Sonoma Cider returns under new Fresno-based ownership


A few years after Sonoma Cider’s collapse, the hard cider brand is back under new ownership in a bid to revive the label for fans across the country who have embraced the craft drink – even if it doesn’t. is no longer made locally.

Full Circle Brewing Co. of Fresno bought the cider label and recipes after the Healdsburg-based company went into liquidation in 2018 to pay off debt. A former investor estimated that the society burned $10 million before closing.

In the aftermath, the Sonoma Cider tasting room in Healdsburg was taken over by the Wilson family of winemakers for its Coyote Sonoma label and other production items were sold.

Full Circle began offering Sonoma Cider in its tasting room about a year ago after it was purchased by brewery owner Arthur Moye, said Full Circle marketing director Adam Beam. The company already had a state license that allowed it to produce cider and had brewery staff who had also done winemaking and were familiar with different types of fermentation, Beam said.

“It made pivoting pretty simple,” Beam said. “We found some of the original Pacific Northwest juice suppliers from Washington and Oregon. Almost all the providers we used are exactly the same. »

The brewery offers three of the brand’s most popular ciders – its apple, pear and bourbon flavored drinks – and they’re available at area outlets such as Trader Joe’s and on tap in taprooms. . The goal is to expand its national reach to leverage the Sonoma Cider name that was previously available in 30 states.

“We actually had a lot of excited people across the country. We have already sent pallets to the East Coast. We already had distribution for Full Circle all the way to the East Coast,” Beam said.

The push comes as there is some upward trend that regional hard ciders may be able to grow in a market that has been heavily concentrated with big brands such as Angry Orchard. The American Cider Association notes that sales of regional brands of cider at retail outlets increased 11% in the third quarter of 2021 from a year earlier, according to market research firm Nielsen. .

Sonoma County has about a dozen hard cider producers, with some increasing their footprint. Golden State Cider of Healdsburg announced in November a nationwide expansion into 40 states, primarily through direct-to-consumer distribution. Ace Cider of Sebastopol is also expanding its portfolio through its acquisition by Vintage Wine Estates of Santa Rosa with new flavors such as guava to target younger consumers and will open a factory to make ciders in Cincinnati later this year.

“Cider is doing well,” said Jeffrey House, who founded Ace Cider in 1993 and now acts as a consultant for the company. “We’re going to get a lot of support from Ohio.”

You can contact editor Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.

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