Brent Miles launches cider consulting firm in Hampton, Virginia

28 February 2019 3 min. read
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Craft cider industry veteran Brent Miles has started a cider-focused consulting firm to support cider start-ups.

Brown Hat Consulting, based out of Hampton, Virginia, will provide business, facility, and product consulting services to nascent cider businesses, ranging from business plan development, compliance, facility design, and equipment sourcing, to recipe development, ingredient sourcing, and cidermaker training.

Miles was previously head cidermaker at Sly Clyde Ciderworks in Hampton, after a stint as head cidermaker at Seattle Cider Company. His ciders have won gold medals at numerous competitions, and he has lectured at the Oregon State University Craft Cider Startup Workshop.

“American craft cider is still young, but those in the industry with the most experience are running their own companies,” Miles said. “They are often willing to help newcomers in small ways, but they won’t work in depth with their potential competitors. My experience will allow me to help the next wave of cider entrepreneurs avoid common pitfalls, make great cider, and position their businesses and brands for success in the increasingly competitive marketplace.”


Over the past half-decade, alcoholic cider beverages have exploded in popularity. According to figures from Canada’s Agriculture and Agri-Food department, cider retail sales in the United States jumped from $940 million in 2013 to $1.54 billion in 2017 – achieving a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.1%. IBISWorld, meanwhile, has reported that the number of cider businesses has increased by 18.3%, while the number of employees has grown by 8.2%.

That heady growth has mostly been driven by millennials, who account for most of the cider drinkers in America. Combine that with the fact that people in Portland, Oregon drink the most cider per capita, and a clear image of the hard cider market begins to emerge. 

According to analysts, cider consumption has grown based on demand for gluten-free beer alternatives, as well as a preference for lower-alcohol beverages (cider ranges from 2-8% alcohol by volume). The craft cider sector has swelled like the craft beer market before it, as millennials seek local producers offering unique, quality products. The Northwest Cider Association (representing Washington and Oregon) has seen its membership explode from 10 cidermakers in 2010 to more than 80 members today.
Brent Miles launches cider consulting firm in Hampton, VirginiaThe US cider industry cooled in 2018, however, declining to $1.29 billion in retail sales. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada projects the US cider market will further decline by a CAGR of -2.6% until 2022. According to the report, cider products are being squeezed by other new ready-to-drink products - especially alcoholic soda products that saw success among the gluten-free crowd in 2016 and 2017.

Another factor hitting ciders is high sugar content, as consumers increasingly trend toward curbing sugar intake for health reasons. Alcoholic sodas can be artificially sweetened, creating even tougher competition for hard cider. Despite the recent overall cider market slowdown, growth among small, craft producers remains strong, reaching retail sales growth in the double digits.

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