Attention Virginia Cider Professionals: The Virginia Cider Ed Road Show

The American Cider Association is holding four educational sessions in Virginia during the first week of June 2022 to educate cider professionals “about the diversity and versatility of Virginia hard ciders”. I will be attending the session at Lost Boy Cider and hope our Virginia members can allocate time to attend one of the sessions. Here is the info from the ACA:

“The American Cider Association (ACA) is hitting the road to partner with Virginia cideries and chefs to teach food and beverage professionals about the diversity and versatility of Virginia hard ciders. Each workshop will be tailored to the cidery and city where it’s taking place with a focus on exploring ciders made with Virginia grown apples, crafting trendy cider cocktails, and mastering delicious cider pairings. Jennie Dorsey, a Certified Pommier and the Cider Education Outreach Manager for the ACA, will be leading the cider learning, tasting and pairing experiences.
Are you a current food and beverage professional? Or an up and coming professional in the food and beverage scene? Do you happen to live in Virginia or nearby? Come join us at one of these four free workshops we’ll be offering throughout Virginia. These workshops are being provided thanks to a grant from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.”

Lost Boy Cider (Alexandria Virginia) June 6th: 5-7 PM
Potters Craft Cider (Charlottesville Virginia) June 7th: 4-6 PM
Fall Line Richmond Marriot (Richmond Virginia) June 8th: tbd
Sly Clyde Ciderworks (Hampton Virginia) June 9th: 12-2 PM

World Whiskies Awards 2022 Taste Winners

Back in November 2021, I was invited to help judge the World Whiskies Awards 2022 where 32 judges sampled 250 American whiskeys divided into 17 categories. The results were finally published here and eight American spirits were recognized as the World’s Best in their appropriate categories. You will find those spirits below as well as the American Best for all categories. Can’t wait to try these again.

World’s Best Wheat
Bainbridge Battle Point Two Islands Hokkaido Cask

World’s Best Corn
Ironroot Republic Icarus

World’s Best Flavoured Whisky
Whiskeysmith Blood Orange

World’s Best Small Batch Single Malt
The Notch Nantucket Island 12 Years Old

World’s Best Bourbon
Redemption Barrel Proof High Rye Bourbon 10 Years Old

World’s Best Single Barrel Bourbon
Blanton’s The Original Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey

World’s Best Small Batch Bourbon
Widow Jane 10 Year Bourbon

World’s Best Tennessee
Jack Daniel’s 10 Years Old

American Best

Best American Blended
Breckenridge Distillery Powder Hound Whiskey

Best American Blended Limited Release
Heaven’s Door 777 Blend

Best American Blended Malt
Lost Lantern American Vatted Malt

Best American Kentucky Bourbon
Old Forester 100 Proof

Best American Non-Kentucky Bourbon
Redemption Barrel Proof High Rye Bourbon 10 Years Old

Best American Kentucky Small Batch Bourbon
Rabbit Hole Heigold Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Best American Kentucky Single Barrel Bourbon
Blanton’s The Original Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey

Best American Non-Kentucky Single Barrel Bourbon
Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. TX Bottled in Bond Single Barrel Texas Straight Bourbon

Best American Grain
Bainbridge Yama Mizunara Cask

Best American New Make & Young Spirit
291 Colorado Whiskey Fresh Colorado Whiskey

Best American Pot Still
Talnua Distillery Olde Saint’s Keep 2021

Best American Rye
The Senator Barrel Proof Straight Rye Whiskey

Best Kentucky Single Barrel Bourbon
Blanton’s The Original Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey

Best Non-Kentucky Single Barrel Bourbon
Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. TX Bottled in Bond Single Barrel Texas Straight Bourbon

Best American Single Cask Single Malt
Hogback Distillery Wallace Collection Single Malt Whisky

Best American Single Malt
Westland Outpost Range Garryana Edition 6

Best American Small Batch Single Malt
The Notch Nantucket Island 12 Years Old

CiderCon 2022 Sessions – Designed for Professionals, Beneficial for Influencers

Although CiderCon 2022 was a conference devoted primarily to cider professionals and members of the American Cider Association, there were plenty of seminars that benefited a layperson like me.  I attended four of these seminars that were at times very complimentary. In the future, the organizers may want to schedule the seminars on a goal-based path so that each builds upon previous sessions. 

