Downeast Cider House: visit recap

After my business trip was over, I extended my stay in Boston to visit Downeast Cider House located in East Boston. My extra day was Tuesday, exactly the day when their taproom is closed. So I sent an email to the Downeast Cider team and explained the situation. Luckily, Max replied that he would be happy to meet me at the taproom and sample a few ciders with me.

img_0116As for some background information, the first time I came to Boston two years ago, cider from the Downeast Cider House was the first Boston cider I have ever tried. And, frankly speaking, I instantly fell in love with. Furthermore, I was so fascinated with their cider that I even considered applying for the position of cider maker, which was open at the time. Downeast Cider House was established in 2011 by two college students Ross and Tyler who instead of taking the exams and graduating, prefered to make hard cider. Over the years the company has grown and expanded and the production site had to move from the first location in Back Bay to East Boston. As for the visit, Max let me try their regular ciders and special releases. Afterwards, Max gave me a tour of their premises and explained all production steps.
img_0135For their cider, the Downeast Cider team uses culinary and table apples such as McIntosh, Red Delicious, Cortland or Gala, which come from Massachusetts and surrounding states. The juice is pressed at the orchards and delivered to the facility in East Boston where it is fermented with a pale ale yeast. img_0132Once the sugar concentration drops to the desired level, cider is pasteurised at high temperature for 30 seconds. Subsequently, cider is either canned or eventually matured in barrels (special releases).

Their current canning line is capable of producing 90 cans per minute so during a 10-hour shift they can get lots of cider into cans! Also, Downeast Cider wants to upgrade their canning line with the beginning of the new year to a more effective canning line capable of producing 200 cans per minute.img_0137

img_0117In their taproom, I’ve tried their Original Blend (their flagship cider), which is the first cider they ever released, Double Blend, Drier Side, Aloha Friday (with pineapple juice), Drier Side Hopped Grapefruit, Celebracion (special release blended with lime and aged in tequila barrels), and Hard Arnold (special release blended with Earl Grey tea). I don’t have any detailed tasting notes for you as most of the time I was speaking to Max and asking all the details related to their cider production. But, you could tell that the Original Blend is used as the base for all of the ciders from their range. All ciders were unfiltered, with a similar level of sweetness, except for Drier Side, as well as the tartness. They were all dangerously easily drinkable and very tasty, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they were very complex or full-bodied. But they tasted good anyway. Only, I was the least fond of the Drier Side, which was very watery and thin. But as for my favourite, I couldn’t really decide between Double Blend, Drier Side Hopped Grapefruit, Celebracion and Hard Arnold. In the end, I thought that the Double Blend was my personal favourite.

I wish to thank Max from the Downeast Cider House for letting me try their ciders in the tap room, explaining all production steps and showing me around. Also, for being patient and answering my countless questions.  Should I ever return to Boston, I’ll try to visit the taproom during opening hours.

For more information about the cider scene in Boston and tasting notes of the Original Blend and X Cunard No 44 from Downeast Cider, read my latest blog post.

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Where to drink/buy cider in Wrocław?

Wrocław – the meeting place. With this slogan, this Polish city is trying to boost tourism and attract travellers. Therefore, I thought it I will lend them a hand by compiling a list of spots in Wrocław where you can meet and greet the locals over a glass of craft cider. Let me give you a brief tour through the Wrocław’s bars offering cider.Bars/Pubs

Initially, I thought that Academus is a student haven due to its name. However, everyone who likes international beer and Polish cider come here. This small pub and B&B in one is run by a friendly couple, who really pay attention to their guests’ needs. It’s located in the city centre, just a few steps from the main square. From time to time they have Cydr Tradycyjny z Trzebnicy on draught, which is a local cider from Trzebnica located 30km from Wrocław. You can click here to find if and which cider is currently available on draught. Also, you can choose from their selection of bottled Polish craft cider.

Vaffa Napoli is located in the historical Jewish Quarter and is actually a restaurant serving pizza and other Italian foods. Apart from really delicious pizza, they have craft cider from Cydr Smykan available in bottles and sometimes on draught. To check their current offer on tap click here.

Not far away from Vaffa Napoli, you can visit also Marynka, Piwo i Aperitivo, a craft beer bar. I come here mainly for the delicious cider, which you can find in the fridge, Japko from Winnica De Sas but also because you can sit outside in the summer and enjoy the nice weather. Interestingly, they have a book with requests for draught beer, etc. so don’t forget to leave a note ‘CYDR’ there. Another advantage is that they have a food truck on their premises, Happy Little Truck serving absolutely delicious, and probably the best pizza in Wrocław. Try their pizza ‘Capperi’, which pairs excellently with Japko.

