Cider mostly plays second fiddle to beer on the bar, but this doesn’t mean operators should ignore it because cider consumption is creeping up.
Figures from CGA reveal the cider category now accounts for around 9% of total wet trade across Great Britain, with growth expected to continue.
But cider isn’t just making an impact in pubs, as restaurants dedicated to the traditional drink are cropping up across the nation.
The Stable restaurant chain has 17 sites across the south and claims cider is in its bones. When the brand launched in 2009, it forged a clear mission – “to create a cathedral to god’s own drink and invite the world to worship with us”.
In every Stable venue, there are more than 80 ciders and perries ranging from elegant keeved sparklers to rough and ready scrumpies, highlighted through a plethora of marketing in each site.
From A-boards to gazebos, a mobile bar and swish-looking bag-in-box ciders dotted in, around and outside the restaurants, it is clear cider is at the heart of the Stable.
Tasting boards and the Stable’s crew of expert cider masters are on hand in the restaurants to help guide guests to the ciders they will enjoy the most.
The brand also offers three cider-tasting classes teaching drinkers about the cider-making process, tasting notes as well as food and cider pairing tips.
Point of difference
The Cider Summit is back as a standalone event.
Held in Bristol on 22 June this year, it will be hosted by Ciderologist and friend of The Morning Advertiser (MA) Gabe Cook.
Cook, who has travelled the world in search of cider stories, has developed an agenda of fascinating topics designed to tickle the fancies of all those interested by and involved in cider. MA food and drink editor Nicholas Robinson said: “Cider is growing in the on-trade and, although its representation on the bar may not be as vast as beer, it is of great interest to consumers who want to see more innovation, more flavours and more formats.
“At our Cider Summit, we’re going to give you the information you need to make informed decisions on what to stock, what the upcoming trends are and what you should steer clear of.”
If you’re interested in booking a ticket to come along to the Cider Summit, contact Stevie Robinson by email at Stevie.Robinson@wrbm.com or over the phone by calling: 01293 846508
While restaurants are tapping into the cider trend, there are also pubs that specialise in it too.
Foley’s Tap House in Leeds took home the title of Best Cider Pub in 2016 and judges hailed it as the “cider Mecca” of the city.
Dozens of usually dull and drab bag-in-box ciders are painted black, mounted on the wall behind the bar and chalked up with details, including names, styles and strength. A welcome and efficient point of difference from other venues, which often hide the boxes behind the bar.
The venue has an offer that is brave and unique, as well as being easy to navigate for customers and simple for staff to serve.
Manager Ellis Cureton says: “We display our cider very prominently in the bar, as otherwise customers would often tend to overlook it.
“There doesn’t seem to be a huge market for traditional cider, at least not in Leeds, so I would imagine it is not the first thing people think about when they walk in the door. We paint our boxes [black], so they are a little more uniform and fitting in with the theme of our venue.”
In fact, this is not the only way the venue highlights its broad range of ciders.
The York Brewery-owned site also offers mix-and-match cider tasting trays on the boards above the boxes.
The venue also makes use of small blackboards, placed on and around the bar, illustrating any special flavours or deals available.
Cureton adds: “Foley’s stands out with the sheer range of ciders we offer. At any point, we have between 20 and 30 ciders on.”
Stories and education
When it comes to telling customers about a pub’s cider offer, authenticity is still something they are demanding – a trend that is set to stay – and Beer and Cider Marketing Awards co-founder Pete Brown outlines how this is becoming the norm for producers now.
He says: “For years, consumers have been telling cider makers they want stories and education that will justify the existence of a premium or craft segment in cider and, finally, that is starting to
happen, especially among medium-sized producers.
“The category is starting to come of age, providing a breadth of options for a diversifying set of drinkers and occasions.”
He highlights the suppliers that struck gold at last year’s awards, thanks to their innovative decisions and products.
“In particular, we saw a very strong set of entries to our packaging awards last year, led by Yowler, our eventual Cider Marketer of the Year,” says Brown.
“The co-fermented cider beer hybrid from Hawkes is a stunning piece of recent innovation that shows the scope of things to come.
“Among larger producers, Westons is responding well to changing occasions by being one of the first producers to can on a large scale a few years ago, and more recently, launching a low-alcohol product.”
However, Brown is not completely optimistic about cider’s current situation, outlining how beer was ahead when it came to the awards.
“Having said all that, cider hasn’t yet offered a serious challenge to beer in our awards. We hope to see that change with a vengeance in this year’s entries,” he says.
Working with customers
From a cider judge to a producer and operator, Matt Slocombe, owner of the Crown Inn, at Woolhope, in Herefordshire, has been championing cider for almost two decades and makes his own brand.
The Crown produces its own cider, gathering fruit from around the local area. Working with the locals, the pub offers a barter system in return for delivery of fruit, offering free cider, apple juice and even meals at the pub in return.
When it comes to the cider range, Slocombe applies a simple process of local sourcing, offering products from across the region, and closer to home.
A great menu also allows cider to be brought to the fore, with many dishes flavoured, cooked or garnished with cider.
As well as the pub, he also operates, with his business partner Nick Ingham, InnCiders – a company that enables aspiring cider makers to produce a top-quality product.
Slocombe says: “At the Crown, we present our ciders like a wine list – starting dry and moving towards sweet.
“But, the most important thing is making sure your staff are educated as they are your sales team.”
This is something Foley’s echoes and Cureton says: “It is important to have product knowledge. It makes a massive difference when you have staff who know what they are talking about, who can give a recommendation and can help guide a customer into buying something they enjoy.”
Flights of fancy
Something else the Crown and Foley’s have in common when it comes to showcasing their cider is offering flights.
Slocombe adds: “We have started introducing ‘Flights of Fine’, which includes three decent-sized bottles of quality cider, where two people can both have a glass for £15.
“It’s rather like when you have a flight of wine but we offer cider because the quality is out there.”
The presence of cider on the bar is one thing but the Crown also has a dedicated area to make their offer crystal clear.
Slocombe says: “We have a cider shelf, meaning everything on our cider list is on show and customers can actually see them.
“We explain to customers that they can see various types of cider.
“We also ask them to tell us what they are eating and we can help them match their dish.”
Operators need to remember there are many options available to them when it comes to pushing their cider offer.
Whether it is using traditional advertising methods like blackboards, or using bags in boxes, giving cider as much importance as beer can push profits.