MicroBrewr 086: The future of apple cider in America with Wandering Aengus Ciderworks

MicroBrewr 086: The future of apple cider in America

Nick Gunn and his wife were working for her family’s winery. They had the idea to start growing apples for cider. One of the cideries to whom they were selling apples decided to close down and they offered to sell the business to Nick and his wife who moved Wandering Aengus Ciderworks to Salem, Oregon.

“Cider is a really exciting proposition for a lot of investors.” [Tweet This]


Now they have two brands of cider.

Wandering Aengus is the traditional brand of cider. The Wandering Aengus brand has ciders that are more astringent, more bitter, and higher in alcohol content. “For the wine drinkers, it’s something that’s interesting,” says Nick.

Anthem Cider is a lighter style for people who aren’t used to ciders. These are less acidic and have lower alcohol content. This brand is marketed toward to craft beer consumers. “Beer drinkers,” says Nick, “are much more adventurous and willing to try just about anything that’s out there.”

They package Anthem ciders mostly in kegs for sale on draft. The goal is to get the word out for distribution in smaller packaging. “It’s a pretty basic model a lot of people have used,” says Nick.

“Anthem is a little more on the adventurous side,” Nick describes. “And that’s also a part of marketing to people who like craft beer.”

In addition to straight apple cider, Anthem also has pear, cherry and hopped ciders. They’re do some progressive forays like gin and whiskey barrel-aged ciders, as well as ciders fermented with bee pollen.

In contrast, “Wandering Aengus is super traditional,” Nick says, “It’s just those apples fermented without anything else added to them. And those apples are so rare we don’t really want to mess with them in the first place, they kind of speak for themselves.”

Finding good, traditional cider apples is difficult, but Nick is pushing the market.

“Most of the old heirloom apples have been ripped out in favor for Granny Smith and other dessert apples,” he says. “We’re trying to get people to plant some newer [apple trees]. We’re trying to bring back some of the older, better flavored varieties.”

Nick’s favorite apple ciders are blends of sharp apples, bittersweet apples, and aromatic apples.

“You kind of want to blend in a little bit of sharp, a little bit of bitter, a little bit of aromatics,” Nick advises. “That’s a part of the art of cider making, is it’s a blending process. Because there’s not a lot of apples that just make a great cider straight up.”

Some of the high brix, high acidity apple varieties that they use are:

  • Golden Russet
  • Wickson Crab
  • Cox’s Orange Pippin
  • Newtown Pippin
  • Calville Blanc d’Hiver

“These heirloom sharps… is a really [high] sweetness level and acidity is off the charts,” comments Nick.

But these sharp apples don’t have a lot of tannins. Bittersweet apples contribute tannins to the cider.

Some of the bittersweet apples they use for tannins are:

  • Muscat de Bernay
  • Muscadet de Dieppe
  • Yarlington Mill
  • Dabinett
  • Herefordshire Redstreak

“Those apples taste like crap!” exclaims Nick. “They really are horrible, because they have so much bitterness.”

“I’m being evangelical about planting cider apples. That’s really the future of really high quality cider in America.”

While Nick is evangelizing about high-quality, hand-crafted, traditional ciders, a different style of cider is gaining momentum across the country. Large industrial companies are making cider with additives and diluted with water.

While the product sells well on a large scale, it is expanding the overall market and demand for cider. As the larger brands reach into previously untapped markets, they create new spaces for all cider products.

“Their cider is a lot cheaper,” says Nick. “We could never compete on price because we’re using 100% juice. But what we can do is offer a different product. And maybe that’s a graduating step for the consumer.”

RELATED: MicroBrewr 048: Package your beer cheap and easy with mobile canning

“The growth in some of these larger brands has just been astronomical because a lot of the place they’re putting cider there never even existed a cider in the first place.”

“Every single chain store, every 711, every place now has cider. Cider is on the lips of every one. It’s on TV now—it was never on TV before, like, 2 years ago.”

“Even if [cider] gets to 5 percent of the market, we will be gigantic,” Nick predicts. “Over in England, cider is around 20 percent of alcohol consumption. France is about 17 percent. So we have a long ways to go in America. We were just at 0.3 percent about 3 years ago and we’ve gotten to one percent now. So the climb now is just inevitable.”

There hasn’t been a lot of quality at quantity. And now that that is exists, distributors are staring to notice, buyers are noticing, the whole market place takes note.”

As overall demand for cider increases, and a wider variety of cider products becomes more popular, the cider companies are able make larger quantities at lower prices.

Nick’s strategy is to have meaningful impact in the markets where craft beer is already growing rapidly.

They are reaching to key cities such as:

  • Denver
  • Philadelphia
  • New York
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Portland

“You’re starting from ground zero, you can explode easily,” says Nick.

Yet, cider producers are finding that the industry needs to mature. Particularly, there is a need for more education in cider sales.

“Finding a distributor that understands cider is really difficult,” says Nick.

At the next CiderCON, the conference for the commercial cider industry to be held in February in Portland, Oregon, the United States Association of Cider Makers will unveil the first ever cider accreditation program. The multi-level program is designed to educate “distributors, servers and others who are interested in becoming trained experts on all things cider.”

As the cider market in America evolves, the industry adapts.

“It originally started out as sweet and fruity,” recalls Nick. “I like to call it ‘cheap and cheerful.’”

Now “cider varietals are being recognized, and the quality of cider they make.”

Nick foresees an increasing appreciation of drier ciders, and even higher quality cider apples. More cider will be made from heirloom sharps, cider will be fermented drier with higher alcohol content. There will be more barrel aged ciders, and ciders with more tannins. Ultimately terroir of cider will be recognized and appreciated.

Listener question:

From Daniel Frey: What accounting system do you use or do you recommend?

Can’t-go-without tool:

Cross-Flow filter, Pall Corporation.

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

North American Heirloom Cider

Other resources:

You can reach Nick Gunn and Wandering Aengus Ciderworks at:

You can reach Anthem Cider at:



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MicroBrewr 081: An R&D laboratory for craft beer with Labrewatory.

MicroBrewr 081: An R&D laboratory for craft beer

The guys at Portland Kettle Works had the idea to start a nanobrewery. They needed one of their employees to run it, so Chris Sears stepped up and took charge of Labrewatory in Portland, Oregon.

“If Portland is anywhere close to being saturated, the rest of the U.S. has a long way to go.” [Tweet This]


Labrewatory won’t be just a nanobrewery. It will be part R&D and showroom for Portland Kettle Works, part collaboration brew lab, pilot brewhouse for hire, a brewing classroom, and who knows what else they’ll think of.

Chris hopes Labrewatory will be a “craft beer geek haven” and a “hub for creative new beer.” He’s been working on the project since the beginning. Now that it’s almost open to the public, he has some lessons to share.

In hindsight, Chris feels they could have spent less time on architecture and design. But he cautions that the plans entail not only what facilities you will have in the building, but also where in the building they will be located. He recommends that you check with the permit inspectors early on and go over your plans with a “fine-toothed comb” to make sure everything follows the codes.

They don’t have to advertise this new nanobrewery too much. They’re raising interest by word-of-mouth and social media. Collaboration beers with other breweries will also be key to their advertising and marketing plan.

Chris iterates a sentiment shared throughout the craft beer industry: community, not competition.

“Collaborations,” he says, “are the definition of community involvement.”

RELATED: MicroBrewr 078: Around the world and back with the craft beer industry

Before doing this project, Chris had been homebrewing for about 5 years. For any homebrewer wanting to go pro, he recommends just starting.

“Just go out there and do it!” he exclaims.

“There’s a lot of money out there. Go out and find that money,” says Chris. “The biggest hurdle right now is finding money. I think it’s just either they are scared to ask or they don’t know the avenues to go and find it. There are definitely investors out there.”

