Cider Ireland is a trade association for makers of what we consider to be Real Irish Craft Cider. We have a collective and sincere interest in the quality and integrity of the final product. We obviously need to clearly define what we mean by Real Irish Craft Cider– it is perhaps easier to start with what we do not mean, and we do not mean any fermented sugar beverage with a splash of apple.
And what do all of the above mean? Well, nothing really, but we would like to redefine these words, to reclaim them, so for our group the above terms are used as follows:
Artisan Cider in that it is made with the hands-on involvement of the producer; there is an understanding that the quantity is limited. We have chosen to describe ourselves as Irish Artisan & Micro Cider Makers – although we are currently producing relatively small quantities we are optimistic that we will see a growth in the demand for, and therefore production of “real” cider, and so have adopted the threshold that the Irish Revenue Commissioners use for micro-brewers, namely 20,000 HL.
Craft Cider like Craft Beer is a term used by many but defined by none. It is generally accepted that “craft” means small, independent and traditional. We are independent producers making cider in the traditional way and while we are all small, tiny, compared to the big boys we would obviously like to grow. (How big do you have to get before you are no longer considered small?) We are also, however, limited by the fact that we make cider from Irish grown apples – there are only a certain number of apples available to us in any given year, so we will always remain small compared to those producers who import apples, or use juice from concentrate.
For many reasons artisan and micro-cider producers have often been linked in the consumer’s mind with artisan and micro-brewers, but compare cider production with that of beer; a brewer works to a shorter cycle and the fermentation and storage tanks are filled and emptied a number of times per year whereas cider has a vintage and the production of real, artisan, craft cider, like wine, is an annual occurrence, using an annual crop which varies according to the weather, just as the quality and quantity of a grape harvest varies. In that way Irish cider may be considered to be a true Irish wine, made from an indigenous, natural ingredient, which has all the vintage and producer variations, as well as having the added benefit of being lower in alcohol than its grape counterpart.