Cider Professional Certification & Trends from CiderCon 

Initially launched a decade ago, CiderCon, the cider industry’s biggest annual conference, offers an opportunity to meet, share ideas, collaborate and affect positive change. January 2020, brought the conference to Oakland, California for the first time and an inaugural Bay Area Cider Week coincided, serving up a myriad of unique cider focused events.

cider education at the 2020 CiderCon, photo © Brandon Buza

Hosted by the American Cider Association, whose mission is to grow a diverse and successful U.S. cider industry, CiderCon 2020 brought together more than 1,000 cider professionals and enthusiasts from 35 states and 11 countries. A robust schedule of nearly 50 classes was held over three days and the American Cider Association offered its third ever seating of the Certified PommelierTM exam. These numbers represent the largest CiderCon attendance to-date and equate to more great minds delving deeper into the roots of cider history, the science of fermenting apples and nuanced art of crafting and evaluating cider.

The Certified Cider Professional program, the first ever cider accreditation program, is designed for distributors, chefs, servers and others who are interested in becoming bonafide experts on all things cider. The Association has currently released two exams. The first, Intro Level, Certified Cider Professional (CCP), is offered as an online exam. Test questions fall into six categories: Apples, the Orchard & History, Cider Making, Evaluation, Families & Flavor, Keeping & Serving and Food & Cider. Approximately 1,000 people currently hold the introductory Certified Cider Professional designation. The more advanced Certified PommelierTM is akin to Certified CiceroneⓇ for beer or Certified Sommelier for wine and is geared toward beverage and hospitality industry professionals, offering knowledge beneficial to marketers, journalists, retailers and distributors. The PommelierTM exam is a deeper dive into all things cider. The exam takes four hours to complete, includes sensory analysis and must be taken in person. The pilot Certified PommelierTM exam debuted February 2019, in Chicago. More than 40 folks signed up to take the challenging, advanced level test at CiderCon 2020 in Oakland. Certification passage rates will be announced later this month. More details about the program can be found at American Cider Association website, linked here

Trends in the Cider Industry:

At the conference and in the industry at large there is a palpable sense that the cider industry is growing. Nielsen data currently reports that the cider market is 10 times bigger than it was 10 years ago and while some growth is certainly attributed to increased volume sales of existing ciders there are also some new, exciting areas of growth to watch for. As the reviving category continues to define itself, cider makers are working harder than ever to root their products with a sense of place, providing strong narratives, using ingredients from their region and sometimes collaborating with other makers and farmers. Some of the trends that are exciting to watch for include an increase of orchard driven, single varietal/named varietal ciders as more cider fruit (think Sharp and Bittersharp apples) become available, experimentation with yeasts, maturation and finishing techniques (think lambic style, sours, unfiltered, Pét-Nat, Sparkling and keeved), co-fermenting and blending with grapes and other fruit and a move toward more dry ciders. Expect the prevalence of fruit and rose style ciders to stay strong.

Jana Daisy-Ensign
Jana Daisy-Ensign of the Northwest Cider Association

Jana Daisy-Ensign
Jana Daisy-Ensign

Jana Daisy-Ensign, Program Manager, Northwest Cider Association Jana has been a champion of the craft beverage industry for 15+ years. Her breadth of experience encompasses distribution, sales, forecasting, brand brokerage, recruitment, hiring, training, management, networking, promotions, marketing and events. Jana is a founding member of Pomme Boots Society and served as National Cider Ambassador for Finnriver Farm and Cidery. She is published and featured in CIDERCRAFT Magazine, a contributing writer to Brewpublic and (as a 200hr Yoga Alliance certified instructor) hosts Asanas and Apples, nourishing yoga and cider experiences. She tends a small orchard with three generations of her family on their historic farm in Oregon City, OR Earth and Sky Farm and currently serves as Program Manager for Northwest Cider Association.