“I wake up kind of angry every day, but we gotta get over that and look forward to a brighter future,” says Dan Hart, co-owner of Prost, Mississippi Marketplace, Stammtisch, Bantam Tavern and Interurban.
Portland, Oregon’s own Woodbox Cider has announced they will cease operations this August and have already liquidated their assets. With Oregon Cider Week kicking off today, Woodbox Cider’s closure is a grim reminder that it’s not all rose cider in the hard cider industry either.
UPDATE 6/21/2019: Although owner Mike Thierfelder tells us he has liquidated the hard assets, there is now hope a new ownership will step in and continue producing the brand.
Woodbox co-owner/cidermaker Mike Thierfelder cited numerous reasons for the cidery’s closure, including his family moving to Montana to get away from the growing city life. Thierfelder also mentioned internal conflicts regarding the structure and business partnership of the company. But most memorably, he left some parting shots at industry trends that some cidermakers may agree with.
“Another factor would be the overall trend in the cider industry here in Portland, which is be saturated with cheap alco-pop that’s marketed with cartoons on the label to a primarily unsophisticated palate,” wrote Thierfelder in an email response.
“This leaves little room for cideries like us, who crush our own fruit, age our ciders, use heirloom and true cider apples to compete. Bars are happy to slap a cheap $65 keg on the board to fill their obligatory cider tap, but frown at the prospect of a well produced-cider for $100.”
We can likely infer that Thierfelder is referring to larger cider brands like Angry Orchard and Woodchuck, or even other gluten-free products like hard sodas and seltzers owned by larger companies. Not to mention that it’s now very common for cideries to purchase juice (pressed somewhere else) from cheaper dessert apples and come in at very low prices. For some consumers, it’s increasingly hard to differentiate between brands that almost all specialize in semi-sweet ciders. Adding additional fruits like blackberry, raspberry, cherry, and, increasingly, pineapple serve to differentiate a flavor from similar base apple juices.
It’s also unclear if hard cider fans have developed the level of super fans that craft beer has that are willing to throw significant cash for premium brands and flavors.
For example, Thierfelder is still sitting on 80 gallons of Double Barrel Whiskey Barrel-aged Ice Cider that he’s interested in selling for a fraction of the cost. Interested parties should contact him at email@example.com.
Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding.