Cider is the new boutique beer
12 February 2011
It would appear last summer's love affair with cider was no
brief encounter. If anything, it is flourishing second time around.
Where previously specialist bottle shops were trying to squeeze in
more fridges to meet the growing demand for craft beer, now they
are rearranging again - this time to create dedicated areas for
Last month, figures from ACNielsen showed Australian cider
consumption has increased fourfold in the past three years.
Even Melbourne landmark pub Young & Jackson's has a
dedicated cider garden. A simple rooftop nook that is hardly one
the city's swishest retreats, it nonetheless has an international
choice of cider tipples, including Britain's Stowford Press.
Meanwhile, fruit flavoured confections such as Sweden's
Rekorderlig, fresh from storming the European market, are flying
off the shelves so fast importers are struggling to keep up.
Boutique cider is also enjoying a spike in interest. Victoria's
established artisanal producers, such as Henry of Harcourt and
Bress, are planting more trees to try to meet demand. New
small-scale producers are joining the market - some using real
apples and pears, others buying concentrate. And a greater range of
"real" ciders is being imported from Britain and Europe.
According to Mitchell Macleod, owner of Harvest Wine &
Liquor in Northcote, the surge in interest began well before the
multinational producers caught on. "Being in the industry a long
time, I could see the trend happening about three and a half years
ago," he says. "It had happened in the UK and usually what happens
there follows here.
"The growth was sparked by the smaller brands. The big ones have
seen people are interested and have jumped on the bandwagon."
There are echoes of the local craft beer industry, in which
interest - and the number of microbreweries - continues to grow:
small-scale enterprises using traditional methods to create
products where the focus is on authenticity and quality rather than
volume and profit margins.
Among these is Henry of Harcourt, established 13 years ago and
selling its ciders throughout Victoria. Founder Drew Henry is keen
to highlight the differences between what flows from his
traditional cider press and what is being pushed in the ad
"Rekorderlig have a big thing about the spring water they use,"
he says. "The only water we use is to clean our tanks. We make real
cider from real apples that we grow, not from concentrates and
Among his range are seven single-varietal ciders designed to
showcase the qualities of different apples, while he has
experimented with more than 40 apple varieties.
"We're trying to keep ourselves separate from the herd," he
But like the herd, the company's sales are growing.
"When I started, 99 per cent of bottle shop owners said they
couldn't sell cider, so we had to work our way in through a few
enlightened people. We're knocking shops back now."
He believes there is an element of "riding on the back of the
big adverts". But interest is keenest among those who have
travelled overseas and tasted real ciders, and people in their 20s
"A lot of people don't know that with true cider you grow your
apples, you know what's gone into it and you nurture it through the
whole process," says Lisa Cresswell, from Seven Oaks on the
Having grown up on the family orchard and watched her
grandfather dabble in cider, she decided to take the leap after
tasting traditional styles in Britain. From small beginnings, she
is now producing about 10,000 litres a year and looking to get her
ciders into more bottle shops - although you'll still find her
running a stall at Red Hill Market.
"If you want to drink the [Little Britain character]
Vicky Pollard cider with cordial, you can," she says. "But if
people taste true cider that's well crafted, it speaks for itself.
We started small but have grown consistently and are always trying
new varieties. It's exciting."
With Kelly Brothers, Punt Road Wines and Daylesford Cider in
Victoria plus a handful of producers in New South Wales, Tasmania,
SA and WA following similar artisanal principles, it seems that
while Strongbow, 5 Seeds, Mercury and newcomers such as Rekorderlig
dominate the public consciousness - and sales - there is enough
interest in the "substantially different" for the love affair with
boutique ciders to continue.