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cider

A switch to cider

Some craft brewing news of note.

The taps, they are a-changin’ at Town in City Brewery, where owner Justin Engle has decided to pause beer brewing and focus instead on creating hard cider.

The folks at Town in City began building their reputation in cider about a year ago, when they launched Houston Cider Co., in a shared space with the beer-brewing operation. But this month, Engle said he decided not to renew his brewer’s permit when it expires.

“We were given legal advice that if we were to renew our brewer’s permit prior to the TABC Sunset hearings, that we may be stuck for two years in old TABC rules,” Engle said of the current fight between brewers and legislators to modernize state laws for alcohol sales. “If the new rules are passed, it would still take us two years to get to the next rules. So we decided not to take that gamble, and so we’re not going to renew right now.”

But that doesn’t mean things at the brewery on Cavalcade near the Heights are going quiet.

On Dec. 18, Houston Cider Co. took a leap that Town in City never attempted: It began canning. Now, three of the cidery’s mainstays — Dry, Cherry and Rosé — are available at Whole Foods and a few other shops across the city.

Cider production began outpacing beer production at the Heights brewery back in August, Engle said.

Still, cider isn’t exactly a sure thing — especially not when compared with the ever-growing popularity of craft beer. According to Drizly, an eCommerce marketplace for alcoholic beverages, only 7.1 percent of sales in the beer market went to cider in October, the most recent month for which data are available. At that same time, 26.7 percent of sales were for craft beer.

But there’s another way to read that: Cider isn’t as crowded a space.

See here for some background on the ongoing legislative battle, which begins again in earnest as the Lege reconvenes. I note that one of the two incumbents that CraftPAC had been supporting as of that January publication date was defeated in November (Tony Dale of HD136). Sure hope they backed some other winners, or the slog will be harder than it needs to be. As for cider, the story notes that there are only eight such breweries in the state, with Houston Cider Company being the only one in our fair city (there is another one based in Dickinson that is the nearest neighbor). Here’s a Leader News story from January about their debut.

I blogged about Lerprechaun Cider Company, the first local cider company, back in 2011; they had a product relaunch in 2015 and according to a footnote at the end of this 2017 Houstonia story were never brewing here and had stopped distributing here. Their domain has expired, which I think tells you all you need to know. That Houstonia story was about Permann’s Cider Company, which as of last July was on track to have a taproom downtown. Not sure where that stands – they have a Facebook page that’s had five posts since February and a Twitter account that hasn’t tweeted since last August. I guess this is a longwinded way of saying that I wish the Houston Cider Company good luck, and that hopefully some day they’ll be able to brew beer again, too.

“Says I, I’ll try cider, I’ve heard that it’s good”

We know all about the local beer-brewing scene here, but did you know there was a burgeoning trade in cider as well?

By the time Jake Schiffer was ready to incorporate Leprechaun Cider Co. in the spring of 2010, he had a business plan, enough funding to cover startup costs and an orchard lined up to provide the kind of apples he wanted, and handle the fermentation and bottling of the product.

All he needed was his parents’ signature on the paperwork, since he was only 20.

“It’s been a learning experience for all of us,” says Schiffer, who has since reached legal age.

Leprechaun Golden Cider hit the Houston market in March, but only on draft. In mid-September, 22-ounce bottles of the sparkling alcoholic beverage went on sale at retail prices of $6 to $7.50 each in stores and around $9 in restaurants.

[…]

Leprechaun joins a U.S. cider market that, although tiny in comparison with the beer market, grew by 10 percent last year. A recent Reportlinker.com analysis attributed that to increased investment and marketing by Green Mountain Cider, the U.S. market leader, as well as growing consumer demand.

“The growth of premium regional draught cider products (many of them on tap) has mirrored the growth of craft beer and these two segments share a somewhat similar consumer positioning,” the report said.

He currently contracts with an orchard in Oregon for his apples, but hopes to grow them in the state some day. Tiffany is the cider drinker in our house, and she plans to be on the lookout for Leprechaun.

By the way, the title of this post is taken from the cider-themed song “Johnny Jump Up”:

It’s a fun song to sing, but I doubt it’ll be adapted for a marketing campaign any time soon.