Bold Rock Hard Cider, Now 100K Barrels, Launching Hard Seltzer

Dear Client:

Who says cider is dead? Boston Beer’s Angry Orchard, the segment leader, was down in Q1, at least in part due to tough comps — the rollout of Angry Orchard Rosé in 2018 Q1. (They do expect it to improve.)  

But that’s not stopping Virginia-based Bold Rock Hard Cider from continuing to grow, and making new moves — like introducing a line of hard seltzers.

Bold Rock, now projecting to be a 100,000-barrel brand this year, sees Angry Orchard as its top competition in cider. (According to them, Strongbow is no. 3 and Bold Rock has “opened up a nice cushion thus far into 2019” there.)

“Honestly there is only one larger hard cider brand in the country [than Bold Rock], so we view Angry Orchard as our primary competitor — but there are a number of regional players such as Austin EastCiders experiencing nice growth at the moment,”  Lindsay Dorrier III, director of new business development, told CBD.

They’re certainly staying nimble in the face of such competition.  Bold Rock announced today that they’ll release Bold Rock Hard Seltzer next month in Virginia and Western North Carolina.

It’s “crafted from real fruit and fresh Blue Ridge Mountain water.” Gluten free and 4% ABV, it’s also only 82 calories and one gram of sugar, which is on the low side for this already low-cal segment.  (Ed. note: Everyone is trying to put a novel spin on the fast-crowding hard seltzer market. Last week we reported that Shiner is tweaking its former summer seasonal, Ruby Redbird, to be 95 calories and 1 gram sugar, to target females “who want the attributes of a seltzer” and an “all-natural” halo but also “want to stick with a good, well made craft beer,” per marketing director Gregor Mina [see CBD 06-01-2019]).

“Bold Rock Hard Seltzer will initially launch with two handcrafted styles,” it said: Grapefruit and Cucumber Melon.  

That’s the skinny on the new seltzer. We wanted to know more about their total business, as a leader in U.S. cider share. Like:

HOW BIG A PLAYER BOLD ROCK IS. Bold Rock currently has 6% of the national hard cider business, “but we only distribute in 11 states, where we are generally pretty strong,” Lindsay told CBD.  

“We are in fact the best selling hard cider brand in Virginia with Bold Rock accounting for nearly 50% of hard cider sales year to date. Bold Rock was in fact the best selling craft brand irrespective of beer or cider in Virginia in 2018. We plan to continue gaining share and see plenty of opportunity for business expansion within our existing footprint.”

HOW MUCH THEY PLAN TO GROW IN ’19. They plan to reach the 100,000 barrel mark this year, “including our distribution channel and Bold Rock brick and mortar operations,” said Lindsay.

So far they are up 11% YTD, despite having some tough comps, “including our high performing Rosé seasonal” (sound familiar?). Still, “we expect growth to surge the latter half of the year with the launch of BR Hard Seltzer and innovation on the hard cider side of the business,” said Lindsay.  For the full year, they hope to hit 30% growth.

ANY MORE NEW MARKETS? We’re sure some distributors would like to know.

“We have no plans to enter new markets at the moment and will continue the strategy of fortifying our existing Mid-Atlantic distribution territory,” said Lindsay.  “We wanted to launch BR Hard Seltzer where we have significant brand equity and awareness, which is why Virginia and Western North Carolina were initially selected.”

But make no mistake: They do hope to expand hard seltzer distribution “to other markets within our footprint heading into 2020.”

AS FOR DRAFT… Bold Rock’s hard seltzer announcement included a note on draft product too; notably, as BBD reported last week, A-B’s Bon & Viv is targeting the on premise with a new “Classic” formula, which has been line tested.

We were curious about Bold Rock seltzer draft specifics.

“We view hard seltzer as package directed first and foremost but the on premise presents some intriguing opportunities to establish brand visibility and pioneer in a previously underdeveloped hard seltzer channel. Our plan is to deploy draft hard seltzer strategically throughout Virginia and Western NC prior to package launch to develop trial and enthusiasm for the products and that experience should give us good intel on future draft hard seltzer opportunities.”


The biggest craft brewer doing it in the U.S., D. G. Yuengling & Son, Inc., is currently exploring a number of upgrades to its campus in Tampa.

The 43-plus-acre plot, which the Pennsylvania brewer acquired 20 years ago, could soon be the site of a “mixed-use redevelopment,” according to a recent report from the Tampa Bay Business Journal. That could mean an area brewpub for the brewer, potentially (read on).

Apparently Yuengling filed rezoning plans with The Big Guava last week “that would make way for new development on the north and west ends of the brewery property,” and leave the existing brewery (Yuengling’s largest) intact, per report.

The outlet shared a list of the different types of developments the brewer “could pursue on the property,” such as…

• A 200-room, 140,000-square-foot hotel

• 12,700-square-foot restaurant

• 7,000-square-foot museum gift shop

• 5,500-square-foot microbrewery and/or tasting room of the same size

• 5,300-square-foot indoor/outdoor beer garden

• 5,900 square feet of conference/meeting space

Wendy Yuengling, 6th generation family member, D. G. Yuengling & Son, Inc. confirmed that they are indeed “exploring a variety of options on the property… from a brewpub, or tasting room, to a beer garden,” in a statement to CBD. The “goal,” she said, “is to bring an enhanced brewery experience to the local community, and to become a more integral part of central FL for our employees, local residents and visitors.”

Recall, the brewery has been on a pursuit to “raise its profile” in the city, and took a step in doing so last year by securing the naming rights to the Sun Dome, a 55,000-square-foot multi-purpose facility located on the University of South Florida’s campus in Tampa.

If this redevelopment pans out, it could be another big win in Yuengling’s home away from home. A rezoning hearing is set to take place September 12. More details to come.

Stay tuned.


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Until tomorrow,

Jenn, Jordan, and Harry

“I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this.” – Emo Phillips

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