We’re at that time when we look forward and think, however briefly, about how (please God, please) this year might be different to the last. What we want to change about ourselves. Things we want to do differently, ways in which we want to act differently. How, in 2021, we might make the place in which we find ourselves a better place to be.
Towards the end of 2020 a member of the UK cider community whose name I’m not going to give the oxygen of publicity, took it upon himself to post a misogynistically-captioned compilation of photographs of fellow members of the cider world, trivialising their role and importance within cider as well as their enjoyment of the drink itself.
In response, one of the women affected, Tas Fraser, a writer and reviewer who runs the @girlwithaciderreview Instagram and social media accounts, launched a project entitled #noappleogies. Its stated aim is to empower and highlight the work of women in cider whilst tackling the all-too-present issues of sexism within the industry and surrounding global community. Since this is something we touched on in Helen’s interview with Cider Women but haven’t really engaged with since, I reached out to Tas to ask whether she’d speak to Malt about the project. Our resultant interview is below.
Malt: So, first of all, tell us who you are, where you are, and what you’re doing within cider?
Tas: So my name is Tas, I’m girlwithaciderreview on Instagram; I have the same name on Facebook but on Twitter I had to shorten it a bit because it’s a little long, so it’s gwaciderreview just to shorten it down there! So I’m mostly on those platforms; Instagram’s my main platform so I’m a cider reviewer from Canada, I’m located about half an hour away from our big city, Toronto, in Ontario. I’m also in kind of a big city as well, but not that crazy of a city – not that busy. What I do is I review ciders through my Instagram so that may be both through photos and videos – I have a video component, that’s one of the things that is unique to my account – I always have the video as well, so I can talk a little bit about it, do whatever strange thing I’m doing but anyone can see me talking about the cider, so it can be a bit more on a personal level with someone who may want to learn more and get to know myself. So I do that.
I’ve also been doing cider and life, which is an Instagram TV show, I guess you could call it. I do those now weekly and what those are are just chats with other cider reviewers or with people in the industry, so that may be cider makers, people who are involved with breweries, or people who are doing important things for the community. I’ve had people on whose initiatives I support that I think they need to come talk and share their message with my audience as well. And so that’s one of the things I’m doing too.
Malt: How did you get into cider?
Tas: Well cider’s been a thing that I’ve liked for a while. I can’t really tell you how long now, but Instagram started itself three years ago this coming February. It was kind of a joke between my sister and I, because that was the only thing I would ever drink and she was like “you should make an Instagram account,” because that’s what the trend was – everyone was making an Instagram account for whatever hobby they had. And she said “you should be Girl With a Cider Review” and I laughed and said “ok, yeah, sure, I’ll make it”. So I made it that day, three years ago in February and it’s taken off since then. There have been so many amazing things that I’ve been able to do with it, and meet so many amazing people through it. But cider itself, here three years ago there wasn’t a big cider selection to be honest with you. They had some of the big names, like Magners or Strongbow, those are some of the ones they had, and then a couple of others. Some super sweet ones that now I can’t even drink at all – they’re way too sweet! But ever since then it started expanding; companies kept popping up out of nowhere, all these new flavours came and then I actually started to go explore the places where these things came from and it just sort of grew from there. But cider, to be honest – I love the taste of ciders; I’m not a big beer person, I just feel like they’re so heavy, and I like something that’s mostly light. And I like that there’s a variety of different types of ciders too, for your mood or whatever you like.
Malt: How did #noappleogies come about?
Tas: So it feels like it’s been forever now since it started, but it was only like a couple of weeks ago now [Ed: the start of December.] so it’s been crazy. So how it started was I was just doing my regular thing, scrolling through social media, and I came across a post on Twitter that was around for 24 hours before I noticed it. And it was a photo of myself and four other women that I’m friends with, that I know that also review cider too. And it included photos of us wearing swimwear, like bikinis or whatever we’re wearing in summer at the beach. And the caption said “Girls be promoting cider-like”. And it posted us in our swimwear, insinuating that, you know, this is how we promote cider and use our bodies to get attention. And it just ignored all the hard work and dedication and all the passion in what we actually do in the industry.
So, I was upset, obviously, seeing that. It isn’t the first time something has happened to myself in the industry. But this would be the first time, I guess that really ignited the spark to create this project. But I let the other women know as well, and then, of course, they were upset too, understandably so. And then I went to sleep that night trying to figure out “is there a way that I could turn this into something positive for women in the drink industry?” Because I’m sure this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and looking at it, this may be small in scale but it brought up a lot of other things that haven’t been spoken about, and that it’s continuing to happen even in almost 2021, when it shouldn’t be at all. So I thought of this project, had no idea about the name except I love puns, so it just worked out! So that came about, I thought why don’t we create something positive to empower the women in the industry, using photos, because that’s what was used in the first place, but using them under our control. Because we had the power over these photos, and did in the first place, and then they were taken and used in that disrespectful manner.
