In the small town of Aubel, Belgium, Jean-Pierre Stassen has been in the business of making cider for nearly 40 years. His career path came naturally to him, as cider has been in the Stassen family since 1895 when Jean Pierre’s great grandfather first began brewing the apple beverage.
Through the years, the Stassen family cider grew to quench the thirst of their region of Eastern Belgium, and what began as a hobby for a local farmer soon developed into something much greater. Four generations later, Jean-Pierre Stassen works at the Heineken Innovation Center developing new recipes for global consumers while continuing to uphold the family business. His team of 11 works to create new flavors of cider that meet local legislation, as well as the varying tastes of consumers. “Sweet and fruity ciders are what bring in new consumers” says Stassen, but it’s having variety that keeps them coming back for more. In addition to these ciders, Strassen is known to produce for other global brands like Orchard Thieves and Strongbow.
Cider dates back 5000 years to ancient Greece and Rome when fermenting apples was easier than fermenting grapes for beverages. Considered a drink of the elite, in 1890 2 million hectolitres of cider were consumed in the UK and 10 million hectolitres were consumed in France. Sadly, the production of cider dropped dramatically after the Second World War, as many of the apple orchards in France were destroyed during the battles.
In 2018 however, Stassen believes that we are experiencing a “Cider Renaissance," as cider companies continue to be acquired by larger brewing companies such as Heineken. These acquisitions provide smaller cider makers with the resources to innovate and develop new products to spread around the world. The passion that Jean Pierre Stassen brings to the cider-making industry is indisputable. His motivated and enthusiastic team will no doubt continue to carry on the Stassen tradition for generations to come.