Cider Corner: How Portland Cider Creates Buzz Points for New Cider Releases

Portland Cider has a lot of fun playing with the spicier side of flavor over the years, and they told Brewer recently that customers aren’t shy about letting them know when something packs a little too much of a punch.

In a new release that has been a taproom favorite and recently moved into the cidery’s Small Batch series of 16-ounce canned releases, Key Lime Habanero is a blend of the two that brings in balance.

“That’s part of the value of having so many taps to experiment with,” the cidery explained via email this week. “We’re really going for the flavor of the pepper with light heat that doesn’t overwhelm the palate.”

Portland Cider partnered with a local hot sauce maker, HAB Sauce, on a habanero cider a couple of years ago along with having a seasonal called Santa’s Sauce that has a touch of cayenne in it as well. So playing with ‘fire,’ so to say, has happened before.

But how to get the possible naysayer to take a dip in the fiery side of things? The taproom is a great place to make a sale.

“We’ve found that cider cocktails in our tap rooms are a great entry point for some of the less-typical ciders,” they wrote. “For example, we offer a Kicked Up Key Lime Margarita, and it goes great with the tacos and Thai wings on our menu.”

The cidery also shares the cocktail recipe on its social channels for fans to try at home.

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First conceived five years ago for the annual Cider Summit Key Lime Habanero has been a seasonal offering on tap in the pubs ever since. Just now the brand was moved into the seasonal canned offerings, available until June.

Although there’s no magic sales number that determines when Portland Cider will move a product from taproom to cans, popularity does matter.

“The guests who visit us in our taprooms have a lot of influence when it comes to what we put in cans, and Key Lime Habanero has been a hit since the first time we poured it. It’s quite a sensory experience for the taste buds, with the complex layers of citrus tang and peppery heat layered with sweet apples,” said Portland Cider co-owner Jeff Parrish in a release.

With three locations, they are better able to tell whether something is a one-hit wonder or a crowd-pleaser that has broader appeal.

“We get to share the fruits of our imagination, playing with different flavors, yeasts, and techniques, and see what hits,” Parrish said. “Though Key Lime Habanero is new to cans, it’s time-tested and well-loved, and we’re looking forward to putting it into more people’s hands.”

They added that they rely more on a general sense of how people are responding to it on tap, and how often they’re coming back for another pint. That, plus the availability of the ingredients and space in the coming year’s lineup all factor into the decision-making process as well.

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