About the potential of a “bubble” or a decreasing demand in craft beer, Chris says: “Portland definitely shows the industry that a neighborhood can support a brewery. Are you going to be the next Sam Adams? Probably not. But are you going to be able to support your family and support employees? Definitely, definitely. So as far as a bubble goes, I don’t see really one in sight.”

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 3.5 BBL, but we can do 4 BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: A mix of 7-BBL and 3.5-BBL fermenters. Capacity for up to 12 fermenters.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: We will be mostly kegging after conditioning, so around 4.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: Approx. 1,000 BBL.

Square footage: Approx. 5,000 sq. ft. including brewery, tap room, and mezzanine.

Years in operation: Comnig soon (opening October 2015).

Listener question:

From Old Louisville Brew: If the bubble does exist, where and when will it hit? For example, shelf space, tap space, customer saturation, etc.

Can’t-go-without tool:

Pump on a cart, with variable frequency drive (VFD).

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Sour beer

Other resources:

You can reach Chris Sears and Labrewatory at:


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MicroBrewr 053: Pink Boots Society empowers women in beer, with Teri Fahrendorf.

MicroBrewr 053: Pink Boots Society empowers women in beer

Teri Fahrendorf had been brewing professionally for 19 years when she went on a road trip. She visited 71 breweries, brewed at 38 of them, and blogged the whole way. Throughout the trip, she did meet a few other women working in craft beer. They always asked whether there were others. So they started the Pink Boots Society.

Pink Boots Society is a non-profit to empower women beer professionals to advance their careers in the beer industry. Today, Pink Boots Society has over 1,500 members in 40 chapters worldwide.

You don’t have to be a brewer to be a member of Pink Boots Society. As long as you earn income from beer in some way, you can join Pink Boots Society. Members include brewers, loan officers, jewelry makers, lawyers, and blog editors.

Roles for women have traditionally been volunteer roles, says Teri, like child rearing or housekeeping. Consequently, modern society often expects women to work in volunteer positions.

“Your value that you are putting into the world,” says Teri, “needs to be recognized in a value that the world recognizes, which is cash.”

In addition to moral support and educational seminars, Pink Boots Society has a scholarship fund for women in the beer industry.


Volunteers needed

Pink Boots Society is an almost entirely volunteer organization. So they’re always looking for more women to join and for volunteers. If you are a statistician or can work with data and numbers, Pink Boots Society needs your help. Get in touch with them here or through the contact info below.

“Your value that you are putting into the world needs to be recognized.” [Tweet This]


Listener question:

If you could ask one question to every brewer or brewery owner, what would you ask? Let me know.

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:


Other resources:

You can reach Teri Fahrendorf and Pink Boots Society at:

Teri’s other blogs:


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MicroBrewr 024: Real ale in the mountain bike capital of the Northwest, with Brewers Union Local 180.

MicroBrewr 024: Real ale in the mountain bike capital of the Northwest

Ted Sobel quit his high-paying job as a software engineer and took a couple years off to walk around the United Kingdom. When he was done walking, he opened Brewers Union Local 180 in Oakridge, Oregon.

Although they get calls about unionized labor, it’s just a clever name. Brewers Union focuses first on providing a traditional English “public house.” It’s a “third place,” a place other than home and work. It’s the local.

They make English-style cask conditioned ales, and they have guest beers on tap to support the locals and the many passersby who come to Oakridge for mountain biking and other outdoor recreation.

Ted says that the biggest mistake he made was working too hard. This month marks their 6th year in business and Ted looks forward to finally taking a vacation. He recommends starting with more money and hiring staff.

In this episode, Ted advises to:

  • Follow your vision, even when others tell you to do otherwise
  • Take time to drink the beer you make

Listener question:

From Hayden Little: What is your least favorite beer that you produce? Why do you keep producing it?

