Three retailers share their cider knowledge, key styles and top tips with Lucy Britner

Jen Ferguson, HOP BURNS & BLACK, SOUTH LONDON 

We turn 10 this year and have stocked cider since day one. We carefully choose our range to meet our customers’ tastes and though it makes up a fairly small part of our overall product range, it continues to grow year on year. 

Our cider revenue increased by 20% last year and is up by 40% since before the pandemic. We were lucky to connect early on with legendary Herefordshire cidermaker Tom Oliver, who instilled in our team a real passion for well crafted cider by sharing his unbridled enthusiasm for what he makes and the stories behind them, which we share with our customers. 

Cider has faced two main challenges to cut through to modern drinkers – some people still see it as either “scrumpy” or “fizzy sweet stuff ”, and others still see it as strictly a summer drink. Luckily, our job to convert these customers is made easier thanks to key people in the industry who work hard to dispel these myths. 

For instance, Felix Nash at Fine Cider has been a key driver to shift perceptions of cider. He works with his producers to create sophisticated branding and provide detailed tasting notes to inspire drinkers to think about it in the same way they do wine. 

Little Pomona releases a special winter cider each year, Disco Nouveau, aimed at inspiring people to consider cider all year round. 

French cider is also having a moment, with producers like Kerisac driving sales through really compelling branding and bottles that stand out on the shelf.

Alison Taffs, THE HOP INN, HORNCHURCH – CAMRA’S LONDON CIDER PUB OF THE YEAR 2023, WHICH ALSO DOES OFF-SALES 

We try to embrace all types and styles of cider as long as they’re made from whole juice. We have beautiful Champagne-method ciders that are elegant, clean and crisp; we have amazing ice ciders that deliver that luscious sweetness coming from the frozen juice; we have wonderfully robust tannic ciders from Herefordshire, Somerset and Monmouthshire in Wales. The range proves just how incredibly versatile cider is as a style and just how complex and delicious cider and perry can be. 

The most popular take-home styles are the winelike ciders. When you’re sending people home with a 75cl bottle that looks exactly like a wine bottle, people feel very comfortable with that. And ice cider in place of dessert wine – taking a bottle home to enjoy at the end of a meal with friends. Those are very successful. 

But even the smaller-format ciders – people now understand that you get very high quality that can deliver tonnes of complexity and flavour and is relatively low in alcohol compared to wine. At the moment, I think cider is ridiculously cheap because cidermakers are still going through that process of really finding their feet. 

Gospel Green, for example, is a Champagne-method cider that is going to deliver the type of quality, elegance and flavour that you would expect from an English sparkling wine, but it is still significantly more affordable than most English sparkling wines. 

If you want to sell more cider, talk to your customers on their level – if they’re wine consumers, relate cider to wine. Give them a taster, because once people taste these things, they begin to realise just how different they are – they often have preconceptions and old memories. If they’re a beer customer, use their preference for beer – if they like something rich and full-bodied and tannic, use ciders of that nature, for example.

David Jones, BIER HUIS, OSSETT, WEST YORKSHIRE 

We stock about 50 ciders. We’re not in cider land in Yorkshire, we have a couple of local producers that we stock – they make their ciders from cookers and eaters and donated apples. I travel down to the south west and Wales for the rugby, so we pop into Snail’s Bank in Herefordshire and collect cider. 

We are in rhubarb land here, so we stock lots of rhubarb cider. Fruit cider is popular but we’re quite selective with what we stock – Lilley’s is a well-known brand for fruit cider. We also stock Avalon – a Spanish cider. Our range is almost all cider from 100% juice. There is the odd concentrate – Sam Smith’s, which is a massive seller for us. 

There aren’t many of our customers who would term cider as wine. Even I struggle and tend to treat wine as wine and cider as cider, but I understand the concept. When there are bottles of cider around the £20 mark – and in the past we’ve had ice cider at £35 – it’s expensive. But you can talk to people about quality and how the product is something completely different. 

We’re getting that way now with stocking more 75cl bottles and treating it more like a bottle of wine, but not as strong in alcohol. I’m a massive lover of French cider – the 75cl bottles are brilliant and some of it is only 4% abv so it gives you an approachable price point. There is still a perception around cider as a cheap product and that needs to be changed.