Each year the country’s largest collective of all things cider gather together for the industry’s annual conference. Overseen and managed by the good people at the United States Association of Cider Makers CiderCon is the go-to event of the year. This year 1,100 participants descended upon the windy (and very cold) city of Chicago Il. Attendees include industry suppliers, orchardists and farms, cideries and their teams, distributors, and start-ups like Lost Boy. The four day conference provides detailed seminars on topics such as industry trends in branding, case study results of yeasts and the use of nutrients, quality control, advocacy, and orchard management. Experienced panelists lead the seminars which open to questions at the end of the presentation. The burgeoning industry enjoys an embracing atmosphere where greenhorns can easily mingle with second and third generation cider makers. This makes me proud to be a part of cider.

2019 was my third CiderCon and the first year I had company with me which included my father Marshall and new cidermaker Kevin Storm.  I’m just starting to get comfortable with how to manage the conference, myself, and maintain stamina through-out to maximize the experience.  For those who read my GlintCap post you’ll recall that sleep and alcohol can create problems, especially regarding catching your flight home.

CiderCon can be overwhelming. Early mornings begin at 8, followed by lunch, continuing into the afternoon, followed by happy hour and the trade show, then dinner and late evenings with a posse of new and old friends.  For any first timers considering going my advice to you is simply this; Self-care is critical.

With a vastness of topics, opinions, and practices it can be hard to know which way is the “right” way. I still struggle to choose the best seminars to attend, some of which overlap one another.  FOMO on Mary Beth’s Distribution Traps or the presentation by the Yeast Whisperer have literally kept me up at night.

In regards to Lost Boy’s launch date later this Spring the timing of this years CiderCon was perfect.  Now at the tail end of finalizing our brand I am in the middle of designing our cans and answering big questions about recipes, apple varietals for juice, and maximizing efficiencies in production. CiderCon is a place to network for sure. More importantly for me right now it is a place to ask questions.  There is nowhere else on earth where I can spend 4 days of concentrated time and exposure next to people with proven experience doing exactly what I want to do. For this reason, CiderCon’s value remains uncapped.

To understand what motivates people is important. Understanding this about someone provides an insight into their heart and soul.  My close friends will tell you that I am competitive. And occasionally to my own detriment. Athletically inclined as a youth sports were the perfect outlet to channel my energy. Something or someone to compete against has in some ways been my motivation in life. I suffered from a learning disability in school and to this day I work to compensate for that. Only recently have I come to understand that my competitive nature came from those hard years in elementary, middle, and high school as I learned how to learn, to fight.

As I’ve said in the past my journey to cider making has been extremely fulfilling, not with-out challenges. Perhaps furthest from my wheelhouse when I started, understanding the chemistry behind cider making has been invigorating. No doubt, I have only scratched the surface but each lesson, seminar, conversation, lab test, study result, or experimental car boy in my basement yields a wealth of exciting knowledge. Getting out side of my comfort zone in these areas keeps me motivated to create better and better cider. This has become the quest.

Like all sports, master cider making has no ceiling. There is no perfect cider, recipe, or process. How am I to compete against cider? Is it my adversary, my competitor?

Curiously, what I would previously have identified as a challenger I view as my teammate. Cider and I are on Team Lost Boy working together to understand how we can operate to support each other. We are unified and unstoppable. Trust that we will honor the good cider making traditions and time tested process of wine making. I hope Virginia’s heirloom orchards are ready for the spot light. It’s game on.