Three intrepid members of your DCBeer staff are headed to Chicago next week for CiderCon 2014. Members of the United States Association of Cider Makers (USACM), the country's hard cider industry group, will gather in the Windy City for educational workshops, tours, tastings, and a trade show. The focus of this conference's theme is stewardship. Cider’s popularity is sweeping the nation (and many of your favorite writers' fridges). From 2007 to 2012, hard cider revenues more than tripled in the U.S., from $178 million to $601 million, according to the market research firm IBIS World. Nearly $3 million of that is speculated to have been sold in Crispin Brownslane cans at Smoke and Barrel on Friday nights in the past 18 months (I kid, I kid).

“Cider is quickly setting itself apart from the rest of the beverage industry,” said Mike Beck, owner of Uncle John’s Cider Mill in Michigan, and current USACM president. “With this increased visibility, comes a greater sense of responsibility. We chose stewardship as our theme in order to focus on how to grow our industry together in the best way possible.”

The USACM business meeting will include election of directors and officers, and celebration of the organization’s one year anniversary. Workshops will focus on production, marketing, research and apple growing. Sensory tasting seminars include cider and cheese pairings, apple brandy, and ice cider. Among the nearly 300 attendees includes representatives from the most recognized U.S. cider brands as well as small craft cider makers and orchardists.

Special guests include two notable authors. Britain’s most successful beer writer Pete Brown will be on hand to sign his celebrated new collaboration, “World’s Best Ciders,” the first book to showcase the global history and recent resurrection of cider. Plus, Canadian author Claude Jolicoeur will sign his new book, “The Cider Maker’s Handbook,” which takes readers on a journey from branch to bottle.

So with thanks to the USACM who have extended media passes to our staff, we're looking forward to finding out more about hard cider. Be sure to follow along with us on Twitter and Instagram. So what are your questions about hard cider? What are your questions about Chicago? Where should we check out in Chicago? Let us know in the comments or tweet at us!