400 Years of American Alcohol: Cider, History, Cocktails and More
This session was hosted by mixologist Tiffanie Barriere and over two cocktails using Potter’s Craft Cider, she highlighted the history of cider – particularly through the eyes of Black historical figures. These figures included James Madison Ruffin — an emancipated slave who managed many agricultural projects before and after the Civil War, including the planting and maintenance of Appomattox Plantation’s apple orchards and its cider fruit.  She told the story of Antoine Amedee Peychaud, who “came to New Orleans from the island of San Domingo, the former French colony that is now Haiti. By 1832 he owned an apothecary in the French Quarter where he made his famous bitters … which was the essential ingredient in the official Sazerac cocktail. Among many bartender guides, Barriere introduced us to Tom Bullock, the famed bartender at the St. Louis Country Club and author of the 1917 bestseller The Ideal Bartender.  According to George Herbert Walker, a club member and both the grandfather and great-grandfather of a chief executive, “I doubt if he has erred in even one of his concoctions.”  

Introductory Palate Training
This session was hosted by Darlene Hayes who also oversees the American Cider Association’s Certified Cider Professional program. This was a foundational seminar on participants can familiarize themselves and train their palates to individual structural elements within cider.  We sampled a control cider in terms of that cider with different levels of sugar, acids, and tannins.  Worth repeating often. 

A Cider Among the Faults
Nicole Leibon hosted this session on determining which cider was the innocent control cider and which were fatally flawed. The panelists discussed several faults such as Volatile Acidity from Acetic acid (vinegar) and emphasis on Ethyl acetate (nail polish), Diacetyl (overly buttered), and Acetaldehyde (stale bread). 

Top of the Mitten: High Latitude Ciders from Northern Michigan 
Another session hosted by Nicole Leibon and where we finally started tasting retail ciders by exploring Michigan’s 45th parallel.  Through two ciders each from Tandem CidersLeft Foot Charley, and Presque Isle Farm. The beauty of this session is that these producers source the same apple varieties from the same orchards and use different fermenting methods to produce completely different ciders. Some are produced using controlled fermentation whereas others by wild ferments with some creamy and round and others funky and chewy.

Wild, Clean & Free: Harnessing the Beauty of Wild-Fermenting, Without the Flaws
This session hosted by Christine Walter of Bauman’s Cider would build upon the previous by continuing the tasting of wild-fermented sparkling cider and Pet-nats.  We started with the delicious Kossah Wild Fermented from Raw Cider, followed by the 2017 Roxbury Russet Pet-nat from Artifact Cider, and finishing with the Sponti 2020 from Sundstrom Cider.  This last is fantastic, a wild fermented cider, aged on lees, and bottled unfiltered. Sparkling apple funk.

Rendezvous: An In-depth Look at RTD Cocktails

According to a new The State of the Industry Briefing from Distilled Spirits Council Of The United States (DISCUS), pre-mixed Cocktails — including spirits-based RTDs (Ready to Drink beverages) — are the fastest sectors of the U.S. spirits market in terms of both revenue and volume. For those in the industry, this is not surprising considering the low level where RTDs started plus the rapid acceptance by consumers. From 2020 to 2021, revenue increased 42.3% or $429 million from $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion and volume increased 55.9% or 13.1 million 9 liter cases. That being said, spirits-based RTDs comprise only eight percent of the overall RTD market. According to DISCUS, 62% of craft distillers are not producing spirits-based RTDs because of prohibitive and unfair taxes levied on their production. For instance, just in Arizona at 5% abv, spirits-based RTDs are taxed 18 times more than malt-based RTDs (1.5% versus 28.1%).

That being said, the spirits-based RTD market will continue to increase and thus BevFluence is launching the Rendezvous: An In-depth Look at RTD Cocktails campaign. BevFluence created the BevFluence Collaborations Campaign (BCC) to expand influencer engagement by leveraging the BevFluence community. We have devised and tested a proprietary methodology for accelerating social media distribution that we require our members to adhere to throughout the campaign. This methodology includes scheduling social media posts at the optimal time, sharing, and working with brand participants to engage within our platform. 

For the Rendezvous: An In-depth Look at RTD Cocktails campaign, your ready-to-drink products will be presented to a combination of industry experts, mixologists, bartenders, creators, bloggers, writers, and other media. We curate only the most diverse palates and those who will be tough but fair. You will get to know these creators as part of our community through group tastings and one-on-one settings.

You can view more information about this, and other campaigns, on the BevFluence Collaborations platform.  We have discounted the usual price for campaigns to $75 per entry and for each entry, the brands must send (6) -12 oz samples to each BevFluence Regional Office as well as (2) -12 oz samples to each Influencer we assign (five influencers). That equals 22 total – 12 oz samples and all of these requirements are outlined in the campaign’s guidelines once you login to the BevFluence Collaborations platform.

