Millennials fueling hard cider craze
On a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon in October, dozens of people packed into the upper floor of South Side restaurant Steel Cactus for the start of a bar crawl.
A bar crawl on the South Side is no feat, but this one eschewed beers and shots for hard cider.
“It’s a fun fall thing to do,” said Alyssa Fose, one of the organizers of the Hard Cider and Donut Festival on Oct. 5 at bars throughout Pittsburgh’s South Side. “Everyone is looking to do fall things.”
Hard cider is more than just a fall thing. The alcoholic beverage made by fermenting fruits has become a popular drink of choice in Pittsburgh and around the country. In 2018, the global cider market was valued at just over $16 million according to Statista, a market research firm.
Pittsburgh is home to two cider houses, Threadbare Cider House and Meadery and Arsenal Cider House & Wine Cellar, and more and more restaurants and bars off ciders on their tap and bottle lists.
“Cider has quickly become a good option to market to consumers over the year[s],” said Brian Bolzan, head of production and cider making at Threadbare in the North Side. “Last year we made 12,500 gallons.”
Millennials are a key demographic to the cider market, according to Bolzan. Bolzan said that trends indicate millennials drink less alcohol than older generations, and they are more selective in their choices.
Despite being selective, younger drinkers will experiment with their tastes in cider and other beverages, according to Bolzan.
“There’s more, forgive my language, promiscuity. Folks aren’t tied to one brand,” Bolzan said.
And while millennials are Threadbare’s key demographic, the company is still attempting to broaden their appeal.
“There’s been lots of effort to market towards older populations,” Bolzan said. “It’s a very new industry.”
Threadbare recently expanded into the North Hills. The cider house opened a bottle shop location at Ross Park Mall on Oct. 18.
Ian Potter enjoyed the Fall Spice cider at the opening. He approved of a Threadbare store closer to where he lives.
“It’s really good. I think North Hills is perfect for something like this,” Potter said. “It’s also kind of cool to have a little drink and then go shopping for a bit. I actually kind of like that.”
The bottle shop will also be adding new ciders to the shelves in just a few weeks’ time.
A new cider, “Hey Sweetie,” will debut at all Threadbare locations Oct. 31 with a release party to boot. The cider is supposed to be the sweetest the company has ever produced.
“If it’s bottled, you can pretty much count that it’s gonna be here,” Tritsch said. “Threadbare, the main location, they have some of the products that [are] probably newer, they just haven’t been bottled yet. But as things get bottled, you’ll see them here as well.”