The Road Taken
Life's twists and turns amaze me. We each have our own road to follow. Here's mine.
In May of 2009, I was dubbed Esoteric Fermentation Consultant for New Jersey craft beer distributor, Hunterdon Brewing Co. This was an entirely new management position within the company designed to give the lower volume/higher profit brands attention in a rapidly expanding book. In my 2 ½ years previous as a sales rep, I was forced to hand-sell deeper into the portfolio in order to make a living. I used the same approach with the importers and craft beer brands I had been assigned. This included our “overwhelming” cider portfolio consisting of a wide selection (read: five producers) of imported ciders from England, France and Spain. One importer had also taken on some cider brand from NH, Farnum Hill Ciders, to act as master distributor. The name sounded uninspiring. I took one look at the pricing and didn’t think I’d have a snowball’s chance in hell at selling it in the apathetic and uncaring NJ retail market. So when an email came through that a consumer in NJ had requested Farnum Hill Ciders my verbatim initial reply was, “Great. I need another cider like a need a hole in the head.”
That year, I was introduced to Farnum Hill Ciders at a meeting in Grand Central Station eight days before Thanksgiving. I can’t even describe how completely blown away I was by the entire experience. While I had tasted other ciders before, I had never understood the complexity that a cider made from unadulterated cider apples could produce. Not lost on me was the irony of tasting something so special and unique in one of the world’s busiest places. As a natural storyteller, I knew I would play a part in helping others understand the breadth and depth of what cider could be. Over the next seven years, I went on to build a distributor cider portfolio that spanned all types of cider. I stood up proudly and screamed about cider to anyone who would listen. I visited orchards. I helped blend a cider that was sold only in NJ. I built a team of enabled bards to assist in my cause. I’ve been to CiderCon and presented twice on distributor relations. I’ve organized cider events and cider dinners. It’s still really slow going in New Jersey, but it’s gathering momentum. When I left Hunterdon, Cider was their number two beverage category in volume, surpassing spirits, mead and non-alcoholics. I like to think I had a small effect on that.
But if there’s a portion of cider that I’m truly excited about, it’s the exceptional (my opinion) cider that’s being produced from cider apples grown in orchards, pressed using traditional equipment, fermented in steel or oak tanks and blended to create a beverage that displays characteristics of the land that it comes from. Some dub them Heritage Ciders or Orchard Ciders or Fine Ciders. I don't take umbrage with any of those. I chose Cider Like Wine because it provides perspective to the consumer. If you don't expect your wine to taste like grape juice, you shouldn't expect your cider to taste like apple juice. I encourage you to explore this concept without judgment and find what speaks to your palate.