What is BevFluence?
BevFluence, LLC (BevFluence) was founded in 2017 and is made up of active members of the food & beverage industry experts with decades of experience. This group of well-respected and highly sought-after professionals is dedicated to building and strengthening the professional food & beverage media community through education, collaboration, and expanding access for both brands and creators. Founded by media professionals to create the change for our clients that define the future. You get us all, for the cost of a single consultant in some other companies, a team dedicated to growing your business over the long term. Our Team is made of wine, whiskey, technology, marketing, social media, hospitality, culinary, and beverage industry experts.

Training Your Senses for Evaluating Cider

The crew at BevFluence are major cider fans based on past professional and consumer experiences. We strongly feel that other influencers should share a similar affinity towards the industry. And there are definitely cider tasting opportunities for most of us on the coasts, the MidWest, and in Canada; theCompass Craft Beverage Finder reports over 660 cider tasting rooms operating in North America. But how do we evaluate these ciders? Many of us are inadequately trained to discern apple varieties, faults, or quality.

The Certified Cider Professional certificate is offered by the American Cider Association (ACA) and is intended for a broad overview of cider, covering history, production, and serving. There are two levels of certification. The online Level 1 CCP is designed for people who would benefit from a deeper but still introductory level of cider knowledge. The more advanced in-person Certified PommelierTM test covers more in-depth cider knowledge, including sensory evaluation. For influencers, the Level 1 CCP certification should be sufficient and is what I will be taking this Spring.

Justin, our CEO, was required to earn the Certified Cider Professional certificate as an employee at Virtue Cider. Because he already had a decent level of cider experience, he did not find the exam terribly difficult. However, “it’s definitely something that requires a level of understanding very similar to WSET and some of the other certifications. The certification provides deep knowledge of the specific types of apples and pears, the fermentation processes, and what comes next: Brandy.”

Another education route is through the Cider Institute of North America (CINA), a non-profit organization “made up of passionate cider industry professionals and educators with a mission to create a quality-driven and sustainable cider industry through education and research”. The CINA offers science-based courses specifically targetting cider making such as Cider & Perry Production – Foundation, Essential Laboratory Testing of Cider & Perry, and Essential Sensory Analysis of Cider & Perry. According to Nicole Leibon — cider blend consultant LeNose Knows, “probably more than someone with passing curiosity would want to take. We are, however, working on a short Cidermaking 101 class that is intended for a broad audience, as well as a few other short-format courses, hopefully, available within the next year or two. We intend for those to be more approachable and to provide a taste for folks who want to learn more about making cider”.

This Cidermaking 101 short course makes perfect sense. Influencers discussing cider should understand the basics of good cidermaking in order to better assess its quality. Ms. Leibon continues, ” For example, if you recognize where faults come from, like poor yeast management creating sulfer notes, you can better recognize high-quality ciders”. Until this course is launched, influencers can review two CINA publications: The Professional Handbook of Cider Tasting and a Cider Faults Wheel.

At CiderCon 2022, I will be attending a couple of sessions that I hope will elevate my sensory perceptions of cider. The first is A Cider Among the Faults where Nicole Leibon, Chris Gerling, and Jocelyn Kuzelka will present five suspect ciders. Only one cider is faultless and the other four are “fatally faulted by the usual (and maybe unusual) suspects”. The second is How Chemistry and Sensory Parameters Lead to Style Outcomes presented by Virginia Tech professors Amanda Stewart and Jacob Lahne. Sadly, the most relevant seminar, Introductory Palate Training by Darlene Hayes is sold out. Ms. Hayes is also the instructor for the Certified Cider Professional program so I should receive a similar education when taking this course.

We look forward to sharing our cider experiences at CiderCon 2022 and stay tuned for details of our upcoming BevFluence Collaborations Cider Campaign.

Wine Influencers – Can They Help You Sell Wine?

Last summer, winery publicist Carl Giavanti published an article with this title on his blog and it must have made an impact within the industry because it was recently picked up by the Wine Bulletin.

The article starts with the sentence: “Wine doesn’t sell itself. Storytelling sells wine. If you believe this statement please read on“. Obviously, BevFluence believes the affirmative, and Carl’s article details how influencer marketing can help a brand sell wine depending on the brand, messaging, and target audience. He follows with, “Experimenting with individual content creators on a one-off basis or as opportunities arise is one approach, and doing pilot projects as proof of concept to show results is a good way to test your strategy“. He continues “…the goal for wineries would be to drive their visitors’ traffic to the tasting room or website where the winery is now in a position to engage and hopefully sell wine. At the very least, you are reaching outside of the wine-interested world into new communities in hopes of creating new fans and followers“.

BevFluence has adopted these and other strategies Carl suggests within our BevFluence Collaborations Campaigns and Experiences. We identify content creators whose engagement will drive traffic to a brand’s website and social media accounts and provide the analytics behind these engagements.

Please read the entire article and visit the BevFluence Collaborations site to view current Campaigns and Experiences.