The great and the good of the US cider industry gathered in a chilly Chicago on 4th February for its annual Cider Conference. A combination of networking opportunities, educational seminars and social mixers - including the Cider Tour to Virtue Cider (pictured) and Vander Mill Cider - were on offer to the 450 delegates from across the country.
Neil Worley from SWECA member Worley's Cider made the trip to see what\'s been happening in the US cider industry and found a vibrant, progressive and enthusiastic culture.
"Everyone's tremendously excited because the cider market is growing fast and looks set to become a very important element of the US drinks landscape," says Neil. "Although there's plenty of fruit in the country there isn't much bittersweet available, so the current emphasis is on getting trees in the ground or top-worked with cider varieties."
As might be expected though, a lack of cider fruit isn't stopping the entrepreneurial US spirit. The country's recent fascination with craft brewing, coupled with a broader category definition than here in the UK, has seen makers experimenting with a fascinating array of additions, from pomegranate to hops.
The seminar programme extended to six strands covering genaral issues, technical aspects of cider making, business, marketing and sales, academic, orcharding and sensory/tasting events.
All delegates agreed CiderCon 2014 was a resounding success. And the progressive, modern and ambitious character of the US industry, coupled with its powerful historical narrative make it crystal clear that this large group of makers and its industry infrastructure are set to become a major force in world cider.