I got my first look at the new “Cidercraft Magazine” and it looks good. Looking good is a prerequisite of print magazine publishing in this age of dumping pulp in favor of electrons. However, Cidercraft Magazine not only looks good but it is also a lively spokespiece for the cider revival.
Among the “What is Cider”, “What are good ciders”, and “Who Makes Cider” articles that run throughout the first issue of Cidercraft Magazine, however, is one particularly good and must-read article: “What’s Old Is New Again”. The article gives a variety of smart cider and drinks people the opportunity to speculate on the nature of and reasons for cider’s revival.
1. The craft beer movement has trained enough people in the “interesting” and “authentic” to give them the confidence to try cider
2. The perceived health benefits of cider (gluten-free, fewer carbs, anti-oxidants) appeal to drinkers
3. The liberal experimentation with flavor additions within the cidermaking community appeals to a younger demographic and propels the experimentation with and adoption of cider as a drink.
4. The slow/authentic/real/local food movement meshes well with the attitude and perspective of the craft cider movement.
But the most interesting and provocative idea embedded in Treve Ring’s “What’s Old Is New Again” article is the idea that craft cider is and ought to be associated with craft beer. It strikes me as provocative that craft cider is not better understood as more akin with wine than beer.
While I’m sure this is a provocative idea, I understand why it should be adopted and spread. Cider is consumed in a manner more similar to the way beer is consumed. It tends to be quaffed like beer, rather than sipped like wine. Its quaffable nature is derived from the same thing that provides beer’s quaffable quality: lower alcohol levels.
If this seems a pedestrian and simple explanation of the nature of cider that’s because it is. But practicalities and the structural nature of a product are almost always behind its perceived qualities, which in turn most often lead to the way it is sold and marketed. Hence, cider as beer.
In the “Cidercraft” article, Ian McKay of British Columbia’s Driftwood Brewery lands on the “cider’s-appeal-is-its-authentic-nature” side of the question by, interestingly, referencing the impact of commercial ciders: “I think it’s partly due to the big companies and their marketing departments pushing faux cider (and dumbed down beer) on to the masses. All this wide-scale, big marketing mediocrity only makes people yearn for what is real.”
McKay may be right. However it’s important to note that the vast majority of cider is being sold by the “big companies”. And if you look at how these “big companies” are marketing their cider you’ll find they are using beer marketing as a model. The consumers who are introduced to cider via the big companies and their marketing departments are being taught that cider is an alternative to and similar to beer…not wine and not spirits.
So here is where I think things ought to get provocative. As an alcoholic drink, cider is much more akin to wine. It is made the way wine is made. It’s aesthetic characteristics are more like wine than beer. Its fruit source (apples) are more akin to grapes than grains. Apples tend to thrive more fully in regions where grapes thrive. Cider pairs with food in a more similar fashion than beer.
And so the question I would have liked to have seen addressed in the above referenced article is this: Is the future of craft cider more secure in the hands of those inclined to treat cider as similar to wine or those inclined to understand cider as an alternative to beer?
Cidercraft Magazine is a fantastic addition to the cider revival. Merely being seen on newsstands is a huge boost to the cider category. But it needs to be pointed out too that if you at the cover of the first issue of Cidercraft, you’ll note that apples are on display in two WINE glasses. And below those apple-filed wine glasses is the inaugural issue’s primary headline: “19 bottles of Cider on the Wall”.
It turns out that both inside and out, Cidercraft magazine has perfectly depicted cider’s primary identify crisis.