Fermentation is as essential to cider as the apple is. The process of fermenting turns your apple juice into the delicious beverage we have come to love. With this process, there is nuance. Being a decent cider maker is a far stretch from being an expert cider maker. Even if you are great with small-batch processes, you might need help figuring this out on a large scale. That’s where Bri Valliere comes in. She is a Fermentation Consultant and helps businesses with troubleshooting along the way. We had the opportunity to sit down with Bri and pick her brain on how fermentation consultation works.
“Fermentability Consulting & Education was created to help producers consistently make the best version of their product. I have spent the last several years working on cider production education and research, so my consulting philosophies are deeply rooted in science-based applications and empowering the client with knowledge so that they can succeed well beyond our time together.”
“On the fermentation consulting side of the business, I offer cider production consulting ranging from cider planning to sensory evaluation. Some of my favorite consulting activities are troubleshooting (i.e., what to do when something goes wrong) and new product development. Formal sensory evaluation is also an important step that is often overlooked, and knowing if a product will be successful amongst consumers before it is packaged and released could save cideries a lot of money.
On the education side, I work closely with the Cider Institute of North America (CINA) and develop curriculum and teach courses in the Cider & Perry Production certification program. I also have experience developing undergraduate courses, and I plan to continue my work with brewing- or enology-focused colleges to add cidermaking curriculum.”
“Much of my work can be applied to a range of scales. For example, while a new cidery might need help on cidery design, a more seasoned cidery might need help with expansion or finding a solution to their current production bottleneck.
Relatively new cidermakers might have more fermentation troubleshooting questions, but more established cideries may be having issues with scaling up or working with a new ingredient, for example.”
“I can help cideries both by increasing consumer satisfaction and by helping them communicate their craft to consumers. Anyone who has taken a class with me knows that I get really excited about explaining the biochemistry of off-aromas, but as soon as I put a molecular formula on the screen, I lose at least half the class.
The same principle goes for your customer; they want to know how you did what you did, but you have to do it in a way that is engaging and meaningful. Nothing prepares you more for this skill than teaching a room full of sleepy college students.”
“I began working with CINA when I started working at Washington State University (WSU) where the Foundations course has been and continues to be offered. It was during this time that the CINA curriculum committee formed between me and my incredible counterparts at Cornell and Brock. Last year, we rolled out modules for the Advanced Certificate track by each taking leads in certain areas, and I was able to develop and teach the curriculum for the sensory analysis course.
I continue to work with CINA to offer courses throughout the U.S., most recently at Virginia Tech. I also work with cideries, organizations, and associations to provide training resources that may be more consumer or employee-oriented.”
“Sure! I mostly work with cider, but wine, fruit wine, and mead are all within my areas of expertise. I have also worked with fermented beverages like kombucha and ginger beer in the past. I’m not a brewer by training, so my work with brewers is limited to providing assistance with using fruit or honey ingredients in their production. I learned most of what I know about fermentation through practical experience working in wineries and thorough research on cider. Once you understand the basics of how yeast function and the characteristics of starting materials (i.e., apples, grapes), it is possible to apply these models to other beverages. The tricky part is fully understanding both the materials and yeast when there are countless variables affecting both of them.”
“I am currently in an MBA program at the UNC Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School, so my brain is constantly thinking of business strategies in regards to the cider market. Remember to always think about your customers and what they like. Cider is a much broader category than many consumers realize, so while educating consumers on the breadth of cider styles is important, it’s also important to gather data from these opportunities and use it to justify your product offerings. Doing the due diligence of market research and sensory analysis beforehand can save you a lot of frustration and money in the long-run. Of course, producing cider is hard work, so make sure you do things that make you happy and fulfilled as well.
Outside of cider, some of my go-to beverages are red wine and IPAs. A glass of whiskey is also not uncommon in my household (even though my dad told me as a kid that whiskey puts hairs on your chest, it’s worth the risk).”