Tenth & Blake, Harpoon Brewery Discuss Cider Category (video)

It’s a fresh-pressed acquisition that has the beer world buzzing.

When Tenth and Blake, MillerCoors’ craft and import division announced the purchase of Crispin Cider earlier this month, the cider channel received instant validation.

And the category is growing in popularity amongst both the big domestic players and small upstarts. Anheuser-Busch InBev said it would be entering the category with “Michelob Ultra Light Cider,” Boston Beer Co. is expanding its lineup of Angry Orchard ciders and even the craft brewery Harpoon is ramping up its overall cider production.

But the category itself makes up less than one percent of the overall beer business, so why all the noise?

Crispin Founder Joe Heron said he thinks it’s actually the craft beer crowd creating much of the dialogue.

“When Crispin launched, we really started to change the conversation about cider,” said Heron. “Now there is much more talk about cider amongst craft consumers than there ever was before,”

And the conversation could soon be getting even louder. Tenth and Blake president Tom Cardella said that with Crispin now in the fold, MillerCoors will look to “build the cider category.”

“I believe that eventually we can be the best and the biggest in the U.S.,” said Cardella. “Joe (Heron) will tell you the same thing – both he and I see some significant growth potential.”

But what kind of growth potential can we expect to see? Cardella said he thinks cider could become three percent of the overall U.S. beer business in the next five to ten years.

“I think it can get to three percent rather quickly because of the consumer movement towards flavor and experimentation,” he said. “It’s going to be become a good size portion of the beer business and it will be a nice size piece of Tenth and Blake’s business.”

Heron agreed.

“Cider penetration in the UK and Ireland is about 17 percent,” said Heron. “If you look at other developed beer markets around the world, cider tends to be about five percent of the overall beer market and growing. The natural progression for Crispin over time is to hit those numbers.”

Still, the cider category has a long way to go in reaching the three percent mark. The Beer Institute puts the American cider market around five million cases in 2011, or 365,000 barrels. The U.S. beer market currently sits at 200 million barrels, meaning that the cider category would need to add over five million barrels to reach that three percent figure.

The category certainly has a long way to go but if the craft beer movement is any indication, cider could already be on the way to its very own renaissance.

Crispin made over 25,000 barrels in 2011 and netted just under $10 million in sales.

In our latest video interview, we chat with Harpoon Brewery CEO Rich Doyle about the cider category and his brewery’s own brand of “craft cider.”

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