Polish craft cider – a gem to be discovered

In May we had a Polish Cider Festival online. Many cider fans could listen to interesting talks with professionals, interviews with cider makers, and watch cider tastings, cooking – it was a real celebration of Polish craft cider. So, we are sharing the most important points with you.

You can read our short summary of the festival here. Now, we get deeper into the Polish craft cider scene.

Identity of Polish cider

In Poland, cider makers keep telling a mantra “cider is not a beer” and the cider as a drink itself is confused with apple flavoured beer. The difference between beer and cider is a matter that Polish consumers seem not to quite understand. Luckily, more and more people are aware of cider (and perry too!) and they know that it is not a beer with apple juice. However, some connections to beer may be useful in promoting cider (we will cover it later, read below). 

Polish craft ciders

The other fact is that many Polish people associate cider as a sweet drink made by big companies. In 2014 due to Russian embargo, there was a campaign which aimed to encourage people to drink cider and a catchy slogan like ”Rebel against Putin – eat apples, drink cider” emerged.  Polish consumers get more interested in cider. The commercial factories took advantage of this national enthusiasm and started producing cider, sweet, fizzy, lacklustre. So people perceived cider as a very sweet drink for a summertime barbecue. There was a lot of noise about Polish cider in mainstream media and social platforms but what you could find in shops was just commercial brands.

In the meantime, craft cider makers released their artisan ciders but they found it difficult promoting and convincing consumers that cider can be dry, can be still, hazy, acidic but yet pleasant drink for many occasions. Craft cider makers could see that there was a great misunderstanding among consumers who didn’t know what cider is, how to drink it, what to eat with it.  So from this point started a “crusade” for educating Polish consumers about real cider.

It succeeded in some way, because more restaurants, wine bars and speciality shops introduced ciders to their offers and more clients started asking about cider and its production. 

We, as a nation, started to think that cider is something more than ordinary drink, there must be some history and tradition behind it (by the way, first mentions of Polish cider, “jabłecznik”, was recorded in the 15th century). Poland is the biggest producer of apples in Europe so we can be also very good at making cider. And cider can be our national treasure. 

And it really is. Polish ciders were awarded in the international competition (including Royal Bath & West Show, SISGA in Spain, CiderWorld in Germany) – Cydr Chyliczki, Cydr Ignaców, Cydr Tradycyjny z Trzebnicy just to mention a few. We don’t have to be ashamed. We have great apples, however different to cider apples, but yet complex, full of tannins, flavours. Polish cider makers have access to old orchards with many varieties excellent for cider such as Szara Reneta, Złota Reneta, Antonówka, Kronselka, Grochówka, and many more.

We also make very good ice cider – Lodowy by Cydr Chyliczki, Solutus by Cydr Ignaców, Cydr Lodowy z Trzebnicy – and many commentators think that it can be our national treasure and promoted abroad. We believe that Polish ice cider – with awards, great flavours and aromas – can seduce cider aficionados worldwide. 

During the festival, the issue of “definition of Polish cider” appeared. So what is Polish cider? How can you define it? There is some division among cider makers – traditionalists who think that Polish cider can only be made of apples, nothing else. And of course, there are some who like to experiment with different flavours and additions (like other fruits, hops, or honey) and they say that Polish cider can be also innovative.

But there is one sentence that we like the most: Polish cider tastes like a forest, meadow, lake, wildflowers, countryside.

How to promote Polish craft cider after pandemic ends?

Closed pubs, restaurants, and shops made a huge impact on craft cider. Many cider makers lost their points of sales. They had to rely on direct sale only (selling via the Internet – forbidden!!!). So now, when the lockdown seems to end, cider makers try to find themselves in the new reality. More events are planned, more bars are opened, there is a hunger for nightlife, meeting with friends and socialising. 

So, how to encourage people to choose cider?  Some see a chance in beer fans/geeks. Why? Because they are keen to try new things, to explore new flavours. Cider with hops can be the reason more people will drink cider. Nowadays beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in Poland (an average Polish man drinks about 100 litres per year!). So when cider attracts beer fans, they can become cider fans too. Polish craft cider should highlight its presence during beer festivals. Beer fans can easily switch to cider. Especially when it is severed from draught.  Some, like Przemek Iwanek, cider maker and blogger, see it as an opportunity.  There are few producers who sell their ciders in kegs. Most cider makers want to sell cider in bottles and serve it in wine glasses, not in pint glasses like in English pubs.

Food pairing, tourism and the future of Polish craft cider

Polish food is considered as quite heavy and meaty. Some say it is fatty, brown, purely potato-based. But it can also be interesting, versatile and served in many ways. Food pairing is a very popular trend in Poland now and we are learning how to pair cider with food.  Many sommeliers in Polish restaurants introduced cider to the drink menus and cider can be easily paired with Polish food such as pork, duck, goose, fish, pierogi (dumplings), pickles and sauerkraut. This is an opportunity for cider makers to cooperate with restaurants (and some do cooperate now) and introduce cider to consumers. 

The next thing we need to improve in Poland is cider tourism which doesn’t exist now. We have many beautiful places, we have sea, mountains, lakes, and you can find plenty of activities for the whole family in Poland. And cider can be something which will attract more tourists. Delicious local food, beautiful landscapes, affordable prices – this can be our advantage in promoting Poland and cider. 

It is something we should think of. We have some wine routes but not any for cider. Most cider farms are in the central and southeastern part of Poland and there you can find many exciting places to stay, eat and visit.  So there is a niche to be exploited.  

To sum up, cider is becoming trendy in Poland. It is still a niche but a very nice one and with a potential to grow. Increased knowledge about cider production and the shift away from its perception as a “cheap apple wine” or “apple beer” is a positive thing. We hope that Polish craft cider will grow and become known worldwide.

Cider makers don’t give up and one said that cider is like love – if you love it, you do it! 🙂

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