The first part of the project was to if you were a woman in the drink industry you would post a picture with the hashtag. In any way you’re comfortable; it doesn’t have to be in swimwear, bikini, whatever you want. Because it’s whatever you feel comfortable doing, presenting yourself. And you would answer the four questions I had, so “why is the industry important to you” “what do you want to change” “why do we need change” and “what does it look like for you?” Then a couple of facts about yourself and, if you wanted to, maybe a shout-out to another woman in the industry who has maybe been a big part of your journey. Just to add the positive spin on that. And then it got quite big – lots of images, lots of cideries on board, sharing the message. There’s another part that I’m working on right now that will hopefully be released in the new year, but of course, we’re trying to spread the word with the pictures and with trying to get companies on board. And I think that’s the big thing to have the big names on board supporting an important message like this because then one, the message gets around more and then having that additional support from brands that you love is important. So that’s kind of where it’s at right now, but that was the main thing behind it.
Malt: I was amazed at how quickly you turned it round from your initial post and created this incredibly positive thing that looks so slick, has the perfect pun. Was it something you’d been thinking about doing before?
Tas: To be honest it is a big cause that I care about deeply, as well as like diversity, inclusion, things like that – those are things that are very important to me, especially, in any industry. But in terms of the project, when I went to sleep that night I had a wild thought, because I always think all the time, and it just sort of pieced together in the morning. I can’t really explain too much how it happened, that’s just how many of my ideas come about, like the Cider and Life. I guess I just kind of have basic ideas and they just come together when necessary. But of course, like I said, it’s a cause that I care about, and I knew I needed to get something done soon, and it just worked out.
Malt: Would you say that things like what [the blogger who posted the offensive content] did are isolated instances or would you say they were indicative of attitudes around the industry generally?
Tas: Yeah, and like I said before, whilst this seems like someone just saying something on social media, as people do, it actually ignited a lot of other feelings and situations that came up throughout the industry. So even in the response to my picture, I saw like in certain Facebook groups and even on my Instagram post people who carried those same views as [that blogger]. And were not only criticising what I’m doing but how I empower myself as well. So that’s very unfortunate that that’s happening. But other people that I know, they’ve endured harassment, sexual harassment, being turned down for jobs in the industry because they’re a woman. Being questioned on their knowledge of cider or other drinks, be it beer, wine etc. And just been objectified for how they’re taking their pictures or things like that. So I think that those kind of views are still there, you know I was surprised that those views didn’t come out sooner, but they did and it reminds me they’re still there and it also reminds me that this is why something like this has to exist, because these views are still held.
Malt: Talking of those comments left in certain Facebook groups, for example, when you’ve had these responses from people who hold these sorts of views, have you been able to kind of engage with them – have people who maybe initially had responses like that then tried to engage with you?
Tas: In the Facebook group, when I saw said post – because I wasn’t originally in the Facebook group and then I joined and was like “wow, this is nice, this is being talked about and I didn’t even know”, so I came and just made a general post about what I had seen. But of course, those people decided they didn’t want to connect with me directly and thought that it’s respectful to talk about someone behind their back and not ask questions if needed. So not there. I mean even [that blogger], when I told him it was inappropriate, he just brushed it off and said “oh well it’s just a joke, I thought you’d find it funny” and I’m like “ok, that’s just the classic disregarding everything that happened and why this is wrong.” And then on my Instagram picture, I had quite a few comments that I was objectifying myself and why would I take off more clothes in response to a photo about me not wearing clothes or whatever. And with that person I tried to engage and so did a couple of other people, to see what was going on there, but again it just was not getting anywhere and they still thought it was appropriate to continue their commentary and not recognise that it’s more than a picture and that they’re completely missing the message. So, in terms of educating anyone who has had a different view than the rest of us it, has not been going so swell, to be honest.
Malt: I guess, as you say, that shows how important it is that something’s actually being done. I’ll circle back to #noappleogies in a moment, if you don’t mind. I wanted to ask generally what the Canadian cider scene’s like. You touched on it earlier saying it’s quite nascent, but I know there’s some longer-standing producers and obviously, there seems to be a really active social media scene. So tell me everything!
