Once upon a time Annie Bystryn was on a mission for cider in New York’s apple-centric Hudson Valley. But not just any cider, the cider: a game-changing pour from a farm-to-table restaurant she had visited with her husband. They traveled to 10 bottle shops — plus the cidery itself — in search of their own bottle, but in the end, Bystryn did not come home with the cider she sought after. Instead, she came home with an idea to bridge the unfortunate gap between small-batch producers and consumers. Less than two years (and one career change) later, Bystryn presents online heritage cider curator Cider in Love, inviting cider lovers and newbies alike to enlighten themselves on all things cider – and track down small-batch gems to their heart’s content.
An experienced marketing professional, Bystryn immediately recognized the opportunity to transform a frustrating moment of what she calls “consumer rage” into a beautiful one by founding Cider in Love. “I really wanted to do something I felt was meaningful,” Bystryn says of her decision to quit her job and propel her vision into its own business. “I felt passionate about connecting makers to new audiences.”
Connecting makers to new audiences does come with its challenges. Bystryn points out the main two challenges of heritage cider – accessibility and education – that Cider in Love strives to overcome. Considering an audience with a diverse range of experience in the cider industry, Bystryn aims to provide her readers with a platform that is shoppable, while also encouraging education. Not only can visitors to the site navigate the basic facts of cider, try out new recipes and food pairings and purchase bottles, but they can also utilize the ‘Cideries’ tab to “visit” a curated selection of cideries by region (currently New York, North West, New England and California).
Each cidery profile is complete with history, cidermaker bios, bottle information and captivating images of the producers and orchards themselves, which are meant to enhance the virtual experience. Bystryn believes focusing on what she calls a “real, profound sense of place” allows consumers to get a vivid depiction of the cider they’re exploring, even if it’s crafted on the other side of the country.
Visitors to the site will also notice the unique presentation of each cider – an image featuring not just the bottle as is typical in the beverage industry, but of a glass of that cider as well. “Visually, there’s something romantic about it,” says Bystryn, noting that almost all of the makers she works with refer to cidermaking as an art form. A believer in the power of storytelling, Bystryn understands the importance of this narrative – real people and the real orchards they cultivate – to the consumer. “When you elevate the consumer conscious it’s a win-win for everybody,” she adds.
Considering her professional successes, Bystryn displays a sense of humility, truly aiming to create a connection between maker and drinker. “I give voice to some incredible partners and let them share their amazing stories and hopefully educate a new group of people to fall in love with heritage cider,” she explains. With Cider in Love making it possible to seek out those elusive sippers, falling in love sure tastes good.