As I look back over 2019 I think it will be remembered as somewhat of a defining year in cider’s history. Sure there were many firsts in 2018; Cider Salon, Pommeliers, etc. but it’s the second times, the repeats that really show something is taking hold. 2019 has given us that, plus so much more. CraftCon provided a platform for craft cider makers to learn, share and grow as a community. The Cider Salon mark 2 was bigger and bolder, taking over Bristol for a whole week and Ciderlands brought the world of cider tourism to Herefordshire. Cider clubs have launched all over the country bringing producers in direct contact with their customers to share their stories and passion. The way cider is now talked about, the language and vocabulary used, has leapt forward considerably. “Rethink cider” has become a slogan to promote a change in mentality of what cider is and can be. The tide is changing and 2020 is going to be a great year to ride the cider wave. Fine Cider Friday has been well received, so look out for more weekly videos.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t still challenges and I think for 2020, there are two main ones that will define the path craft cider takes.
1. Tapping into the public consciousness – as mentioned above there have been huge leaps in language and promotion of craft cider, but it still hasn’t crept into general awareness. The craft producer community is buzzing, as are the pockets of cider clubs and pubs/bars promoting craft cider. In those circles there is huge drive and energy, but if you look at wider impacts, the nut has still not been cracked. With the exception of a few pieces, much of the mainstream media is dominated by the big company ciders. The same is true of social media, there are some great threads, hashtags and posts every day, but the wider public conversations have not been tapped into yet. To really launch cider into the movement and recognition we’ve seen for craft beer then there is more work to be done.
2. Transparency – the ball is now firmly in the craft court with the recent label updates from Bulmers and Strongbow. Granted they’re misleading in some ways, but the main bits are on there; water, concentrate, flavourings, etc. Now it’s up to the craft community to follow suit and allow consumers to see the difference and make an informed choice. There are many who have, but there a whole lot more who haven’t. When I tried to write an article on craft fruit cider for Crafty Nectar last year I found it very challenging to get transparency from many of the producers, leading me to avoid using them in the article.
So what about me personally? Well my perception and frames of reference have definitely changed during 2019. Doing the “Advanced Cider” and “How to Judge Cider” courses with The Ciderologist really challenged me to stay open minded and re-assess my preconceptions of things like ‘quality’. Starting my own cider-making business has also given me a new perspective, the obstacles and decisions I’ve had to make already over the last few months have fostered a new appreciation for the skill and time required to make something I will be proud of.
I am hopeful that 2020 is going to be a defining year for Chapel Sider, but I’m under no illusion that it’s going to be a steep learning curve and long road. Balancing a full time job, family life and starting a business is going to be a challenge and I know I will have to make sacrifices; I don’t think there will be so many cider-related trips in 2020 for example. Plus priorities will need to be managed; I’ve always tried to follow the mantra “work to live, not live to work” and I want to return my focus to that, to make sure I spend quality time with my family. A collision with a lorry on the M6 in December, which I’m still feeling the effects of, gave me a bit of a wake up call on what’s really important. So, I’ll finish with some poetry:
As the solstice passes and the days extend
The sun returns like a long lost friend
Frost retreats its icy fingers
Warmth begins and then it lingers
Buds start to burst upon the tree
Setting new bright colours free
The promise of a new start is in the air
Grasp the nettle without a care.