s marketing director, Sarah Edmunds, told me during a recent visit to Haselor.

Besides, said Hogan, “There’s an awful lot of mediocre product produced on a large scale.” Recent food scandals, such as the one involving the sale of horsemeat as beef, will result in heightened consumer consciousness for artisanal products

Hogan makes his ciders and parries (pear ciders) using traditional methods with only fresh apples and pears from farms in the so-called “Three Counties.” Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, with no sugar added prior to fermentation (sugar is used occasionally afterwards, however). Much cider today is made from apple pulp or concentrate rather than fresh apples. Hogan does not specify the varieties used or produce single varietals, because he can’t guarantee where his apples will originate.

Each autumn, Hogan sources fruit from various growers in the Three Counties, washes the apples thoroughly and then mills them into a fine pulp resembling oatmeal. The pulp then is pressed between two continuous belts to squeeze out the juice. He gets more than a pint of juice from each kilo (2.25 pounds) of apples. The juice then is slowly fermented in cold stainless steel tanks for up to four months. The fermented juice is then filtered and pumped bank into the tanks to mature for several additional months. Blended and then packaged for sale in bottle or as draught. His aim: a good balance between alcohol strength, tannins, acidity and sweetness. Perry production follows the same process except for washing the fruit, because hand-harvested perry pears seldom need washing and will sink in a water bath.

Hogan’s ciders and perries tend to dryness, because of Hogan’s personal taste preference. “I prefer to do dry cider,” he explained, “It’s closer to the base product. I love tasting it straight out of the vat. It’s fermented to dryness.”

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Bipartisan legislation offers excise tax relief sought by U.S. hard cider makers

American producers of hard cider have been seeking to level the tax playing field with their competitors in the beer industry. Relief may be soon at hand.

Congressmen from Portland, Ore., and New York’s Niagara region earlier this month introduced legislation in the House that would ease the excise tax burden on America’s small, but growing hard cider industry.

Chris COllins

Chris Collins

Earl Blumenauer

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Rep. Chris Collins (R-New York)  introduced the bipartisan Cider Industry Deserves Equal Regulation (CIDER) Act, H. R. 2921, which would have the federal excise tax on cider structured more like the tax on beer, which is 22 cents per gallon. New York Sen. Charles Schumer reportedly is planning to introduce similar legislation in the Senate.

When the alcohol content exceeds 7 percent, cider is taxed as wine, based on a sliding scale that goes as high as $1.07 per gallon for producers making more than 100,000 gallons a year. Cider makers must pass on the higher taxes to consumers or absorb them.

The tax on cider varies, depending on its alcohol and carbon dioxide content, which vary from harvest to harvest based on weather and small changes in production techniques.

jim silver

Jim Silver

“Even under normal harvest circumstances, dessert apples like Fuji and Gala, which we use, can easily ferment beyond the 7-percent-alcohol threshold that breaks the tax barrier and turns cider into “apple wine,’ ” said Jim Silver, general manager of the Standard Cider Co., producer of True Believer and True Companions Ciders, on Long island’s North Fork. “In the worst case scenario, the cider maker is now compelled to put a garden hose into the tank to assure himself that the finished product will be under that threshold – obviously not an ideal situation, especially if that producer wants to make the best cider possible.”

Because of the narrow way that hard cider is currently defined in the tax code, these small variations can lead to cider being taxed at a rate 15 times higher than what the law intended, according to a press release issued by the congressmen.

The Blumenauer-Collins bill would broaden this definition to include pear, as well as apple cider and to greatly reduce the chance that improper taxation would occur.

“Cider making is sometimes closer to an art than a science,” said Blumenauer.  “As the American apple and pear hard cider industry becomes more prominent on the world stage and cider becomes a beverage choice for more Americans’ developing palettes, we need to ensure that cideries have every opportunity to expand and meet the needs of this growing market without an unfair tax burden.”

Collins added. “This bill will help spur growth in the American apple industry by allowing it to be more competitive on an international level.

Cider makers, who have been pushing for the changes, cheered the bill.

“This bill bravely and wisely cuts a path to ensuring cider gets a real chance to succeed,” said Silver.

“We are very pleased that Congressmen Blumenauer and Collins are working to assist cideries not only in our part of the country, but nationally as well,” said Sherrye Wyatt, executive director of the Northwest Cider Association, which represents producers in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and British Columbia.  The changes proposed by the congressman “will update the existing federal definition of cider to better reflect the industry and keep American cider competitive in the international marketplace,” she said.

“Blumenauer and Collins’s cider bill comes at a crucial time for the small but quickly growing cider industry,” said James Kohn, owner of Wandering Aengus Ciderworks in Salem, Ore. “The current excise tax for fermented ciders does not capture accurately the ciders we produce or most of the ciders in the U.S. And this is very confusing to current producers and the growing number of new cider producers in Oregon and the Northwest. This Cider Bill will end this confusion and ensure ciders are taxed consistently.”

Mike Beck, president of the U.S. Association of Cider Makers, called the introduction of the legislation “a critical first step towards making the United States hard cider industry more competitive internationally and treated more fairly under the tax code.”

Sales of domestically produced cider more than tripled in 2012 from 2007, climbing to $601.5 million, according to IBISWorld, a market research company.

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