  • 4 Hops  (Ofiar Oświęcimskich 46, 50-059 Wrocław)

4 Hops is another centrally located craft beer bar with an austere interior design, with no fuzz and friendly staff that knows good beer. Unfortunately, no any sort of outdoor seating is available. More to that, they rarely have cider on tap. Bottled ciders available at 4 Hops feature Manufaktura Cydru (I reviewed their Wytrawny and Półsłodki) and Circus Cider, both from Warsaw. You can check if they currently have any cider on draught by clicking this link. The staff keep their offer up to date.

  • Szynkarnia (św. Antoniego 15, 50-073, Wrocław)

Another spot for cider lovers, in the summer at Szynkarnia you may find at least one cider on draught from one of the Polish craft cider makers such as Cydr Chyliczki or Cydr Smykan. You can check their current offer here. In addition, bottled cider is available here. To be honest, I never come here as Szynkarnia is always crowded and full of loud speaking people. Also, they seem not to have a good ventilation system as the strong smell of food is rather disturbing. So cider is the only reason to visit Szynkarnia, if you dare.

  • Pasibus (many locations, for the map, click here)

Pasibus is a burger chain so if you want to drink sweet and flat cider of unknown origin, PasiCydr (you can find the review here) with your burger you may taste it at one of their restaurants across Wroclaw.

SHOPS

  • Drink Hala (Ludwika Rydygiera 15, 48-300 Wrocław)

Located in a neighbourhood called Nadodrze, which with every day gets more popular among locals. Drink Hala is basically a craft beer shop with a really huge selection of Polish craft cider. But you will find here also a range of commercial cider from Poland and the UK such as Westons, as well. I usually come here, when I want to buy a bottle of a recently launched cider as they simply would have every Polish cider here sooner or later. I haven’t seen such an extensive selection even in Warsaw.

Another craft beer shop stocking also Polish craft from Cydr Smykan and Kwaśne Jabłko along with Polish commercial cider brands.

  • Dobre Moce (Grabiszyńska 233H, 53-234 Wrocław)

Dobre Moce is a wholesaler and retailer in one. Since they are based quite far from the city centre I never made it to pay them a visit. However, I know that they stock cider from Manufaktura Cydru.

If there are more cider spots in Wrocław worth mentioning, just drop me a line! I would be happy to update my post.

Cider in the Markthalle Neun in Berlin + Danish cider at Rødder (tasting notes)

Recently, I have visited my favourite market hall/food court in Berlin, The Markthalle Neun. The Markthalle Neun is enormously popular among locals, fresh Berliners and visitors from around the globe craving for high-quality tasty and unique food and drinks at quite reasonable prices. Actually, I don’t remember when was the last time I was there, it must have been around a year ago, so I’ve decided to check if any of the shops/stalls started offering any new cider or perhaps a cider I haven’t sampled yet. During my last visit to the Markthalle Neun I’ve come across a French cidre from Kerné (to read the review click here) at Monsieur Collard, Cidre Fournier Artisanal Brut at Weinhandlung Suff, Lulu de Mere Cidre, which sounds French, but I think it comes from Germany (I’m not sure about it though) at Comptoir du Cidre, and a Spanish mainstream sidra Manzanova. Monsieur Collard still has Kerné on offer, Weinhandlung Suff carries Cidre Fournier, Comptoir du Cidre only occasionally participate in the Street Food Thursday serving a delicious cidre steak (at least they used to) and a Spanish shop offering Manzanova seems to be no longer in business.

Luckily, two new cider spots have opened in the Markthalle Neun. The first one is Schaufenster Uckermark selling a range of delicious Apfelwein from Kelterei Gutshof Kraatz, which is based in Uckermark (read my past reviews on their Wilde Kerle and Apfelglühwein). Unfortunately, the shop was closed at the time of my visit but I saw a few bottles of various Gutshof Kraatz’s Apfelweins through the window. Judging by the half-empty bottles of Gutshof Kraatz’ Apfelwein in the fridge they sell also Apfelwein by glasses. I’ll grab a glass of the delicious Wilde Kerle next time I’m around.

