The modern craft beer industry has been built on product/recipe innovation. For years breweries pushed the boundaries of beer styles, eventually inventing new categories altogether. In the last few years though, as customers started exploring new beverage alcohol categories altogether, craft breweries started innovating there too, debuting lines of hard seltzers, RTDs, kombucha, and so on.
For its next move, San Francisco-based Fort Point Beer Co. is launching Fort Point Cider, a new product line over a year in the making, that is kicking off with two brands. The flagship, Super Dry, is a Perfectly Balanced Dry Cider that bursts with tart freshness and hits the sweet spot between “interesting” and “easy to love.” Super Natural is a Rosé Inspired Dry Cider that evokes the taste, color, and vibe of rosé through a bit of “supernatural” alchemy – additions of dried hibiscus and rosehips.
“We’ve been thinking about category expansion for a little while now, and we decided to launch a cider for a few reasons,” says Director of Innovation Mike Schnebeck. “Though we call ourselves a beer company, our philosophy and approach to product innovation can apply to more than just beer. We’ve always kept our eyes open, and it seemed like the right time to try something new. We considered a number of different beverages, and cider just felt right.”
For one thing, no new equipment is needed. All of the fermentation equipment used for brewing can be used for cider making. And Fort Point, being the brand it is, is of course committed to using 100% West Coast apples and zero added sugar or concentrates.
“While a lot of other beverage categories feel a little too trendy for Fort Point, cider has been around for centuries — it has a long, rich tradition, just like beer does,” Schnebeck says. “It doesn’t hurt that fermentation is what we’re really good at, and we saw this as an opportunity to apply our beer fermentation expertise to cider — and create a product that stands out in the market as a result.
There is a market opportunity here too. Cider has been growing year over year in California, and increasingly “people are leaning towards local, craft options over the big national cider brands,” Schnebeck says.
Since launching in 2014, Fort Point – based in the Presidio of San Francisco – has become known for its ability to take familiar styles and create something special through the brewery’s own unique, nuanced spin.
“But we also wanted to make sure that we created something existing Fort Point fans wanted — so we asked them. Cider was by far the category our community was most excited about, and getting their direct feedback was really helpful for R&D.”
By taking a “brewer’s approach” to cider, the end result is cider that’s incredibly balanced, consistent, and flavorful – just like Fort Point’s beer.
“Over the years we’ve built a powerful brand that’s known and loved across California. We’ve taken a nontraditional approach to brand design, so it’s no accident that we’ve attracted a wider group of drinkers to Fort Point than your typical brewery,” said Fort Point co-owner and Chief Brand Officer Dina Dobkin. “With cider, we challenged ourselves to build upon what people already enjoy about our brand, while creating something with the potential to reach an entirely new audience. Our goal was to make the brand instantly recognizable as ‘Fort Point’ while also feeling distinct from our beer.”
Fort Point is already showing growth this year, and the cider line will not cut into beer capacity. “We have enough production capacity to handle both beer and cider, so we are considering it as additional volume on top of the beer production that is planned for the year,” Schnebeck tells us.
“We’re always going to be a beer company first and foremost, but with the cider category growing, and locally made, craft ciders increasing in popularity, this felt like the perfect opportunity to expand our portfolio,” said Fort Point co-owner and CEO Justin Catalana. “We’ve made a cider we’re really proud of – it achieves a flavor and quality standard that’s rarely available to the mass market, and we’re intent on making it broadly accessible.”