Tas: So, I think when I started there were only a couple of other cider reviewers that I knew of in Ontario, in my province. And I was actually surprised – I didn’t know it was a thing that people reviewed cider! That was three years ago, but these days there are so many. And it was a small, niche community when I started as well, and like I said there weren’t so many ciders, you didn’t hear about them as much. And the other thing is many of them didn’t make it into our liquor stores. Our liquor stores are provincially governed, so each province in Canada has their own liquor control board. Ours in Ontario’s called the LCBO – the Liquor Control Board of Ontario to make it sound a little bit fancier! So getting things into the LCBO, which is where most people purchase their alcohol because besides there only a few supermarkets carry alcohol, and that’s even a new thing in the last couple of years. So a lot of the bigger, more popular brands are able to get their ciders in there, but even then they’re restricted on how many they have for shelf space, and you can’t get like all the flavours. And everyone is different – so if you go to a different LCBO in a different city you’re going to find different ciders. You have to go to different lengths if you’re looking for different things.
Luckily they have an app now, so you can find where the products are and go to that one, so it’s been a little easier. But lately, I guess in the last three years, a lot of companies have shown up and been able to get their products in there. But also now there’s online delivery and things like that, so you can order from the companies directly, which is also great because the government marks up the price of the alcohol if it’s in the LCBO and they don’t get as much of a cut as they should of it, so it’s good to support local businesses, for sure. But in terms of like flavours and stuff, in the beginning, there was not a variety of flavour except for the super-sweet brand I was talking about; they’re called Somersby, they had a blackberry one that everyone loved in the summer, and an apple one. But then of course like Strongbow, Magners, they had the classic apple, I think there was a pear one by Magners as well that we had. But besides that most of the drinks were apple. But now there are so many different things, like for the seasons, like spiced ciders, cranberry ciders, tropical fruit ciders in the summer. It’s gone crazy and creative with the ciders. But in terms of – because when I think of the origins of cider and traditions of cider I think of the UK and the traditional apple cider, dry cider – many of the ciders like that don’t exist here any more to be honest.
There are a couple of companies I can think of that like to embody that traditional style, which is cool, because I know some people love that, and it’s so hard to find nowadays because everybody likes the fruity flavours and things and adding stuff to the ciders. But it’s good to have a nice traditional cider now and again. Hard to find though. But right now things are still expanding, lots of new flavours are coming up, especially in the winter. I’ve connected with some companies on the east coast of Canada, out of province, and the west coast as well to see what’s going on there. They’re also very creative with their ciders – I went on some of the websites and there’s like pages of flavours – and I think it’s just because things are expanding and people are getting on board with cider here. It’s obviously not as big as beer, wine, however, even wineries are making their own ciders, so you go there and you can try some wine and you can try a cider, which is cool too.
Malt: It’s amazing, trying to keep up with how cider’s expanding all over the world, it’s just so exciting. I guess one thing I’m intrigued by – because obviously with the UK having such a long tradition there are a lot of difficulties with stereotypes, and people associating cider with being drunk by certain people – who’s mainly drinking cider in Canada at the moment? Is it particular groups of people mainly or a total mix?
Tas: I guess in my experience a lot of women drink cider, because I also know that a lot of women don’t like beer. Some do, and that’s great – it’s not for me, for sure – however a lot of my friends now like cider because it’s forced upon them by me. But yeah, I find that a lot of women like cider. The men in my life they’re like “no, that’s a girly drink” or things like that. But you don’t know if you haven’t tried all the ciders – there’s definitely going to be one you’ll like; there’s a cider for everybody, I say this all the time! But I don’t know where the stereotype came from. I guess because it’s an alternative to beer they maybe think, you know “this is for women, because many women don’t drink beer so this is the girly side of beer” or something that’s going on there. I don’t know what that’s about, but it seems like that’s the case, and many of the cider reviewers I know are also women. There’s a couple of men who like cider and are talking about it, which is great, but it seems like it’s heavily dominated that way. Which is why, of course, it’s highly offensive the post that I saw, as well, because it targets a whole audience of people that drink cider.
Malt: Do you think that perhaps having so many women reviewing cider in Canada or America makes a difference to galvanising people for affirmative action on issues like this through things like what you’re doing with #noappleogies?
Tas: Yeah, I mean I think that’s definitely a big factor because there are so many women in the industry. Like I said, it seemed like it was aimed at a lot of people when that post was made. Maybe that was something that wasn’t thought about when it was done but it definitely affected a lot of people and I know that even though it’s heavily dominated by women in reviewing and things, I know that there’s also a lot of men in the industry too, so may that be like in cidermaking itself or running the business or the companies or things like that. But even though there are so many women it doesn’t ignore the fact that [that blogger] was saying that there’s not really a place for us, even though a lot of us were here.
