Last weekend I was wandering around Berlin looking for bars and shops stocking real cider. Most bars offered the usual commercially available ciders from Aspall or Strongbow, which I refuse to drink. But then, in Neukölln, an upcoming multicultural district of Berlin, I discovered a craft beer bar called Muted Horn and made there a very interesting observation. I was standing at the bar and looking at the list of ciders available in bottles when I discovered that apart from Welsh cider, Gwynt y Ddraig they stock cider from the US company Starcut Ciders, which is based in Northern Michigan. I was very much surprised as the distance between Berlin and Michigan is around 7000 km.
I spoke to the bartender in the Muted Horn and asked him if they offer cider on draught sometimes. I learned that in the past they had another cider from Michigan, the Death Unicorn from B. Nektar Meadery, and also one Canadian cider on draught from Cidrerie Milton, which is located in Sainte-Cécile-de-Milton, Quebec. Wow, another cider from overseas I thought. The distance between Quebec and Berlin is approx. 5.500 km.
It didn’t stop there. Since I was already in the area of Neukölln, I’ve decided to check out a craft beer store, Lager Lager, which was just a 15-minute walk away from Muted Horn. After having a pleasant chat with the sales guy in Lager Lager, I’ve learned that they would love to stock UK cider, but the import of cider from the UK is just too costly. However, this week they are expecting an overseas container from New Zealand loaded with imported goods, including cider from Zeffer Cider Company. I calculated the distance between Berlin and New Zeland and it is roughly 18.200km! This gave me food for thought…
I was amazed and couldn’t help but wonder, how is this possible that cider coming from overseas, outside of Europe, shipped from really really far away, is easier to get in Berlin than real cider from e.g. Somerset, UK, which is only 1300km away! Or traditional cidre from Normandy, France, which is even closer at 1100km away from Berlin? How come is Berlin a good enough market for cider companies coming from overseas, but not interesting enough for European cider makers from Bretagne or Asturias? How come a bottle of cider that has to be shipped 20.000km is easier to get in Berlin than a bottle of cider that has to be shipped 1000km, which is only 5% of this route? Shouldn’t the shipping cost be proportionally lower for a cider from Somerset?
I gave my observation some thought and I see a number of possible explanations for it. Firstly, the vast majority of cider makers operate locally focusing on farmers markets, local cider/beer festivals or supply of local restaurants or pubs. Only occasionally selling products to the US, but ignoring the rest of Europe. Depending on how you look at this matter, you may call it a focus on the regional market or a misfunctioning/limited sales strategy. Secondly, it might be a real-life example of the global village, where you can buy products manufactured 20.000km away without spending 20 hours on a plane. Thirdly, the overseas cider has just reached the status that wines from Napa Valley once had to fight for. The first explanation is probably the closest to the truth.
Personally, I don’t mind having a glass of hard cider from the US or Canada as long as it’s not from concentrate. Seriously, I’m happy to try a cider from New Zealand without even having to leave Berlin. Lucky me! But, I want to have a choice between cider made in Europe and overseas. Unfortunately, I don’t have the privilege of choosing because, at this moment, the only real cider on draught available in Berlin is from the US and Canada. Perhaps it’s time to rethink the marketing and distribution strategy? I know, a good marketing and distribution strategy cost a substantial amount of money. But look at the Zeffer Cider Company from New Zealand. They needed funding to expand into Asia and raised $1.2 million in a crowdfunding campaign in under a week! See the article here. Learn from them because now they are taking Berlin. How about you? When will you take Berlin?
UPDATE: Just learned that most European cider makers don’t even offer their cider in kegs, not to mention recyclable one-way kegs.
Dear cider makers, please be more flexible and widen your keg offer! Cider drinkers in Berlin want to drink decent cider as well! Don’t leave us with Strongbow being the only cider available on tap :-/