​Cider Corner — Expert Outlook: ​Overcoming Stumbling Blocks to Grow in Years Ahead

Along with increased costs and the loss of some in-person/across-the-bar sales, the pandemic has been a kick in the teeth for many cideries. Those that can observe and find ways to circumvent issues are the ones that may have the best chance to rebound quicker than a competitor.

Supply chain issues have certainly affected Swilled Dog this past year but Lauren Patterson said the West Virginia cidery has been able to plan ahead and order cans needed before the shortage hit.

Working locally is helpful when it can be useful. Patterson said that Swilled Dog has been reaching out to local farmers and suppliers for ingredients and equipment that have been hard to order.

“We are looking forward to creating more partnerships throughout West Virginia to source ingredients for our cider as well as support local agriculture,” she said.

Swilled Dog also accepts donated foraged apples from throughout West Virginia to make its West Virginia Scrumpy. For every bottle of Scrumpy sold, Swilled Dog will plant an apple tree.

Pennings Cidery tries​ to source as much of ​its raw material, packaging, and equipment from as local as ​it can. ​

“We’re proud to have purchased our tanks from Vance Metal Fabricators Inc​.​, a business located in New York State​,” explained Tori Pennings Cosimano. ​”​Additionally, any fruits or vegetables that are used to produce our ciders are either grown on-site or on neighboring farms in New York.​”​

Like many ​cider ​producers, Pennings’​ taproom is adjacent to ​its production space. ​That means overflow seating spills into the production space depending on the time of year and weather​, Pennings Cosimano said.

​”​It can be tough to figure out which takes precedence, do you pause cider production to create more seating for customers or do you put the cider above anything else​,” she added. ​

​This ​pondered question ​has encouraged ​the New York cidery to add heaters and plastic drop-downs​ for additional outdoor seating as well as expanding​ production space.

Stephen Hance ​of​ Number 12 Cider​ made an interesting observation in that cideries offer a seasonal product in a marketplace that expects year-round access.

​”​We want to offer quality and it’s important for us to know the apple content of our ciders​,” he said. ​”​For that reason, it is really hard to grow quickly. We simply cannot fill more orders than expected from about March through November so if growth is not known from November through February it will have to wait.

​”​Similarly, our product quality comes from allowing it to take its time in the fermenter, so urgent needs for new products are not easily met.​”​

Being in rural West Virginia has also been a slight roadblock For Swilled Dog in getting supplies in a timely manner as well as increasing foot traffic to the tasting room.

“We did see an increase in traffic in 2021 compared to the previous two years but will still not see the same amount of traffic as cideries and breweries in more urban locations,” Patterson said, noting that they rely heavily on tourism as well as marketing and events to draw consumers to the facility.

In fact, the biggest hurdle for the cider community​ may be that m​ass producers of cider keep consumer prices and expectations low.

Paula Camp ​of​ Carriage House Ciders ​told Brewer that ​small craft producers are using the same techniques as fine winemakers, but cannot fetch nearly as high a price for their ciders as people pay for wine.

​”​We have a tremendous amount of work to do on public perception in order to keep up with raw material price inflation​,” she said. ​”​The only way to do that is to offer ciders that taste great and offer consumers an authentic experience.​”​

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