In an effort to help wholesalers, retailers and consumers better understand the differences between a growing number of hard ciders now being sold across the country, the United States Association of Cider Makers (USACM) today unveiled its first-ever set of style guidelines.
The new guidelines — which drew inspiration from existing guidelines already in use by the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition — divide the hard cider category into two primary categories, standard and specialty, and include aroma, flavor, appearance and ingredient criteria for 10 distinct cider styles.
Similar to the robust set of style descriptions that have existed for craft beer brewers since 1979, the USACM’s guidelines are intended to provide an official framework for industry stakeholders to reference as they work to educate both the trade and consumers about the subtle nuances of individual ciders.
“Cider is a very unique product with many different taste profiles,” Jeff Liebhardt, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Bold Rock Hard Cider, told Brewbound. “This will help educate retailers, wholesalers and consumers on the different cider styles. It’s no different than craft beer defining the difference between an IPA and a Pale Ale.”
The new guidelines will also be incorporated into the USACM’s “Certified Cider Professional” program, an online accreditation platform for food and alcohol industry professionals that is similar to the beer industry’s “Cicerone” program.
According to USACM website, exam questions fall into five categories: apples, processing, fermentation, history, and taste and style.
The organization — which counts 535 cidery members currently in operation and has a stated mission of sharing information about cider production, regulations and apple growing – said it also plans to create “standards for a “cider vocabulary and sweetness scale,” via its “Lexicon Project.”
“The Lexicon Project will help us educate consumers and distributors about cider,” Trevor Baker, USACM vice president, said via a press release. “Now we can get down to the fun business of developing cohesive marketing materials for our members as well as enhancing our CCP program materials.”
The USACM added that the style guidelines were not meant to serve as the basis for professionally judging and awarding medals to hard cider products, although “competitions may pick them up for use.”
The 10 styles of cider, as defined by the USACM, include: Modern Ciders, Heritage Ciders, Modern Perries, Heritage Perries, Fruit Ciders, Hopped Ciders, Spiced Ciders, Wood-Aged Ciders, Sour Ciders, and Ice Cider.