As of Sunday, the Cider Style Guidelines created and promoted by the United States Association of Cider Makers (USACM) are out — have been replaced by an entirely new approach.
First released in 2017, the Style Guidelines were a companion piece to the association’s Cider Certified Professional (CCP) program for training beverage professionals such as bartenders and restaurant personnel. As increasing numbers of people have gone through the program, more and more questions have arisen, and it became clear that the guidelines fell a short of their goal – helping a consumer choose a cider they’re likely to love. This was particularly true when it came to defining styles of cider based on loosely defined classes of apple variety, largely ignoring the impact of a cider maker’s production choices.
The new approach does away with closely defined styles completely, focusing instead on talking about five broad families paired with objective terms that describe what in the end matters most to a consumer — what a cider tastes like. The families are:
- Cider: made with only fermented apples
- Perry: made with only fermented pears
- Fruit Cider: made with apples (or pears) and another fruit either co-fermented or added post-fermentation
- Botanical Cider: made with apples (or pears) and one or more other botanical ingredients such as hops or spices
- Dessert Cider, which includes drinks one would imagine having after a meal such as ice cider or pommeau
The core terminology that goes with these families will be drawn extensively from words already in common usage in the beverages industries, words such as full bodied and fruit forward, and a set of terms defined more specifically to communicate some of the special things about cider. One of these, currently being thought of as “harvest driven,” describes a cider made once a year from apples that are picked and pressed close to their seasonally peak flavor.
“The original Style Guidelines have been adopted by any number of cider competitions around the country,” says Michelle McGrath, USACM executive director. “And that’s great, but in the end what we want is to provide beverage professionals with clear and consistent language that they can use when talking to consumers. And we hope that producers will find this new approach useful in their consumer outreach, too.”
The USACM has been reaching out to key stakeholders for their input and will continue to do so for some time. For those interested in sharing their comments, the association has set up a dedicated email address, email@example.com.