Malt: I guess maybe with Canada being a newer industry there are fewer established gatekeepers, but then, as you say, with things like Instagram being so global anyone can be a gatekeeper now. That was something I wanted to lead to actually – I know it was a member of the UK community who put up that particular post, but have you had any direct support from the Canadian cider industry itself?
Tas: Yeah, in Canada a lot, to be honest. And when I think about it I just totally forget that it was something from the UK, because I was just like it doesn’t matter where he’s from, this is just inappropriate anywhere. And the fact that it reached over here is crazy too. But from Canada I got a lot of support from my cider peers, I guess you would say, of course, a lot of the cideries that I partner with – like I’m in a partnership with Chill Street cidery, they have so many super cool flavours, they’re from the East Coast of Canada in Nova Scotia and they’ve been super supportive of me. We were working together before this incident, but they were on board with the project either way. I write for a couple of cider blogs myself; so I write for Cider Scene, they’re a North American cider blog mostly, I’m the only Canadian representative for them right now – so there’s me and then the United States, so they’ve been super supportive. I’ve just done an article with Wines in Niagara, they’re an Ontario-based mostly wine blog, but they have me writing about cider because they don’t write about it. I just posted an article about the project with them, and they’ve been very on board and supportive as well. Which is great too, because all of these partnerships I’m in are with men. And they’ve been super supportive and onboard and they agree that things need to change and they want to be supportive of that change.
What I’m hoping is to get more companies themselves on board with supporting this message and showing that they’ve implemented things in their business that stop this kind of behaviour from happening. And I want to find out what people are doing because clearly, this is something that happens; I know that there are things I haven’t heard yet that are happening and I want to be able to make a change that creates a safer environment for everybody in the industry. Because this is something that I love – I guess it’s more than a hobby now – but it’s something that I care about and I want everybody to feel safe here.
Malt: In the UK now there’s Cider Women, which was partially inspired by Pomme Boots in the UK, and Helen from Burum Collective did an amazing interview on Malt with their committee. Is there an equivalent group in Canadian cider at the moment? And have you had any personal interaction with Cider Women in the UK?
Tas: To my knowledge right now there isn’t a group that exists in Canada like that. However, that’s something that I’m hoping to start myself when I have a free moment to add more things that I need to do! That would be something that I’d really love to have – a community like that – because I think it’s incredible. And when I found out about Cider Women in the UK I was like “this is amazing, why don’t we have this here?” But yeah I did have some interactions with them actually. They reached out to me when they saw me originally post about the incident and actually I might have been talking to them before on Twitter. But they have been super, super supportive of this project, and they have so many amazing posts on Instagram with all of the members posting about the project and about themselves. So many positive interactions, and their support is amazing and it’s needed with the project. But I hope to be able to connect with them on a personal level as well and get to know more about their role in the industry, because everyone’s from a different type of area in the industry, so it’s cool to gain knowledge in the industry as well.
Malt: Thinking in the shortest term, what would you say are the most immediate and urgent ways that you’d like to see cider globally rethink itself?
Tas: That’s a great question. I think right now, in the stage the project is in, of course, there’s so many ideas and potential for it to reach other areas in different ways. So as you know the start of the project was just the posting of the pictures, the spreading awareness, the empowerment piece. The second part is a similar type thing, but I’m hoping to make it – of course, the photos are about someone and they’re personal – but with the second part I’m hoping to make a deeper impact by seeing people first hand to talk about it. I’m making a video, so people are going to be talking in it about certain things.
So, I’m hoping that people will watch that and learn a bit more. But like I said as well, what I’m hoping to do is connect with businesses, individually, see if we can maybe come up with some sort of collaboration project, see if there’s some education that can be done, or some sort of workshops or things like that. But I want to have more people on board and understand why this is something that needs to be done as well. So I’m kind of in that stage in the project. I’ve sent a bunch of emails and many messages to some of the cideries here in Ontario, some in the United States as well to see if we can start something there. But I’m just hoping that over time – because everything involves time and hard work and not giving up – because I know that at some parts of this I’ll be like “ok, so not really much is happening right now, does that mean it’s over?” But it’s not, and I’m just going to keep going either way, because it’s important. And there’s always different ways to approach it if it’s not going as fast as you intend it to. But overall I’m hoping that, by changing things or practices, the environment will become more inclusive for everyone. And not just in cider – because cider’s still small in many places – but on a larger scale as well. Because I know that there are many women in beer, there are a lot of women in wine, or any sort of drinks, in different roles, and it’s not just for cider, it’s for everybody that’s involved in this industry. And I know it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of fine-tuning of things but I’m just hoping to grow that over time.
