The product itself does a lot to help the conversion, but so do people like Nat West who see a lot of similarities between cider drinkers and beer drinkers. On Saturday, West opened the doors of his cidery and tasting room for a hopped cider festival that featured not only his hop-infused cider brands including apricot-flavored Hallelujah Hopricot and the hop-heavy Code Name Hopland 3 (hopped six times with 10 different hops at five pounds per barrel), but hopped ciders from throughout the Pacific Northwest and across the country. Citizen Cider brought its fruity, Nelson Sauvin-hopped Full Nelson all the way from Burlington, Vt., while Portland offered its own hopped ciders from Cider Riot!, Sasquatch and Square Mile -- which is owned by the same Craft Brew Alliance (BREW) that owns Widmer Brother and Redhook and employs cidermaster Joe Casey, who we interviewed last summer.
The coup, however, was getting some of Vermont Cider's newly released Woodchuck Hard Cider for the hopped cider festival's first tasting of the day. A force in cider even before it was bought by Magners-owning Irish cider company C&C for $305 million in 2012, Vermont Cider is still the second-largest cider producer in the U.S. behind Boston Beer (SAM) and its Angry Orchard brand. It's also become a bit more creative with its styles and has a free hand to develop ciders within its Cellar Series with an eye toward flavor instead of segment, demographic or gender.
As Symphony IRI points out, if hard cider were in the craft beer category, it would rank as the third-largest style behind IPA and seasonal. It also notes that 84% of cider drinkers also drink beer, which means a cider that could appeal equally to both cider drinkers and beer lovers could be a very powerful product in the right hands.
Beyond the liquid being delicious, this cider is reaching across the aisle, Woodchuck spokesman Terry Hopper said in a press release for Woodchuck Hopped Cider. Craft beer drinkers have a passion for trying new things, and this cider provides a natural crossing point in the river between beer and cider.