With wine, beer and liquor all having a resurgence in the craft arena, it was only a matter of time before cider, a beverage that’s been made since at least 55 BC when the Romans discovered its production in Britain, would go the craft route as well – it doesn’t hurt either that cider is gluten-free; as that craze sweeps the nation, cider’s traveling right along with it. And if you’re a fan of well made dry wines, crisp sparklers and delicious craft beer, cider, known in the U.S. as hard cider, is almost certainly another beverage you should add to your repertoire.
Cider is pretty much exactly what you think it is, fermented apple juice, but while the concept is simple enough — just like wine is, simply put, fermented grape juice — every bottle is different; there are several different styles of cider out there, from the very dry to the very sweet and from the super carbonated to the not so bubbly. So knowing which one you may want to seek out starts with knowing the type of alcohol you usually enjoy. This is where your preference for wine and beer comes in.
Just like all wines are not created equal, neither are ciders. While traditionally cider was made from 100% fresh squeezed apple juice, nowadays cider can be made from concentrate as well, with additional sugar added to the mix in order to raise not just the alcohol level, but also the beverage’s sweetness — we Americans tend to love sweet things.
Many of the larger national brands you may have seen — like Strongbow, Woodchuck, Stella Artois Cidre, Smith and Forge, Magners, Angry Orchard and Crispin — fall on the sweeter side. These ciders often taste more candy apple-y, similar to that green apple jolly rancher flavor you may have come in contact with as a kid. There’s a whole market out there for ciders in this style. In fact, four of these sweeter brands account for 70% of the entire cider market, so it’s clear a lot of people like them. But while we also enjoy a very apple-y cider once in a while, it’s not our typical go to. That being said, if you find that you are attracted to sweeter white wines, like Riesling and Moscato, or reds that have a fruity berry flavor, and if you aren’t really a fan of hoppy, bitter and strong flavored beers, these ciders will be a match made in heaven for you.
However, if you’re more a fan of dry, crisp wines, tannins and even brut Champagne, not to mention pilsners and IPAs, then craft ciders are the place for you. While most craft ciders can’t be found nationally, much like boutique wines and craft beers, we’ve found seeking out the ones in your region can have a huge payoff. These ciders remind us of dry, delicious Champagne — speaking of, they’re often bottled similarly — making them a type of cider you could even use to create a delicious mimosa.
Cider’s history in the U.S. is tied very closely to the history of farming, specifically the planting of orchards, which makes New England and the East Coast the most prolific location for these craft cideries. That being said, while craft cider is most easily found in these locales, almost anywhere with thriving orchards is bound to also have a burgeoning craft cider scene; Michigan is a great example. On top of this, many people are beginning to make cider at home, since all you need is access to fresh apples or juice. After that, the process is similar to making wine or beer.
To get you started, here are a few craft cideries we dig:
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