In today’s Smith and Forge Hard Cider Gluten-Free Review, we’re going to explore this wildly successful hard cider, why it’s a success and the impact it’s making on the hard cider community. Before we do, we’d suggest you try the best hard cider producer in Michigan – Blake’s Hard Cider.
What Is “Smith & Forge”?
Unlike most craft hard cider brands, Smith and Forge Hard cider, is Smith and Forge Hard Cider. In other words, the name of the brand IS their product, and their product is their brand. It’s their flagship and ONLY offer. No variations. No options. Only ONE option – Smith and Forge Hard Cider.
A craft hard cider company with only one drink to offer the public?! This is like blasphemy in the eyes of hard cider enthusiasts, but it’s absolutely brilliant for making a significant impact in the beer drinking community who may have previously been adverse to anything hard apple cider because of preconceived notions and false impressions which are far from reality (i.e. “They’re just hopped up apple juice” or “It’s apple juice on the rocks”).
Putting the spotlight on a single offering encourages focus and strengthens the presence of hard cider in a beer drinking country. Most are already skeptical of hard cider, but one that is constantly ‘in their face’ will eventually cause them to go, “What the heck. Why not?”
We took a similar approach.
We began distributing one of our hard ciders, and gradually included others in the mix when the one before it sold well beyond our expectations. We didn’t come out the gate with guns ablazin’. Like a cowboy, we focused our efforts on hitting our target with a single shot ‘in a draw’ before shooting another. The only difference between us and Smith & Forge is that they have a wider distribution network, more connections and a proven track record with current vendors and suppliers for their other beer products.
WHO Is “Smith & Forge”?
How did Smith & Forge make the massive impact they did right out the gate?
Well, it didn’t happen by magic. Unless you did your research (Google is our best friend) you’d never guess the producers and distributors behind Smith & Forge is, in fact, MillerCoors.
Though they adequately use their networking, distribution and marketing muscle they don’t actively advertise that ‘they’ are the ones pulling the strings behind the scenes.
We believe this is MillerCoors intention to establish their hard cider bran without having to use their famous name as a crutch to get people to buy. The more people who enjoy the hard cider, the more the focus is on ‘hard cider’ and less about ‘who is making and producing hard cider’.
We also believe because it’s such a strong and unusual departure, most beer drinkers wouldn’t believe it were them anyway, so why not focus on the drink and the experience for the end consumer with clever marketing and a strong showing?
Others may feel slighted for their lack of transparency. We can understand this sentiment, but we believe that it is irrelevant. So long as the consumer enjoys it and wants more of it, that’s all that matters. And if people want more of Smith & Forge, they’ll purchase more of it irrespective of brand recognition. It is our opinion that MillerCoors wants Smith & Forge to stand on its own two feet, and based on their numbers ($20+ million dollars in sales – 5.5% market share), she’s doing quite well.
It pours well into a pint glass. Coming straight out of the can, there’s not much head nor aroma. Fairly bland. The hints of aroma we did manage to get has tones of sweet apple juice.
There’s a tart bitterness in the first few sips, but eventually gives way to the apple sweetness, though not slighted by any dry or crips factor.
It goes from bitter, to sweet, to a metallic, earthy mouthfeel following up after the sweetness. Half a can was good. The other half? Not so much.
Not ‘bad’ by any means, but certainly not ‘great’. It’s somewhere lodged in-between. Perfect for mass-market distribution to get the word out that hard cider is here to stay and make it’s mark. It’s a good drink to get people thinking and talking ‘hard cider’ and open their minds (and wallets) to trying other brands and craft ciders on the market today, like Blake’s Hard Cider.
So what did real conesiours think of Smith and Forge?
For starters, one reviewer from the popular beer lovers website, ratebeer.com, mentioned what we hard cider producers know to be accurate, that although Smith & Forge don’t claim to be the most creative or innovative in their approach to hard cider, what they DO have is a long reach and marketability. It’s an aspect our industry could use more of to convert greater numbers of hop enthusiasts.
Trainedpalate, the reviewer from ratebeer, said this: “This cider will appeal to a younger consumer who’s just getting into this beverage category. The reality is that Smith & Forge will be a big reason for the cider industry’s future growth. They have an approachable gateway product but consumers will quickly learn that there are many others out there.”
We could not have said it better.
MillerCoor has the built-in relationships with their audience. They’re large fan base gives them the trust they need with consumers to try Smith & Forge at least once; introducing a huge segment of the drinking market to hard cider.
Additionally, suppliers made great profits and have been waiting for MillerCoor to bring something new to the table to reignite what they started in craft beer before it became the massive market it is today because of their wildly successful track record.
This can only be good news. Not only does MillerCoor have a track record of success, this time around a fairly new industry, hard cider, will be a staple in refrigerators around the country at a faster pace than their first foray into the drinking industry. The more successful Smith & Forge is with the general public, the more interest there will be for Blake’s Hard Cider as people naturally explore the question, “What is hard cider?” after having a few Smith & Forge’s. They’re putting the industry on the map.
They win. We win. Consumers win.
Here more reviews highlighting the drink itself and its unique characteristics:
BuckeyeBoy (ratebeer.com) said, “12oz can pours out golden topped with a small head. Nose is apple juice some sweetness and spice. Taste is more of the green apple tart and a light sweetness.”
Obguthr (ratebeer.com) from Staunton, Virginia said, “Pounder: Apple juice nose. Clear amber, no visible carbonation. Sweet, apple juice. Finishes drier. Full body, moderate carbonation. No nuance, just fizzy apple juice that gets you drunk. Completely not fancy, but still enjoyable in a way.”
Pumpmaster (ratebeer.com) from Pembroke Pines, Florida said, “12 ounce can purchased at local FL Winn Dixie supermarket for $8.99/12-pack. Not bad.”
And BillWyce (ratebeer.com) from Philadelphia Pennsylvania said, “Pours clear golden color with some effervescence, and a 1/2-finger off-white head. Aroma of apples with a touch of sourness. Body is a touch lighter than medium, lightly syrupy. It has a light fizziness that lingers in the finish. Stereotypical flavor, but very “clean” for lack of a better way to put it. A bit of cidery tartness mixed with apples.”
As you can see, nothing much to write home about, but gets the job done. Smith & Forge puts ‘hard cider’ in the minds of beer drinkers where it otherwise wasn’t before who are currently the biggest market in the United States. Overall, they’re making a SOLID impression on the masses. Not ‘outstanding’, nor is there a ‘WOW!” Factor. It’s just solid. The goal we believe has always been to simply get people to THINK hard cider, and seek out alternatives for variety.
With $20+ million dollars in sales and a 5.5% market share, Smith & Forge’s impact on the hard cider industry is growing stronger by leaps and bounds.
MillerCoor didn’t want to miss the boat, so they jumped in with two feet. “Nobody wants to miss out on something that is growing that fast,” says Eric Shepard, executive editor of Beer Marketer’s Insights.
“Guys continue to look for variety and different options, including cider,” said Rita Patel, director of new product development at MillerCoors.
They’re bringing back the glory days of hard cider back into modern times.
If you’re around our neck of the woods stop on buy and say “Howdy” at 17985 Armada Center Rd. Armada, MI 48005, give us a call at 586-784-9463 or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions or inquiries.
You can also visit us at Blake’s Hard Cider to learn more about our latest products and exciting upcoming events. Lastly, you can find us on Kroger and Meijer’s store shelves in Michigan, Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, and Wisconsin (so far). We are quickly growing and expanding our distribution to other nearby states so check with your local grocery and liquor store chain to see if we’re in your area.