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What a pleasant surprise it was, when I discovered Rødder, a Danish stall offering Smørrebrød, and wild danish cider from two cider makers, Æblerov and Olsens Frugt. Since I haven’t had any Danish cider in my life I just couldn’t wait to give them a try! A 750ml bottle is sold at approx. 20 EUR, but fortunately you can also purchase a wine glass at 4.50-5 EUR. A good option for those who want to try every cider from their cider selection.

img_8954In addition, at Rødder they always have one Danish cider on draught from Æblerov. In terms of food, I haven’t tried anything as all herring was already sold out, but I heard oohing and aahing of folks, who have decided to order other snacks. Hopefully, I’ll get the herring next time. Back to cider, I have sampled three ciders out of the range presented on the right, Cider from Olsens, and Prendila Cosi the Cox + Cider from Æblerov. Also, I’ve purchased a bottle of the Benene På Nakken to try at home. Scroll down for my tasting notes.

img_8969Olsens Cider 2015 (ABV 7.4%; 4.5 EUR per glass)

This one is a blend of Guldborg, Discovery, Purpurella, Bramley, Filippa, Ingrid Marie coming from organic orchards around Roskilde, Denmark. Appearance: cloudy, pale golden, slightly sparkling. Low body. Aroma: dry and acidic with notes of ripe and fermented yellow apples, raspberry and nail polish.  Taste: only slightly sweet, a watery note, medium lemon-like acidity, ripe yellow apple, fermented apples, raspberry, nail polish on the palate and light astringent taste. Finishes dry with a touch of apple-seed bitterness. Overall: tastes surprisingly nice and light at the same time. It’s dry just the way I like it with medium acidity and pleasant apple flavours. The flavour of nail polish is not too strong, adding complexity. A nice drinkable pour. 4/6

img_8968Æblerov Prendila Cosi 2016 (ABV 5.9%; (ABV 7.4%; 5 EUR per glass)

Aeblerov is created by Morten and Christopher, who also use organic apples from Danish orchards to make their award-winning ciders. Prendila Cosi is the title of a song by Lucio Battisti, which means in Italian ‘take it as it is’. What a splendid name for a wild cider! Appearance: cloudy, pale golden with raspberry hues, lightly sparkling. Low body. Aroma: weak, fermented apples, light nail polish and raspberry. Taste: dry with medium to high acidity. Crisp apple, lemon, a watery taste, raspberry, a low astringent taste and light vinegar. Finishes dry with a lingering chalky and fruity taste. Leaves a light burning sensation. Overall: a decent light drop. Personally, I enjoyed the Prendila Cosi but this one is not going to be everyone’s liking due to relatively high acidity and off notes of nail polish and vinegar. Pity that the aroma is not any stronger. 4/6

Æblerov Cox + Cider Aebler 2016 (ABV 5.9%; (ABV 7.4%; 5 EUR per glass, from tap)

img_8967Cox + Cider Aebler is a blend of 50% Holsteiner Cox and 50% other apple varieties. It was created for the famous Noma in Copenhagen, one of the greatest restaurants in the world run by René Redzepi. Appearance: cloudy, golden with orange hues, lightly sparkling. Medium body. Aroma: wild with notes of nail polish and vinegar, lemon, raspberry and fermented apples. Taste: dry with high acetic and lemon-like acidity. Fermented apples, funk, raspberry, medium astringent taste, blood orange, grapefruit-like bitterness in the aftertaste. Finishes dry with a lingering chalky, refreshing citrusy notes and a hint of sauerkraut. Overall: Cox+Cider Aebler tastes actually like a Spanish sidra with high acetic acidity and refreshing notes of grapefruit and blood orange. It was very much to my liking, but I think that again, this is not a cider for everyone. But if you like Spanish sidra, this cider will be for you. 4.5/6

In summary, it was my first acquaintance with Danish cider and I’m not disappointed. All sampled ciders from two Danish cider producers tasted nice, were balanced, yet tasted quite similar, wild with notes of nail polish, high dryness and high acidity. My favourite was definitely the last one, the Cox+Cider Aebler 2016 from Æblerov as it was the most complex of those I’ve tried and because it reminded me of Spanish sidra with high acidity, along with acetic and citrus notes. For sure, it wasn’t, my last visit at Rødder in the Markthalle Neun in Berlin. Also, I still have to try the Alkmene from Æblerov, and as announced earlier, Rødder’s herring.

