HOUSTON-BASED LEPRECHAUN PREMIUM HARD CIDER CELEBRATES FOUR YEARS WITH A TEXAS-CENTRIC PRODUCT MAKEOVER LAUNCHING THIS MONTH
A $200,000 investment, initially earmarked for graduate school, set Houston-based entrepreneur Jake Schiffer on a journey to put Texas on the forefront of the American craft cider resurgence with a product that would parallel top European hard ciders in quality. Four years later with three, entirely gluten-free – and zero added sugar – blends, plus fans and Paleo crusaders across the country and the globe, Schiffer is implementing sole retail distribution in Texas for a total re-launch of Leprechaun Premium Hard Cider that begins this month.
Encompassing everything from a new manufacturing facility, packaging and branding to an enhancement of the core recipes themselves, the carefully orchestrated endeavor speaks volumes about the 25-year-old founder and a family-owned business that is finding success with every sip.
“At this point in our lifecycle, and thanks to Leprechaun’s popularity, one might expect us to focus on expanding out-of-state distribution,” said Schiffer. “However, with an incredible opportunity presented to us, we chose a path that would first allow for a further refining of brand offerings and position us to reach our goal of becoming the top selling hard cider in Texas, where the beverage is still in its infancy. We’re now also aligned for previously unthinkable growth and a future to quench our desire of becoming America’s best in the category.”
The opportunity came in the form of a 2014 invitation from Vermont Hard Cider Co., which sought out Leprechaun Premium Hard Cider in an effort to collaborate and innovate with a younger, fresh focused, premium hard cider brand. Tied to the approaching ribbon cutting for their new, $33-million cidery in Middlebury, Vermont – now the most state-of-the-art facility of its kind the United States – the proposal underscored Vermont Hard Cider Co.’s business model shift to artisan, premium and craft hard ciders and a commitment to providing select, up-and-coming producers with the support and guidance to take them to the next level.
According to Schiffer, “We’re honored to be the only out-of-state brand produced and bottled at Vermont Hard Cider Co.’s cidery. What has set us apart in Texas, and in comparison to a number of other hard ciders around the country, is our insistence on using only fresh juice and bottling at the source of the apples– more specifically hand-picked varieties from the northern U.S. – that after crushing are introduced to our signature, cultivated champagne yeast strain. By following more exhaustive, traditional production methods, we are able to reduce aftertaste and deliver delicately bold, crisp and clean flavors, which are often compared to an apple prosecco, moscato or sparkling rose depending on the blend.”
While Oregon yielded an acclaimed line, Schiffer is elated about the amazing trajectory for Leprechaun Cider Company with production now in Vermont. Not only does Vermont Hard Cider Co.’s locale just east of Lake Champlain grow some of the finest cider apples in the country, but the cidery’s systems, staffing and general know-how are all aimed at preserving the integrity of the juice at a level that would not be possible anywhere else on the continent.
Use of the Vermont facility has also presented opportunities for Leprechaun Premium Hard Cider beyond a more consistent and elevated beverage. In addition to allowing the small company to think big in terms of future production and growth thanks to expanded capabilities, it created a 16-month timetable to improve on a variety of other aspects prior to re-launch. A massive and highly desired move to 12-ounce bottles from the earlier 22-ounce bomber format now lends itself to a broader range of customers, including retail establishments, hotels, bars and restaurants. And with the change of bottles comes a 2.0 version of the label, which is now an eye-catching frame for the logo. The famed, centuries-old image, borrowed from the St. Chapelle cathedral in Paris, depicts the Irish legend of Leprechaun with its key figures, including the hound, woods and snake, inside a four leaf clover.
The enhanced experience for drinkers will soon be paired with an overhauled website and a new blog that will go well beyond general product and retail details by providing regularly updated ideas for enjoying hard ciders to their fullest. With everything from food pairing suggestions to gluten-free, Paleo and other simple and delicious food and cocktail recipes that will showcase the versatility of a drink that is truly as American as apple pie.
For information on Leprechaun Premium Hard Cider, please log onto leprechauncider.com. The website is also a source for discovering the versatility of cider with food and cocktail recipes and includes a store locator.