This is a big month for Virginia Cider. Last week the American Cider Association (ACA) announced the launch of the Virginia Cider Trail where users of the app can win prizes and receive discounts at participating cider houses. And it just happened that this summer I have already visited four of these establishments. And I believe I was the first to officially check-in using the Virginia Cider Trail app at Sage Bird Ciderworks and Ciders from Mars.
In addition, our partner site at BevFluence has opened brand registration today for their Cider: New Perspectives on Cider, Perry, and Brandy campaign. The cider, perry, and brandy products will be presented to a combination of industry experts, mixologists, bartenders, creators, bloggers, writers, and other media – and across the craft beverage landscape. This will generate new perspectives about cider, perry, and apple brandy from creators who range from cider novices to experts. I also plan on taking the ACA’s Certified Cider Professional (CCP) exam during this campaign and using the ciders with my training guide. Brands and content creators can register here for the BevFluence campaign or learn more about the CCP here.
Lost Boy Cider is an urban cidery in Alexandria and sources its fruit from various orchards in the Shenandoah Valley. In early June they hosted one of four sessions on the Virginia Cider Road Show presented by the ACA. After a brief overview of Lost Boy by cidermaker Dave, the ACA’s Jennie Dorsey provided a history of cider, a history of cider in North America, and then the history of cider in Virginia. She then provided a brief overview of Virginia’s three most important apple varieties: Newton (Albemarle) Pippin, Hewes VA Crab, and Harrison. She finished by discussing the ACA’s Apple classes (bittersweet, bittersharp, sweet, & sharp); ACA Cider Families (cider, perry, fruit cider, botanical cider, & dessert ciders); cider cocktails; and cider-food pairings. Yes, a boatload of information was packed within each session. We finished with a food and cider pairing featuring cheeses from Cheestique. I think the Barrel-Aged cider paired with the Appalachian cheese, dried pear, and balsamic vinegar was my favorite — very complimentary.
Castle Hill Cider is located east of Charlottesville in Keswick and has an interesting history regarding the propagation of cider apples. As stated on their website:
Colonel Thomas Walker, the original owner of Castle Hill Estate, was the first to bring Newtown Pippin apple scions to Central Virginia following his return from the Battle of Brandywine in 1777. The variety was planted at Castle Hill and became known as the Albemarle Pippin apple.
And as most Virginia cider lovers know, the Albemarle Pippin is still one of the signature Virginia apple varieties and was even exported to England throughout the 1800s. Castle Hill Cider was founded in 2020 and the estate is planted with 6,500 trees featuring more than 30 apple varieties including Albemarle Pippin, Black Twig, Harrison, Burford Red Fresh, GoldRush, Dabinett, Hewes Crab, and Wickson Crab. The ciders are bottled in either 750ml or 375ml bottles and range from sweet to dry.
During our visit, we choose a Classic flight and a Barrel aged flight. The majority of the group preferred the Terrestrial 2020 where the tannins and slight RS are balanced. It’s also an interesting blend that includes Black Twig, Winesap, and Ashmead’s Kernel. Personally, I preferred the funky, dry, and naturally fermented in quevri Levity 2020. Is this the only American cider fermented and aged in Georgian quevri?
For the barrel-aged ciders, the Hewes Pommeau Reserve is fascinating with complexity created by four years of aging in Woodford Reserve barrels and Keswick Winery wine puncheons. I also enjoyed the Silver Bough where Dabinett and Golden Hornet ciders were aged over a year in rum barrels.
Sage Bird Ciderworks is located in downtown Harrisonburg and opened a couple of years ago after the persistently hard work of Zach and Amberlee Carlson. This is the first cidery in the home of the Dukes and they offer an excellent array of various styles. I settled on a flight of five ciders – slightly more than the paddle size. The clear favorite was the Dry River Reserve — their flagship brut cider made from a blend of Virginia-grown apples. The Peaches For Me fits perfectly into the upcoming BevFluence campaign since the cider was aged in used apple brandy barrels. The oak treatment is noticeable — providing a peaches and cream feel with a boost of apple flavors. Finally, an interesting geographic cider is their Stay Gold, a dry cider inspired by West Virginia’s official state fruit, the famed Golden Delicious apple.
Ciders from Mars is located about 30 miles south in downtown Stanton across the street from both Ox Eye Vineyards and Redbeard Brewing Company. So no excuses for not visiting. The cidery was founded by Virginia natives and science-minded Nikki West and Jeremy Wimpey. And Nikki improved her cidermaking through courses at the Cider Institute of North America -> a partner of the American Cider Association. Over a burger from 1Tribe Farm, I sampled six ciders through a standard flight. The Helles Dry is a solid representation of a brut cider and on the other side of the spectrum, the Pink Oceans was interesting with a subtle strawberry profile. However, the most impressive cider was easily the Liquid Gang, made from foraged apples and fermented using native yeast. The tannic structure mimics biting into an apple. Could be my favorite cider made in Virginia and is on par with the excellent cider from New York’s Aaron Burr Cidery.
Let me introduce you to our BevFluence Collaborations platform and latest campaign: Cider: New Perspectives on Cider, Perry, and Brandy. We created the BevFluence Collaborations Campaign (BCC) to expand influencer engagement by leveraging the BevFluence community. We have devised and tested our proprietary methodology for accelerating social media distribution and require our members to adhere to specific regulations 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.
After an incredibly successful Rendezvous: An In-depth Look at RTD Cocktails campaign, the BevFluence team is jumping right back in with a passion project – Cider: New Perspectives on Cider, Perry, and Brandy. The BevFluence team is comprised of cider enthusiasts (BevFluence founders Justin, a Certified Cider Professional, and Todd, a tried-and-true cider lover) and cider aficionados among the team of influencers. This campaign will operate during the late summer and fall and feature cider, perry, and apple or pear brandy from across the globe. It will also include deep dives into cider making, consumption, styles, cocktail recipes, and food pairings. The products will be presented to a combination of industry experts, mixologists, bartenders, creators, bloggers, writers, and other media – and across the craft beverage landscape. This will generate new perspectives about cider, perry, and brandy from creators who range from cider novices to experts and these perspectives will cascade to their followers.
We curate only the most diverse palates, particularly 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 interviews. Dozens of creators have already signed up and are salivating for this campaign to barrage you with posts and discussions about your brand (unless you live in a cave, that is). This campaign is far superior to your typical trade show as we go deeper and aim for more impact than the usual one-post or five-minute meet and greet. If you want to grow your business and meaningfully engage your consumer, this is the campaign you need to be part of.
You can view more information on the BevFluence Collaborations platform (https://bevfluence.azurewebsites.net/). Once the campaign commences, you will use this platform to engage the creators, view posts and professional tasting notes, and experience the engagement dashboard.
Registration will open in early July and run through September. The price per each product registration is $225, but we have enacted early bird pricing of $195 per product registration. Cider and brandy associations can contact us for further discounts for their members.
For each product registered, the brands must send (6) samples to each BevFluence Regional Office, as well as a sample to each Influencer we assign (3-4 influencers). That equals 15-16 total samples. All of the requirements are outlined in the campaign guidelines once you log in to the BevFluence Collaborations platform.
I have also attached a larger synopsis of BevFluence and some of our previous Collaboration campaigns.
Thanks for the time and cheers!
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.
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.”
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 Ciders, Left 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.
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.