 

Where to drink/buy cider in Toronto?

Toronto is a remarkable city with many faces and great, friendly, open-minded people. It reminded me Berlin a bit, not only because of the TV tower. Cider is available here at literally every bar, pub or restaurant. To my surprise, most bars carry commercial cider from Europe such as Somersby. Fortunately, they usually also stock an alternative to this European cider from concentrate, a cider from a local cider maker Thornbury Village.

I’ve decided to check what others already wrote about cider in Toronto, and I have found at least two very good articles about where to find cider there. One from Toronto Life published Feb 2017 and one slightly older from BlogTo. Nevertheless, I’ve made the decision to compile my own list and share with you my feedback and impressions. It took me a longer while to write about all the cider spots in Toronto. But here it is!

Bars

img_7988Her Father’s Cider Bar & Kitchen is my absolutely
number one favourite in terms of cider spots in Toronto. If I had lived in Toronto I would surely become a regular customer. You can find regularly rotating tap selection featuring local cider makers from Ontario area. Cider flights are also available. If that’s not enough, they have an incredible selection of bottled cider available as well. Since I sat at the bar I kept staring at 4 giant refrigerators stocked with cider from different regions of Canada, mainly Ontario and Quebec, but also the U.S.. Also European ciders from the UK, France, Spain and even Estonia from Jaanihanso can be found here. When I was reviewing the extensive bottled cider menu I was really img_7987confused and overwhelmed by the choice here. Fortunately, the staff was amazing and  I got a few recommendations for a number of interesting Canadian ciders. Trust me, I wanted to try every single cider on the menu and it was almost a torture to pick only a few. Here is the link to their hypnotizing cider menu. If you’re into ice cider you can sample ice cider from Quebec by the glass. Also, their cocktails are based on cider if you are a fan. Even the food there tastes incredible. Pure heaven! I actually wanted to pay them a visit again on Monday but unfortunately they’re closed on Mondays so you can imagine my huge disappointment. Anyway, Her Father’s Cider Bar & Kitchen is  a must visit spot for every cider lover.

  • Cider House 391 Roncesvalles Avenue, Toronto ON M6R 2N1

img_7929Located in the middle of the Polish neighbourhood on Roncesvalles, the Cider House is a nice and cosy bar that has a wide selection of regional cider from Ontario on tap. Cider flights featuring 4 different ciders are available here at 9 CAD and are slightly cheaper than at Her Father’s Cider Bar & Kitchen. My tasting notes from the visit there can be found here. They also serve food but I wasn’t hungry at the time. Fortunately, Cider House is open on Mondays so I came here one more time before heading to the airport as it was close to Bloor, an UP Express station.

img_7950Birreria Volo, as the name already indicates, is located in Little Italy. It’s actually well-hidden and it took me a while to find the place. It’s pretty dark with minimalist and modern design that appealed to me. I enjoyed the atmosphere and the dim light in the place. As for cider, at Birreria Volo they usually have 2 to 4 changing regional ciders available on draught. Click here to see what is currently available on tap. Again, they even have Estonian cider from Jaanihanso by the glass. I came here a few times as it was close to my airbnb accommodation and I just enjoyed being there.

img_7962Tequila Bookworm is a lively bar based in the popular shopping street in Toronto, Queen Street West. Again, it was similarly hidden just like it was in the Birreria Volo’s case. At Tequila Bookworm they have always at least two ciders available on tap. Since they had really weird cider (at least to me) on offer at the time of my visit, such as Vanilla Ice Cream Apple Pie Milkshake cider from Revel Cider Company or Hopped Peach Cider (I’m not a fan of hopped cider) from the West Avenue Cider Company, I’ve decided not to stay there longer and continued my search for cider spots in Toronto. But if you’re not a cider purist like me, you might enjoy your glass of cider here.

Since I’ve decided to explore Toronto on foot, which turned out to be a terrible idea as I wasn’t aware that streets can be that long here, I didn’t manage to check The Only Cafe. But I hear that they also have a great cider selection. 5 changing regional craft ciders on tap. For their current line-up check here.

  • Wvrst 609 King Street West, Toronto ON, M5V 1M5

Wvrst is another place famous for craft cider, and sausages, I would guess (Wurst is German for sausage) that I didn’t manage to check out as it was on the other side of the city and thus not part of my route. However, from what I read now about this place, I do regret that I didn’t pay them a visit. Next time!

