Angry Orchard (Boston Beer), the number one producer of alcoholic, apple-based products in the U.S., has announced the release of a new cider: Angry Orchard Stone Dry. The new cider is described as an “American interpretation” of “Traditional English Dry Ciders”. The new cider is apparently different from Angry Orchard’s “Traditional Dry” that they have had in the market for some time. The release begs an interesting question: When it comes to cider, what should and what does “Dry” mean?
It’s interesting to note how both these Angry Orchard ciders are described by the company.
“Traditional Dry”: A “traditional English-style cider that is bittersweet and slightly spicy with a bright apple aroma and a dryness that makes you pucker.”
“Stone Dry”: “This cider balances the acidity of culinary apples with the tannins of traditional cider making apples, for a cider that is clean, refreshing, and slightly puckering on the finish.”
It’s important to note that the “Traditional Dry” by Angry Orchard that has been in the market for some time is in fact not dry at all—that is, if “dry” is to mean without any significant residual sugar, which is what dry, ironically, has “traditionally” meant. Though we look forward to tasting and reviewing the new “Stone Dry” cider from Angry Orchard, we are assuming that it too will defy what has traditionally been the definition of “dry”.
The cider world is not the only place where “dry” has been quietly re-defined by some as something less than really sweet. In the wine world, a number of wines presented as “dry” are in fact laden with residual sugar. These wines, like the Angry Orchard “Traditional Dry”, are extremely popular with casual drinkers in the United States who want to say they “drink dry”, but really are satisfying a palate trained to like sweet.
All of this presents a problem for cidermakers who actually do make truly “dry” cider in which the measurable sugar in the final product is negligible at best and the apple aromas and flavors are allowed to be put on display without the helping hand of gobs of sugar. Consumers coming to these producers from the likes of Angry Orchard or any of the other mass-produced cider-like drinks and who have been trained to think that “dry” means sweet, will be in for a rude and unexpected awakening when they experience what dry really means.
In 2014, cider sales in the U.S. grew by 71% over 2013. The increase in cider sales in 2015 is expected to be well below that—probably in the neighborhood of 30%-40%. However, these sales increases year over year are based primarily on examining sales of Angry Orchard and other mass-produced, grocery and drug store brands. What we don’t know is what kind of increase in sales are occurring on the “craft” or real cider segment of the market.
What we might surmise from the release of Angry Orchard’s “Stone Dry” bottling is that there is some thought in Boston that the craft segment (often with far drier offerings than the mass-produced brands) of the cider industry is growing at a faster rate and this new entry into the Angry Orchard portfolio is an attempt to address that phenomenon.