It’s Australian Cider Day on Saturday, March 13 – the perfect opportunity to seek out and celebrate Australian craft cider.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth of craft cider according to Jane Anderson from Cider Australia.
“Many smaller, craft cider producers that have traditionally sold most of their cider in restaurants and bars had to explore takeaway and online sales channels and as a result, a broader range of craft ciders have become available in local bottle shops – helping customers find new favourites,” she said.
When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020, Willie Smith’s – a fourth-generation apple orchard and cidery in Tasmania’s Huon Valley – had to not only close the doors to its cellar door, but the restaurants and bars they supplied shut down too.
“The majority of our sales were through on-premise until a year ago, so the COVID-19 crisis was devastating at first,” said Sam Reid, co-founder of Willie Smiths.
“However, thankfully, customers quickly showed their support by shopping our ciders in stores. Our range is available across the country through Dan Murphy’s, and our craft cider sales have been booming in the last 12 months.”
Craft cider is currently growing at the same rate as craft beer according to Dan Murphy’s sales data from the last 12 months.
“We have almost 100 Aussie craft ciders in our range, and customers are loving them,” said Dan Murphy’s Craft Beer & Cider Category Manager Billy Ryan.
“The rise of craft cider is part of a wider trend of customers wanting to support independent, locally-made and grown products. We also see customers drinking less, but better,”
Sam Reid describes craft cider as the ‘new generation of cider’.
“Our aim is to do as little as possible when crafting our cider because we want the apples to express themselves,” he explained. “All of our fruit is handpicked from our orchard to ensure only the best possible apples are used, and we add no sugar. As a result, our ciders are drier and more complex in flavour.”
Although consumed like a beer, cider is made in a similar method to wine, which means fermenting the fruit. And just like with grapes, cider makers use different apple varieties to create different expressions.
“We use 100% our own fruit, and only apples – we don’t believe raspberries or any other fruit or berries belong in cider, just like you wouldn’t use anything else than grapes to make wine. Instead, we have a wide range of purpose grown apples for cider making – they taste quite tart if you eat them, but once you ferment them, all the lovely, complex flavours come out,” Reid said.
Known as the ‘apple isle’, Tasmania has the most cideries per capita according to Cider Australia, and about 60% of the Dan Murphy’s craft ciders are from Tasmania.
“Tasmania has the best apples, so it makes sense for us to lead in this field! Tasmanians love their cider because most people have a connection to the apple industry, and there are so many great, innovative cider makers here to explore,” Reid said.
“The Australian craft cider category is dynamic and creative and our producers will keep making premium ciders crafted with natural ingredients that have clarity around their content and origin,” Anderson added.
“Authenticity is growing in importance to consumers. Drinkers are looking for real, honest drinks with clarity about their ingredients and the people that have made them. We believe the premium, craft segment of the cider category will continue to grow strongly over the next five years, as the trends to ‘buy local’ and ‘drink less but better’ continues.”
Celebrations for Australian Cider Day
Cider Australia established Australian Cider Day last year to highlight product origin and help consumers learn more about authentic Australian cider.
Cider Australia President Warwick Billings said the events of the past year have focused the minds of consumers on authenticity and products made by locals with ingredients they understand and trust.
“Cider made with 100% Australian grown fruit continues to outperform the rest of the category”, said Billings.
In June 2019, Cider Australia launched the 100% Australian Grown trust mark to help consumers identify and buy local products, and it is now displayed on hundreds of ciders across Australia.
“Cider Australia launched its 100% Australian Grown trust mark to help consumers identify and buy local products, and it is now displayed on hundreds of ciders across Australia helping them to buy local”, Warwick said.
“With the apple harvest upon us and cider makers beginning to press and ferment thousands of bins of fruit across Australia, Australian Cider Day is the perfect opportunity to salute 100% Australian craft cider”.
Cider producers will mark the day by organising cider events, tastings and other fun festivities with events published on Cider Australia’s website as they are announced.
Everyone is encouraged to share news and photos about Australian Cider Day events with the hashtag #drinkaustraliancider to ensure the country’s cider cheer is spread far and wide.
For more details visit www.cideraustralia.org.au/australianciderday