SHOPS 

img_7961In terms of shops, you will find cider at special stores that have a licence to sell alcohol called LCBO. I was told that ice cider is available only in the winter here. They have many stores around the city and the state. You can also purchase cider straight from the source if you decide to visit a tasting room of one of the local cider makers. Check out the website of the Ontario Craft Cider Association to see the list of local cideries. Cheers!

 

If there are more cider spots in Toronto worth mentioning, just drop me a line! I would be happy to update my post.

West Milton Lancombe Rising

To tell the truth, I didn’t know much about the West Milton Cider Company before I purchased their cider. I was rather intrigued by the shape of the bottle as it was unusual for a cider coming from the UK. In that bottle happened to be their sparkling and award-winning Lancombe Rising, which turned the French cider world upside down in 2009, when it was awarded Gold at the Senator Christian Revet Cup, a prestigious cider competition in Normandy, France. West Milton Cider Co. has won a succession of awards in recent years, from the Royal Bath & West Show, and Taste of the West. Langcombe Rising is made by keeving, a typically French cidermaking process that retains the natural sweetness in cider.Company: West Milton Cider Co
Place of Origin: 1 Pear Tree Cottages, West Milton, Bridport, Dorset, UK
Apples: a blend including Dabinett, Yarlington Mill and Chisel Jersey.
Sweetness as per label: keeved cider
ABV: 5%
Package type: 375ml clear champagne corked bottle
Recommended type of glass: flute, chalice glass or wine glass

Appearance: pours a hazy pale amber with a massive head, which only slowly dissipates. Highly carbonated, with beautiful strings of bubbles. Body is medium. Sediment in the bottle.

Aroma/Nose: the nose has apricots, raisins, overripe and fermented apples with wood. A beautiful scent typical for French cidre that makes your mouth water.

Taste: it starts slightly sweet with low acidity and a hint of vinegar. Followed by dried fruits such as apricots, raisins and fermented apples. I can also get a bit watery taste with a smoky note, a lingering taste of wood with a medium to high astringency, a hint of lemon and a distant barnyard note.

Overall: it feels strange to drink a French-style cider from the UK. But Lancombe Rising tastes really good and indeed more refreshing that many French cidres that I’ve tried so far. It has a beautiful nose, good structure, and many lovely flavours on the palate. Lancombe Rising perfectly complimented my evening. I will be back for more. 5/6 

Availability: in the UK from Cider Supermarket. In other European countries e.g. from Cider Lab.

Price: purchased online from Cider Lab at 6.50 EUR.

Where to drink/buy cider in Vienna?

I didn’t spend enough time in Vienna to properly explore the city in terms of cider. But, I will share with you a few spots, where you can find this delicious beverage.
img_6894Bars/Pubs

They usually have three ciders on tap, but in the summer they reduce the number of ciders available on tap to only one. I think that it’s rather strange as I would assume, that cider is more popular in the summertime? What else can cool you better than a glass of lightly chilled cider? As for cider available here, you can purchase the local Big Arlet from Gusswerk Brauerei. No bottled cider here. Also, they serve food. I can recommend their pastrami. Delicious!

Mel’s is located in the centre of Vienna so if you are doing sightseeing here you will sooner or later pass by this bar. Mel’s is actually an American craft beer bar with a quite impressive selection of English cider. At least impressive for this part of Europe. Ciders available on tap feature Aspall Cyder, Westons Rosie’s Pig and Old Banger, price-wise 0,25L €2.90 / 0,46L €4.80. In bottles, they offer ciders from Oliver’s Cider & Perry and Cornish Orchards. See below for Mel’s cider list. Sadly, you will not find Austrian cider here. Also, they serve food here if you are hungry, but I haven’t had the chance to try it.

As the name already indicates, Hawidere specialises in burgers and craft beer. They have 15 taps and one is reserved for cider. Usually, it’s one of the ciders from Westons such as Flat Tyre, Old Banger or Rosies’s Pig but sometimes they have hopped craft cider from the Austrian Blakstoc. Check their website for the current offer here.

Last but not least, Beaver Brewing Company, a craft beer bar stocks a selection of bottled ciders from Blakstoc. If you’re into American food, you may find something for your taste buds here too.

If there are more cider spots in Vienna worth mentioning, just drop me a line! I would be happy to update my post.

Why cider from overseas is easier​ to get in Berlin than European cider?

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.

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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.

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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…

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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?

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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 :-/