Cider Corner: Draw Inspiration From These CiderCon Seminars

Chicago is the place to be next week for cider professionals, with a number of educational and networking opportunities on tap at CiderCon 2023, a weeklong event packed with information about strategies for building businesses, growing and sourcing better fruit, and optimizing processes.

The event starts Tuesday, Jan. 31, but Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will be packed with seminars aimed at helping industry professionals build their brands and sharpen their knowledge of their industry.

Booth Canyon Orchards Owner Stina Booth, who is leading a seminar titled “The 4 Components of Flavor: Orcharding for High-Flavor Fruit,” wants decision makers to know that there’s more to picking the right varieties to make good ciders and perries. Booth said she’s going to go into depth about what orchard management practices have worked for her to grow great apples and pears for cider in Eastern Washington state.

Booth said picking times were super important for getting the most flavor out of fruit.

“I think the old style of letting cider apples drop is a mistake for two reasons,” she said. “You lose a lot of flavor if the apple gets overripe. Each variety has an optimal flavor window, and it will be best picked then. You need to test and record when that perfect flavor window is for your orchard. 

“Two, do you really want all those earthy bacterial fungal strains from the ground in your cider? We don’t.”

Booth stressed that it was important for cider growers to know what the fresh apple and pear growers were doing.

“It’s all about growing quality and the big growers know how to do that.”

Booth’s seminar is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday.

On the business side, industry experts Andrew Coplon and Kary Shumway will lead a four-hour seminar named “Actionable Strategies on Taproom Success” that begins at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Shumway is the founder of Craft Brewery Financial Training, an online resource for beer industry professionals. Coplon is the founder of Secret Hopper and Craft Beer Professionals. He helps businesses nationwide create more memorable and profitable taproom experiences using data-based insights gathered from thousands of visits, building a community of 16,000 Craft Beer Professionals dedicated to the growth and betterment of our industry across the United States.

Coplon said common mistakes with taproom finances include overcomplicating the financial reporting process.

“In our seminar, we will simplify the key drivers of sales, margins, profits and cash flows, so that the numbers are approachable, easy to communicate, and action-oriented to improve financial results,” Coplon said.

The seminar will dive into taproom metrics from a data set of nearly 10,000 taproom visits that demonstrate the financial impact of higher engagement and corresponding actions that can help cideries nationwide see immediate results, he said.

“Just ask,” he said, stressing the importance of starting conversations. “Want to sell that second drink? Want to sell more cider to go? Want to better understand what motivates your team?”

Here are more seminars we think you will find insightful as you head back home from the Windy City looking for new ideas to put in play.

  • Equipment Decisions When Scaling Up Production (Friday, 3:45-5 p.m.): Scaling up your commercial production is a big step to make, and it’s important to make the proper investments in tools and systems when transitioning to larger production. This session will provide tips for equipment to purchase when shifting from hobby to professional production, designing and building out your space, setting up an in-house lab, and scaling up efficiently.
  • Tackling Taprooms (2-3:15 p.m. Friday): It’s an in-depth session on everything that goes into opening or revitalizing a taproom. Attendees will learn from consultant Katie Black and Artifact Cider Project Director of Hospitality Megan McLean, who have opened several respected taprooms with experience in the field of hospitality, operations, and production.
    “A crucial piece of the puzzle is ultimately their team, which we focus on heavily in this seminar; the faces that are truly their biggest brand ambassadors,” Black said. “Making sure your crew is educated & empowered is of the utmost importance and we will show you what we’ve implemented in the past.
    “From there, you can focus on the space & small details that go a long way — lighting, bar supplies, glassware, music, even a fresh coat of paint can do the trick sometimes!”
  • Tackling Microbial Spoilage During Aging (Thursday, 1:45-3 p.m.): This advanced-level sensory session will explore the efficacy of two tools cider makers have to eliminate or mitigate costly intervention of microbial problems before they are needed during bulk aging. A triangle test will be presented to participants and will be used to determine the sensory findings of the experiment. 

See the full CiderCon 2023 schedule here.

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