I have been to a number of conferences over the years. Most are to do with tree fruits and orcharding. Most are attended by tired farmers who have worked too hard for too many years and are attending to learn how to grow better fruit so they can glean a few cents more a pound. Often the focus is how to improve yield/acre for a population that has a stagnant consumption pattern.
Cidercon was different in many aspects. The biggest contrast was the overall optimism. The conference had doubled in participants over last year. Cider consumption is increasing at an impressive rate and there were many new operations starting or in the planning stages. Researchers from various universities were in attendance looking to start projects that will help a still-young cider industry.
It was also encouraging to see local restaurants and bars being supportive of “Cider Week” which culminated at the Navy Pier with over 40 cider makers pouring at the Cider Summit – a cider-tasting festival much like a craft-beer festival but with cider-makers of course.
It is a fun industry to be a part of and we came away from the Chicago conference feeling inspired and excited about our ciders this season.