Cider Industry Aims for Familiarity With New Style Guide

The United States Association of Cider Makers recently published a new style guide that attempts to standardize what different kinds of ciders are called. The guide comes at a time when many consumers are unaware of the depth and variety of alcoholic cider types.

Like craft beer, alcoholic cider is having a bit of a moment these days, and that means a lot of new players are getting involved. It also means a lot of cider-related language is in circulation—some of which may be hard to follow without help.

Fortunately, the United States Association of Cider Makers, which represents producers of cider and perry (pear cider), is on top of it. USACM recently released its first style guide [PDF], based on existing guidelines for the industry’s most prominent competition, the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (GLINTCAP), held annually in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“We reviewed the most recent GLINTCAP guidelines and made a few changes to cast a slightly wider net,” USACM Executive Director Michelle McGrath told Growing Produce. “We wanted to start with a broad foundational language of styles, and as the cider industry matures, this living document will grow.”

Building Familiarity

It’s just five pages long, but the document represents a major marketing move for the trade group.

The guide differentiates between fruit ciders, hopped ciders, and spiced ciders, among other flavors, and describes the attributes of each type. It could help the world of alcoholic cider draw interest beyond the big-name brands like Woodchuck and Angry Orchard.

In a recent article, Food & Wine noted that one reason the craft beer industry took off was that a beer writer named Michael Jackson (no relation) spent a significant amount of time putting together a beer style guide that explained the differences between varieties of brews.

“A style classification instantly makes the unfamiliar more familiar, and the adoption of styles has helped drive beer drinkers’ willingness to try new things ever since by giving them something to latch onto,” writer Mike Pomranz noted last month.

At its annual meeting in February, USACM noted that while craft cider sales were up by nearly 40 percent at grocery stores between 2015 and 2016, brand awareness was low, the industry publication Draft reported. According to research conducted on behalf of Boston Beer Company’s Angry Orchard brand, 37 percent of consumers were unable to name any cider brand—and worse, those who tried to name one referred to Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Redd’s Apple Ale, two drinks that are not actually ciders.

The initiative is part of USACM’s Cider Lexicon Project, which will also produce a cider vocabulary guide and a dryness scale for cider beverages. These guidelines will be worked into the association’s Certified Cider Professional accreditation program, the first of its kind in the U.S., according to Growing Produce.

“The goal is to make it easier for a consumer to find a cider they like,” the association states on its website.

(AlexPro9500/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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