The other day, I saw this tweet appear on the timeline of the Eden Brewery at St Andrews:
Eden Brewery craft #cider… Watch this space 🙂
— Eden Brewery (@edenbrewery) August 5, 2013
So, Eden at St Andrews are adding a wasp-friendly string to their bow by diversifying into the production of cider. Following on the heels of Arran Brewery, who announced in April they were doing something similar, will other breweries north of the border begin to explore the possibilities of liquid sunshine? Would people buy it? And why might breweries be dipping their toes in this increasingly crowded market?
The reason may actually be alluded to in that last question – cider is one of the biggest trends at the moment, both in the on-and off-trades. You only have to look at the television once a week to see a new cider producer popping up with a clever marketing campaign. Since the mid-2000’s, when the Labour government cut and then froze duty on cider, growth skyrocketed – and on the back of this Perfect Storm, Magners appeared.
Serving cider over ice became a lightning-bolt moment. It made the drink current, cool (both literally and figuratively), aided bars to shift them without refrigeration, even (you could argue) made a pint of cider look more appealing; more like something you’d drink on a Friday night, rather than a flat-looking glass of juice supped moodily at a youth centre. Let’s hope nobody ever gets the idea of serving beer over ice. Well, unless it’s lager (which had its own game-changing moment; the lime plug).
People were drinking cider before Magners came along of course – blimey, I should know – but street-corner gangs of Strongbowe’d schoolkids aside, there must be many more options available these days to the apple-curious (or pear-curious, or blackcurrant-curious etc). Actually, Strongbow is another case in point – continually relaunched, re-advertised, TV marketing pushing, pushing, pushing it into the nation’s consciousness.
Today, we have ‘premium fruit ciders’ – pigeonholed brilliantly the other week by Pete Brown – and numerous, small, ‘craft’ cider producers, springing up with provenance and quirk in place of brashness and ice. The market already looks crowded – why would brewers want to get involved? Well, possibly because of the magic marketing B-word; Branding. In a crowded sector, standing out from the start is the hardest thing.
Breweries, therefore, already have a foothold in this regard. Arran have their island thing going on, St Andrews a ready source of thirsty punters/students in the town. People scanning shelves/fridges that aren’t in a beery mood might think to themselves that they fancy a cider instead. But shouldn’t that prospective new convert be gently introduced to their beers instead?
If moonlighting as a cidery makes money for the brewery, then fair enough. In Scotland, the market for fruity booze is dominated by Dunbar’s finest, Thistly Cross. Have old heads cocked a sideways glance at East Lothian and thought they could get a piece of that pie? Time will tell as to whether people will buy into it, as there’s more to cider-making than just juicing apples. If these brewery cidermakers hit it off, others will certainly begin taking an interest…