Luxembourg cider grows in the US midwest
The small European nation is home to more than 150 apple varieties, giving it a head start in producing unique ciders.
Ramborn Cider has been growing in popularity since launching three years ago as Luxembourg’s first home-grown cider producer. This spring it took home five medals at the international brewing and cider awards in London, the most of any cider company behind Angry Orchard.
The brand has developed dozens of varieties over the years, and is now working to bring Luxembourg cider to the rest of the world. Ramborn has been available in Wisconsin since 2017, and it’s looking to expand in the midwest to Illinois, Ohio and Michigan in the near future.
Navigating language and state barriers
Carlo Hein, CEO and founder of Ramborn, told BeverageDaily that the US was not the most difficult market to enter because cider is already well-known and part of US culture. The UK, Scandinavia and Ireland are other cider-friendly markets Ramborn has a presence in.
Places like Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland are more challenging; “the discussions are much different because their cider markets are only at their beginnings, so you have to do much more education work,” Hein said.
Language has been a tough barrier for the small-scale producer, including figuring out the best packaging for countries that respond best to their native language on-pack. Similarly, state-by-state alcohol laws have slowed down growth in the US.
Hein finds that aluminum can packaging does best in the US, while the UK is more familiar with glass bottles, resulting in a range of packaging for Ramborn.
Luxembourg boasts more than 150 types of apples, and about the same amount of variety of pears. Ramborn said that they differ from the mostly bittersweet apples found in the western regions of England and France.
In comparison, around 2,500 varieties of apples are grown in the US, but only 100 are grown commercially. Luxembourg is roughly the same population as Milwaukee, Wisconsin at about 590,000 people, and the same size as Rhode Island.
Adie Kaye, co-founder of Ramborn, said “For a small producer, Ramborn has an extensive range of ciders and perries. Our core range appeals to both cider connoisseurs and consumers who are starting to discover or rediscover their love of cider and are looking for high-quality, interesting and sustainable choices.”
The apples Ramborn most commonly uses are its namesake ‘Rambo’ apple, the Boskoop, the Bohnapful and the Luxemburger Triumpf. In working with more than 100 local farmers and orchards, Ramborn says it is ‘breathing new life’ into the countryside through sustainable farming methods and a focus on biodiversity.
Food pairings mimic wine industry
Hein said that the company talks about and treats its cider the way people already discuss and categorize wine. The acidities, tannins and flavors all differ between apple varieties, which is why Ramborn emphasizes proper food pairings with its ciders.
“It’s like with the wine industry, it didn’t happen from one moment to another. You have to show what’s out there, tell [customers] the story, where it’s coming from, the differences between the places where cider is coming from. And then they will get it and they will stay with you, which is what’s important,” Hein said.
The team has worked with Michelin-starred chefs and mainstream cidermakers from companies like Angry Orchard to develop some of its ciders and corresponding menu pairings.
“We’re really seeing an opening with the discerning foodie crowd, they are very receptive to trying ciders where they may normally have wine - ones with unusual taste profiles that are well paired with the food have been tremendously popular with Michelin starred restaurants across Europe. This is something we’ll look to explore further as we progress,” Kaye said.
The Ramborn core range consists of an Original Medium dry Cider at 5.8% ABV, a Cascade Hopped Cider at 7.4% ABV, a Farmhouse Dry Cider at 6.5% ABV and a Perry at 5.8% ABV. These varieties are most likely to be exported to its global markets.
Ramborn also has a cider farm and tasting room in Born, Luxembourg that sells several other on-draft and bottled ciders, including Bourbon Barrel Aged Still Cider, Rum Barrel Aged Still Cider, Single Malt Whisky Barrel Aged Still Cider, Apple and Quince Blend Meadow Orchard Cider and Vintage Luxembourgish Perry.