Malt: That’s really cool that you’re hoping to grow it into drinks generally. Because obviously, Malt’s first and foremost a whisky website, and earlier this year whisky had a similar moment, where one of the best-selling writers had been writing the most appalling sexism in his books for a long time and somebody finally called him out publicly on Twitter and lots of companies were spurred to say “we don’t agree with this – this doesn’t represent our values”. And it’s really cool to see that happening with cider as well, through #noappleogies.
Rachel from Burum had a couple of questions – because I’m terrified of doing these interviews so I asked people in a Whatsapp group for help – you’ve touched on education a couple of times, she wondered what the cider education in Canada is like at the moment?
Tas: That’s something I haven’t thought about in a while. I guess it’s kind of province-dependent as well, so in Ontario, we have the Ontario Craft Cider Association, which certain cider companies can be a part of. I don’t actually remember all of the specifications for being a member of the association, but there are some things like even including the amount of property you have on your cidery, and you have to use 100% Ontario apples at all times. I’ll have to refer to the website to find more of them. But they provide quite a few educational things regarding cider in Ontario. We also have – not this year obviously – some cider festivals and workshops that people can go to. But of course, obviously, those were all cancelled this year. I know that there have been a couple of things regarding cider making – tips on how to make cider – online, like zoom conferences and things like that. But it’s dependent on what province you’re in and I don’t know if actually, the other provinces have Cider Associations. I would assume they do, especially in the bigger provinces for apples like Nova Scotia. But they post a lot of educational pieces on social media and things like that.
Malt: And can you expand on what place education has in your own plans going forward? (Thanks again to Rachel for letting me steal this question.)
Tas: I think that’s a really big part of the project. I always find it hard sometimes, especially when you’re not children any more and you already have these views that are ingrained into your mind from whatever friends or family or just the way you grew up. And I think that those views can change, I just think it’s maybe a bit harder. And so if you have these very strong misogynistic views, for example, it can be very hard to change your mind.
However, I think that there’s a lot of room for education that can change these type of opinions or at least put into practice through cideries or breweries that let people know that this is not ok, that it won’t be tolerated and then hopefully from that point there’ll be some sort of reflection on behaviour. I know not always, but I know that it is possible, that there is the potential for that. And I want to be able to explain more and I’m trying my best to get the word out as much as possible and talk about it more in-depth as much as I can, so that people can get an understanding of the impact this has – that it’s not just an isolated incident and that it can’t be happening to this scale. The stories that I’ve heard – especially things like being rejected from a job position or being sexually harassed in your workplace. It’s frustrating that it still occurs but I’m hoping to at least start with education and reaching out to as many people as possible that are in the industry. And the more people that I know I have on board, and the more support there is, I think that would at least be a start in making a difference.
Malt: That leads really nicely into my last question, which is how can people support and be involved with #noappleogies?
Tas: So right now I was joking that I need to get a personal assistant to manage my Instagram messages now! But I’ve been managing all that by myself, so if you want to get involved in the project I’ve just been saying like send me an email, so my email’s in my Instagram – if you press ‘Contact’ it’ll set up the email for you. But it’s firstname.lastname@example.org, that’s how you can get hold of me. Or you can send me a message directly on Instagram @girlwithaciderreview if you want to be involved. I do have some posts out about what the project actually is, but I do have more detailed google documents for whoever wants to actually be directly involved, and I usually just send that directly to someone or email it to them. That’s what I have done recently – I sent out an email to a bunch of companies, explaining the project, providing the links, letting them know that they can be involved, to let me know if they need any more details. But if you’re an individual you can send me an email or send me a message and I’ll send you all the information.
I try to post when things come up on my Instagram story, because that’s my main platform; I try to transfer it onto Facebook and Twitter when I can, because I know it reaches different people and different groups, but that’s mostly how you can get in contact with me about it, and I’ll definitely give you the details. And it’s open to everyone – obviously, the focus is empowering and representing women, but definitely, solidarity posts are encouraged. I’ve seen a couple of them – love them! – from some men in the industry and I just think it’s important to have the companies speaking out and letting people know that this is something that they support, that it’s not ok and actually saying that this is something that they don’t tolerate and it’s not something that they stand for if someone for example, from their company, were to do something like that.
Massive thanks to Tas for taking the time to speak to us. Also to Rachel, Helen and James Finch, who helped me come up with several of the questions. We hope Tas’s project gets the engagement it deserves; it’d be brilliant if anyone reading this was able to show #noappleogies their support.