Turning Green into Gold – why are breweries switching to cider?

Posted by on Aug 13, 2013 in Scottish Beer | 3 Comments


The other day, I saw this tweet appear on the timeline of the Eden Brewery at St Andrews:

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…


  1. Mike
    August 13, 2013

    One possibility for the increased cider demand might be related to the increased demand for gluten-free food (and apparently, drink). I have only one data point to back this up: my wife can’t eat (or drink) gluten, so when we go to a pub, I have a beer and she generally has a cider, so long as there are some non-Strongbow/Magners/Crabbies on draft. Whether this is indicative of the larger trend, I don’t know for sure.

  2. Dan
    August 13, 2013

    As is usually the case, I’m sure the overall trend follows the cash trail. However, I know that Eden has been working on developing a cider for the better part of a year, but couldn’t fit it into their production schedule, so I’d be loathe to lump them in with Arran.

  3. George
    August 19, 2013

    Loch Ness Cider is also making an appearance on the market next spring.

    This is something that has been in the pipeline for nearly 3 years now, but is finally kicking off as a stand alone company from the Loch Ness Brewery.

    The only tie between the two companies is the planned wedlock between the brewer and cidermaker, a cider drinking cockney who grew up in Devon (thats the cidermaker, not the brewer)

    The brewery will rent space to the cider company and is sharing some of its customers whilst also helping with deliveries.

    Looking to keep production small within the first few years and hoping to source its apples from the varieties available throughout the highlands but in particular local to Loch Ness with the planting of its own orchard in the planning.

    Keep up the good work – enjoying the blogs more and more especially the David v David clashes (surely a craft brewer couldn’t truly be a Goliath?)


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