The Cider Jawns Are Paving A New Path
The Philadelphia-based pair wants to show the world what cider can—and should—be.
Ashley Johnson and Jasmine Mason first met in college, where Jasmine earned degrees in political science and law (“I thought I was going to be the next Matlock”) and Ashley received her degree in marketing and the music industry (“I thought I was going to be the next Diddy”). But instead of imitating others, they decided to start something brand new: The Cider Jawns, a social media movement changing the face of the American cider industry through influencing and eventually making their own cider. Their fresh take on fermentation and enthusiastic approach to all things cider make them one of the most exciting accounts to follow on Instagram, so you should probably follow them ASAP (but keep reading first).
“Jawn” /jôn/: Philadelphia slang that’s used as an all-purpose substitute for literally anything—a singular or plural person, place, thing, or event that can’t be specifically described.
Jasmine and Ashley are having the time of their jawns. Or is it the jawn of their lives? Either way, we all met in February in Richmond, Virginia at CiderCon, the American Cider Association’s (ACA) annual trade show and conference. The Cider Jawns were there as Kulture scholarship recipients, provided by a joint effort between ANXO Cider, Beer Kulture, and the ACA.
Jasmine believes that their underwritten attendance was fated to happen. The pair were already planning on attending as media, but once they realized the scholarship covered travel and lodging as well as study materials and exam costs to become Certified Cider Professionals and Certified Pommeliers™, their minds were made up. “We were late [to apply],” she laughs. “But I was confident—we have to get it.” And of course, they did.
That’s not the beginning of their cider education journey, however. Their shared love of cider began in 2018 when they happened upon Pour the Core in Philly, an annual hard cider festival. “We looked around and a lot of the attendees were women, but there weren’t a lot of women of color as vendors,” explains Jasmine. Ashley agrees, noting that while there wasn’t much diversity in vendors, there were plenty of Black women and other women of color enjoying themselves as attendees. The discrepancy spurred them to action.
“We were inspired to take something we enjoyed and bring representation of women of color to the hard cider and brewing industries,” says Ashley. They launched their Cider Jawns Instagram shortly after to “share our cider journey and take our community along for the ride,” she says.
The pandemic stifled their ability to visit orchards and pop-up events in person, but did little to stop them from connecting virtually with the cider community at large. Their first collaboration in 2021, in partnership with Pennsylvania’s Ploughman Farm Cider, was created specifically for Barrel & Flow Fest, the United States’ first Black arts and craft beer festival. That collab “changed everything,” according to Jasmine. “That was the turning point for us.”
Ashley points out that while many craft cideries currently focus on dry ciders, that doesn’t necessarily appeal to as many Black drinkers who may less familiar with the industry. “Black people like sweet drinks,” she says, describing her and Jasmine’s similar palate hurdles in approaching and appreciating the diversity of ciders over the years. “Our taste in cider has changed completely… Once we started tasting craft cider, local cideries, we’re like ‘Oh my gosh, this is really dry!’ But the more and more we immersed ourselves in cider culture, we grew to love dry ciders. We want that same experience for our community, because they’ve only been exposed to sweet.”
Many people new to cider don’t realize the range of flavors and finishes, Ashley goes on to explain. That’s part of the Cider Jawns’ goals: To expand cider’s reach, educate cider drinkers, and expose Black Americans to the wide variety of craft ciders in the U.S. and beyond. Sharing their own journey in real time allows them to grow transparently alongside their followers.
“There’s not a lot of Black women in cider,” she says. “We’re trying to do a good thing… We’re trying to pave the way, and how interesting and fun would it be to see two Black women in Philly doing that in a predominantly white industry?”
Despite the current whiteness of cider, both Jawns say the industry overall has embraced their efforts, from the ACA’s efforts towards inclusivity to offers of collaborations. But it’s less about finding a place at the existing table—they want Black cider makers and lovers to be able to appreciate the beverage in their own space. Eventually, they’d like to build their own as part of these efforts.
“Do we have a five year plan? Not fleshed out,” laughs Ashley, explaining that opening a physical taproom and launching a dedicated cider line are non-negotiable parts of their future. There are very few Black-owned cideries in the U.S., and even fewer owned by Black women. With a lack of experienced mentors in the cider space, the pair says they often have to look elsewhere for guidance.“We don’t have spaces for inspiration in cider, no. But in beer? Yes,” says Jasmine.
Ashley explains that despite connecting with a few other Black women in cider, it’s not nearly enough. “That’s why we want to create it,” she says. They’re not sure when, but they’re on their way.
Prohibitchin' is made possible by our wonderful sponsors! Hopsbauer is a woman-owned hops brokerage company based in San Diego who brings the best hops from around the world to craft breweries. Find out more by visiting Hopsbauer.com.
Additional sponsorship thanks to Reverend Nat's Hard Cider in Portland, Oregon. Rev Nat's is known for making the most unusual ciders that no one else will make, such as the limited release Cider For My Family, now available for direct shipping to 42 states. Learn more at revnats.com, and thanks for their generous support!
What I’m Reading
I love short stories, and each one in The Ones Who Don't Say They Love You: Stories by Maurice Carlos Ruffin cuts deeper than the last. Each set in New Orleans, the people and visuals he’s able to paint in just a few pages, or even just a few words, flitter between heartbreaking to heroic and a myriad of other emotions. Check it out at your local library or indie bookstore.
What I’m Writing
Still my cider book! At some point, I’m going to need to stop drinking ciders to write the damn thing, so this is your last chance to send me your recommendations for ciders that may appeal to beer drinkers. Please?
Two Truths & A Lie (And Yes, A Fun Fact)
In last month’s newsletter, I decided to make this section a little more interactive by playing “Two Truths and a Lie.” As a refresher, here were the options:
I’m extremely afraid of heights/falling, which is weird for someone who’s nearly six feet tall.
My favorite pizza toppings are pineapple, ham, and jalapeño.
My birthday is the 324th most common birthday in the U.S.
Last chance to guess before I reveal the answer below!
TRUTH—in hindsight, perhaps trekking to Machu Picchu, where I had not one, but several acrophobic-inspired panic attacks, was not the most romantic choice for our honeymoon.
LIE! I’m sure pineapple on pizza is ~*fine*~ for some people, but my personal favorite toppings are pepperoni and black olives, although I am a huge fan of ham and jalapeño too. I like pretty much any pizza as long as there aren’t any raw onions, which are the bane of my existence and destroyer of delicious things.
TRUTH—Google it if you are so inclined, and feel free to send this Taurus a birthday gift.
And now your fun fact for today: did you know that some fruits and vegetables contain a protein that mimics pollen? I found this out a few years ago when I Googled “why does my mouth itch when I eat apples?” Turns out, people who are sensitive to pollen (like me) can experience seasonal allergy-like symptoms when eating certain raw foods (like apples). Thankfully, in my case it’s very mild, but also Mildly Interesting. Bodies are weird, man.
Do you know of a woman or non-binary person working in beverage alcohol who hasn’t seen the spotlight—and should? Nominate them for a future feature!