It was never Andreas Sundgren Graniti’s plan to produce ice cider – not even traditional cider. Instead, he was looking to combine his two separate desires of making wine and living in the northern parts of Sweden. However, in this business you quickly learn that geographical circumstances are everything. It proved to be true in this case too, and today Brännland is one of the rising stars in the Swedish spirits and beverage industry, thanks to its renowned ice cider.
Brännland Cider was founded only a few years ago, in 2011. At that time, Andreas had spent a few years in the music industry and was enjoying a successful career as a software entrepreneur in Stockholm. But as his increasing desire to leave the city for the relative calm up north was becoming too tangible, he moved to Umeå.
Soon however, he would realize that his initial dream of producing wine would need to remain somewhat unfulfilled. The climate in Umeå simply didn’t lend itself for growing grapes.
“I soon realized that it wasn’t really my decision to make. If I wanted to combine making wine with living in Umeå, I had to compromise. So, I decided to start working with apples instead of grapes,” Andreas says.
Despite the fact that he seems very satisfied with that decision, Andreas was faced with further obstacles – perhaps opportunities – before he could set up production. He not only had to discard grapes, he also had to discard the typical Swedish winter apples, as they were too sweet to use for a traditional dry cider. That prompted Andreas to embark on a journey to explore what options he had left. He found the answer in Canada, where he stumbled across ice cider.
Ice cider is best compared to a sweet dessert wine, rather than a traditional dry cider most people might think of when they hear the word cider. It’s made from the juice of frozen apples and was first produced in Quebec, Canada, thanks to the region’s naturally cold temperature. The frozen apples concentrate the natural sugars in the fruit and gives the ice cider a natural sweetness and higher alcohol content than cider made using more traditional methods.
“People have only been making ice cider since 1994, so in the world of alcoholic drinks it’s still a novelty. It’s growing though, when we started about a decade ago, we were the only artisanal small-scale cider producer in Sweden.”
Today, there are a handful producers, and according to Andreas interest is growing exponentially. He says the small-scale artisanal producers are leading the development of the industry.
Although the small-scale producers might be the trendsetters, it is still an industry that requires utmost perseverance if you’re to succeed financially. The first few years typically consist entirely of expenses, and once production is up and running it often takes years before becoming profitable.
“In this industry, it’s often the most passionate people that succeed. You need to be guided by enthusiasm and passion, and not by making a quick buck,” Andreas says. “It’s pretty easy to tell who’ll survive in this industry, though. It’s the people who still – after five years – operate in a dull warehouse and regularly clean their equipment by hand,” he says.
So, for smaller producers like Brännland, the decade-long ongoing consumer trend of preferring premium products has been very welcome. As people are prepared to pay more for high-quality craftmanship behind the products, Brännland’s high-end products gets noticed and the premium price-tag gives Andreas leeway to improve the products.
According to Andreas Sundgren Graniti, the typical ice cider drinker is someone who enjoys and is knowledgeable in high-end dessert wines, as they share much of the vocabulary used to describe the products.
“You typically drink ice cider like a sauternes, so for wine nerds it’s pretty easy to embrace ice cider. But we’ve also managed to attract the traditional ‘beer hipsters’. They have grown up and have moved on to more sophisticated things”, Andreas explains.
Compared to a decade ago, people now tend to go for high-quality products in lesser quantities rather than large volumes of cheaper, low-quality products. According to Andreas, the premium trend has helped Brännlands grow.
“Since we’re transparent in what we do – which methods we use and the craftmanship that go with producing a high-quality ice cider – and since consumers are better than ever at recognizing high quality, we’re avoiding the discussion if our products really are worth their price-tags. They know they are.”