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Session beer

Other resources:

You can reach Ted Sobel and Brewers Union Local 180 at:

NOTE 7/28/2020: Brewers Union Local 180 us under new ownership and is now called The 3 Legged Crane Pub and Brewhouse.

Brewers Union Local 180:

The 3 Legged Crane Pub and Brewhouse:

If you like the show, please subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher. When you subscribe, it’ll let you know when there’s a new episode, you won’t miss a thing!

Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

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MicroBrewr 016: Nanobreweries rise up! with Opposition Brewing Co.

MicroBrewr 016: Nanobreweries rise up!

In this episode I talk with Nick Ellis, founder and brewmaster at Opposition Brewing Co. in Medford, Oregon.

In 2011 Nick was employed as a bookkeeper when he received notice that he would loose his job within a year. So he and his wife, Erin partnered with Dennis and Penni Poncia to start the nanobrewery in Oregon’s Rogue Valley. They began with a 0.5-BBL system, but soon moved up to a 1.5-BBL system. Now they’re getting ready to install a 7-BBL system and are planning to package beer for distribution.

In the beginning, all 4 of them worked 12-hour days, 7 days a week. Now approaching their second anniversary, they’re getting things smoothed out and they each work about 9-hour days, 6 days a week.

We discuss the viability of CSA programs for homebrewers. Following the Community Supported Agriculture model, a box would be delivered to your doorstep on a regular basis. Rather than produce, it would have locally-grown ingredients for making your own beer.

Nick fully debunks any claims that nanobreweries cannot be profitable.

He also shares some great advice, including:

  • Vet and register your name before using it
  • Plan for yeast management
  • Engage your customers with a fun, creative club

Listener question:

From Christina Sierra: Tell me why you brew what you do.

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Flanders red

Other resources:

You can reach Nick Ellis and Opposition Brewing Co. at:

Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

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Ninkasi Logo

MicroBrewr 010: How Ninkasi Went From a 15-BBL System to the 30th Largest Craft Brewery in the Nation w/ Ninkasi Brewing

If you’re new to the podcast, we like to talk all things craft beer but tend to focus on starting up a brewery or ways to take your current brewery to the next level. This week I’m really excited to share the story of Ninkasi Brewing and the tremendous growth that they’ve seen since 2006. Ninkasi started as a 15-BBL system and after four expansions has become one of the top 30 craft breweries in the nation. Nikos Ridge is one of the founders of Ninkasi and talks through why he thinks that their brewery has really taken off and lessons that he has learned along the way. Nikos also talks through their community involvement and how operating a brewery is more than just about the beer, it’s about the people who work in the brewery and the surrounding community.

In this podcast, we’ll cover:Ninkasi Brewing

  • How Ninkasi got started and their journey along the way
  • The experience that they’ve gained after going through four major expansions of their brewery
  • Planning for that next expansion down the road
  • The importance of community and examples of different programs your brewery can get involved in
  • Finding the right staff that fits your brewery (and the troubles you can run into if you select poorly)
  • What Nikos believes has driven the tremendous growth that Ninkasi has experienced and what will continue to drive growth in the future
  • Advice for new breweries that are opening up in today’s market

Make Sure to Get a Ninkasi Brew Near You!

If you live or are visiting the West Coast, Ninkasi is distributed through Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Montana, California and British Columbia (and coming soon in Nevada). Here are some other resources that we talked about during the podcast:

Ninkasi Web Page

Top 50 Craft Breweries List (2013)

Oregon State Northwest Beer and Cider Sessions – Great resource for those looking to start a brewery

61 Brewers Speak Out: What I Wish I’d Known Before Starting a Brewery

Your Free Audio Book

Come Say Hi

I love to connect with the MicroBrewr community so make sure to connect with me through Facebook, Twitter or Untappd.  You can also send me an email using our Contact Page.

Connect on Facebook

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Have a Beer With Me on Untappd

Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

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