After that sale, Crispin sales spiked 287% for the rest of 2012 and another 125% through last November. Its flagship original cider is fairly dry and isn't prone to the sugary sweetness of hard ciders past, so it shouldn't be scaring the boys away. Meanwhile, the Crispin portfolio includes super-dry Brut cider, imported English dry cider and a whole lot of wine-, whiskey- and bourbon-barrel-aged limited edition ciders that should appeal to the "spirits and crafts" crowd MillerCoors thinks is running for the hills.

So what's with the Smith & Forge testosterone cider? Well, there are a few complications here. The first is that MillerCoors and A-B are driven by demographics and demographic-based marketing. When Nielsen says that African-American beer drinkers are 75% less likely to reach for a craft beer than the average drinker, but more than twice as likely to seek out a flavored malt beverage, they'll target MillerCoors' Redd's Apple Ale and A-B's Bud Light Lime-A-Rita in their direction. When Nielsen says Hispanic beer drinkers, who make up 14% of the overall population but 16.2% of all beer drinkers, are 17% more likely to go for a flavored malt beverage but 62% more inclined to go with an import, A-B goes out and buys Grupo Modelo while MillerCoors pushes Cusquena, Aguila and Cristal.

The demographic games are played far less generally as well -- down to age, race, ethnicity and gender -- but they're fairly useless when it comes to cider. In 2012, the top cider producer in the U.S. was Ireland's C&C, which took 53% of the market thanks to its $305 million purchase of Woodchuck Cider creator Vermont Cider  that year and its $25 million purchase of West Coast cider Hornsby's in 2011. It already produced Ireland's Bulmers, which is known here as the Magners brand that is drunk regularly by male Irish expats on the East Coast. C&C doesn't usually play gender games with its ciders: It just makes cider.

The same can be said of Heineken USA, which took distribution rights for English cider Strongbow from Vermont Cider as part of the C&C buyout. That particular cider is not only widely enjoyed by guys in the UK, but also sponsors English Premier League teams and has aired lad-centric, Star Wars-themed commercials there.

Perhaps some of the cider confusion for the big U.S. brewers is a result of the brand that took C&C's cider crown in 2013. Boston Beer launched its Angry Orchard cider brand in 2012 and immediately took a 23% stake in the U.S. cider market. Its initial marketing leaned heavily on its scary-looking tree logo, a spicy ginger version and even a commercial featuring old dudes and young bros drinking cider in bars and on trucks. It was gunning for the guys and had no qualms about it.

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