Globally, cider sales are booming. Production in the United States has tripled since 2011 and countries including Australia and South Africa are seen as the new frontier for handcrafted cider.
“With the growth in the craft beer movement, we saw South Africa as the next big opportunity for cider,” explains Karol Ostaszewski, who co-founded SXOLLIE together with wife Laura Clacey in 2014. “By dollar value, South Africa is in the top 10 countries worldwide for cider consumption. It’s driven largely by the big commercial brands, and the craft component is still small, but that’s exactly the niche we’re looking to tap into.” Key to the growth in cider sales is a surge in demand from younger, affluent drinkers with an eye for a trend; a perfect fit for this edgy home-grown brand.
“South Africa doesn’t always make it easy for entrepreneurs,” explains Laura of the memorable brand identity. “There’s something beautiful and opportunistic about the way things operate here and SXOLLIE was born out of that idea; that you have to hustle to get ahead.”
“Everybody needs a bit of Sxollie to succeed,” smiles Karol. “You need to have an edge, a glint in your eye and take your chances where you can.”
Karol and Laura have certainly seized their chance since returning from Australia in 2014. Drawing on experience in the cider industry Down Under the pair was quick to set up SXOLLIE, with the first cider flowing into bottles in May 2015. Unlike mass-produced commercial ciders SXOLLIE embraces the same principles as craft beer, using quality ingredients and time-honoured methods to create a memorable drinking experience.
“It takes time and attention to craft SXOLLIE,” says Karol of the eight-week process that goes into creating every bottle of cider. Apples sourced from the cool orchards of Elgin are pressed, with the fresh juice then fermented in stainless steel tanks.
Champagne yeasts are used to ensure an elegant flavour profile, before careful bottling and carbonation that delivers a delicate sparkle to the final product. The result? A memorable cider that captures the essence of the fruit. Unlike the handful of other craft cider producers on the market, SXOLLIE is also unique in offering single-varietal ciders.
“We started with Golden Delicious because it is the most-popular apple in Africa. It has all the right sweet-apple characteristics,” explains Laura, adding that the Packham Pears used in their pear cider – known as ‘perry’ – are crisp and acidic, leading to a dry style of perry. A cider made exclusively from Granny Smith apples is also in the pipeline, the tart thick-skinned varietal giving rise to a refreshingly dry cider. “We wanted to create ciders that are light, easy-drinking and sessionable,” explains Karol, who combines financial acumen as a chartered accountant with a passion for lifestyle brands. “We’d rather have something that you can savour in the sunshine, then reach to open another.” There will be plenty of that happening this summer, no doubt, but SXOLLIE is also making its presence felt in high-end restaurants across the country.
“Like wines, ciders and perry are designed to pair well with food,” adds Karol. “Golden Delicious is a perfect match with pork and Asian cuisine. Granny Smith is fantastic with a cheese course or oysters, while Packham Pear perry goes wonderfully with a sweeter dessert like chocolate brownies.” While the ciders may have their roots in rural orchards, the brand’s heart and soul is in the city. The blend of global trend and home-grown hustle is perfectly encapsulated in the striking SXOLLIE bottles, the elegant 330ml size adding a touch of urban sophistication. The eye-catching ‘X’ mosaic emblazoned across the bottle was inspired by pottery designs synonymous with southern Africa, yet also offers a nod to the brand’s Afropolitan roots in the urban jungle. “We wanted to capture something that is traditionally African, but to put it in a modern African concept,” explains Laura of the striking design and proud primary colours. It’s unashamedly African, yet with an eye on the horizon. A cider brand crafted in Mzansi, but ready to take on the world.
A brand ready for a hustle, with the cheek to take a chance and an eye on the prize. The proof? Take a look at that free-floating X heading swiftly towards the neck of each and every SXOLLIE bottle.
“That’s the Sxollie who rose to the top, the hustler who made it,” smiles Laura. This summer that could be you. So grab a bottle, pop the crown cap and embrace the Sxollie within.
SXOLLIE is available at premium liquor outlets nationwide, and at selected bars and restaurants in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. For more information visit www.sxolliecider.com