From Orchard to Glass: 5 Things You Need to Know About Cider



Phil Kuhl is a Certified Cider Professional (CCP). You’d be forgiven if you’ve never heard of that title before, because up until last year, it wasn’t even a real thing.

“In 2016 the United States Association of Cider Makers (USACM) wanted to create a program that was similar to what a Sommelier is for wine and a Cicerone is for beer,” said Kuhl, who is also a Craft Beer Specialist for Breakthru Beverage Wisconsin. “A CCP is has to know everything about cider, from the history of apple-growing regions and apple varietals, to cider-making techniques, proper serving and storage.”

So that said, as one of the very few CCPs in the U.S., and one of only two at Breakthru Beverage (Breakthru Beverage Nevada’s Michael Shelter is the other) Kuhl is uniquely qualified to set the record straight on cider. He shared five industry insights your customers should know.


Cider Means Faster Sales and High Register Rings

I’ve heard every excuse out there from skeptic accounts as to why they do not want to carry cider. Or if they do have cider, why they don’t want to bring in more than that one. “It’s too sweet.” “I already have a gluten-free beer.” Or the worst one: “I don’t have any room.” For those accounts, I simply ask them what their slowest moving SKU is, and then let them know that if cider were a craft beer style, it would be the second bestselling style in the U.S. I guarantee that getting rid of those slow-moving SKUs on the shelf, or barely ordered beer on draft, and replacing those placements with a quality premium cider, will not only mean faster sells, but higher register rings and check averages as well. 


There are a Farm’s Worth of Flavors Out There

Seasonals are kind of that flashy new toy that consumers continue to gravitate towards year after year. Any time one of our suppliers comes out with a new seasonal, it sells out quickly. For the accounts we work with that have some sort of a cider program, they are always looking for something new, or something different that their customers haven’t had before, and that is where the seasonals come in.

In addition to seasonal experiments, cider makers are also beginning to play around with different yeasts during fermentation. Traditionally a wine yeast or Champagne yeast is used to ferment cider, but lately there have been some ciders produced using some Belgian yeast strains like an abbey or farmhouse saison.


Try a Hopped Up Cider

For a vast majority of cideries that have opened in the last few years, a hopped cider is almost inevitably going to be a part of their core lineup. It is amazing how long hops can last in a cider. In craft beer, we’re taught “the fresher, the better” as hop flavors and aromas dissipate quickly, or worse, can become unpleasant off-flavors. In cider it takes a whole lot longer for those hops to drop out. I’ve had some fresh hopped ciders that still tasted amazing five months after bottling. These hopped ciders can be really refreshing and complex, especially if they’re made using hops like Citra, Mosaic, or Sorachi Ace. Those varietals give off juicy citrus aromas and flavors, and when you add them to a cider, the end result is something completely different.


Beer is the Lens, but Wine is the Vocabulary 

A phrase I often use with our sales teams and when training accounts is: Beer is the lens, but wine is the vocabulary. What I mean by that is that cider is still looked at as being a hybrid of two categories.

Why is beer the lens? Because beer and cider are packaged very similarly. Cider is available on draft. It comes in six-packs, four-packs and 12- and 16-ounce cans, just like beer. Cider is produced in ways that are familiar to beer drinkers, such as dry-hopped, barrel- aged and gose.

When we talk about cider, however, we make comparisons to wine. We’re talking about sweetness levels such as dry, off-dry or semi-sweet. Even brix levels, which is now common among cider companies, is a term that originates in wine and indicates the level of sweetness. Just like wine, cider becoming more and more about specific varietals and now apple growing regions as well. All of those things are much more similar to wine than beer.


Give Cider a Spot at the Table

Cider should always have a place at any meal. Cider, more so than beer, wine or spirits, makes more sense at any time of the day. You’re rarely, if ever, going to have a glass of red wine with breakfast. Cider, however, pairs very well with a lot of breakfast and brunch dishes. Lunch, dinner, late at night. There are a lot of alcoholic beverages that have their time of the day, but cider makes sense with all of the day’s meals.

I would even argue that a cheese and meats board with cider is even more forgiving than beer. Grabbing a cider with a charcuterie board of some sort – meats, cheeses, nuts, fruit spreads – is one of the easiest and most successful pairings an account can suggest.

I’ve done plenty of cider-pairing dinners. It is easy to do a pairing when the chef is making a specific dish to pair with a certain beverage. When it comes to cider, it doesn’t matter what is being prepared, there is a pretty good chance that it will complement the cider. 

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