Longer evenings are upon us, giving us more time to linger over summer nights with cocktails, glasses of wine, or beers. While any of these are perfectly suited for summer sipping, there is a trendy “new” adult beverage on the block, hard cider.
Hard cider is actually an old school beverage to the United States. The first settlers arrived in New England to find only the sour crabapple tree and quickly began requesting new settlers bring apple seeds so they could begin making their beloved English cider in the new land. Soon enough, early colonists were able to brew cider practically anywhere in New England, mostly because apple trees are widely sustainable and can grow virtually anywhere. During this time, hard cider was the number one most popular beverage, even thought to be safer to drink than water due to the bacteria found in water. And yes, even kids drank a dulled down low alcohol version, “Ciderkin.” Forefather Thomas Jefferson was said to chug the potent libation regularly while attempting to grow a vineyard for wine, and Sam Adams, known mostly as a beer man, would drink over a gallon of cider every morning.
In the 1900’s Eastern Europeans brought with them a love for the taste of beer. This worked well with immigrants moving to the Midwest where the soil is more suitable for barley growing. Cider began to decrease in popularity. In the 1920’s to prevent production, Prohibitionists would burn fields of apple trees to the ground. After Prohibition hard cider never really recovered in the United States (although it has continued to be a popular beverage in Europe); only recently are we seeing a countrywide cider rival. In fact, cider has seen a 50% sales increase worldwide.
Types of Cider Today
While there are many great varieties that have long been imported from Europe, most notably Spain, there are cider masters and breweries popping up all over the country and with each orchard and cider master comes a different style and technique. Dry ciders are for the toughest cider drinkers, as this style gives a more acidic flavor, less body, and often inherits a strong oak taste from the barrels in which they are aged. Dry ciders are wonderful with creamy cheeses and spicy dishes like curry. Off dry ciders have more body than a dry cider and pair well with almost any food, but best with fattier meats like sausages, and steaks. These ciders can almost have a champagne-like flavor, with lots of bubbles, and pear and floral notes. Semi dry and semi sweet are very similar and often used interchangeably when pairing with foods. (The big difference being that semi dry is a little less sweet than semi sweet.) These ciders have stronger apple flavors than the others and tend to have a hint of spice. Pair these with vegetarian dishes. Finally we have farmhouse cider. Farmhouse cider is made without as much processing as the other types, leaving it with a homier, almost dusty flavor. These ciders hold their own with meat dishes and stronger cheeses.
Not sold on cider? Try any of these nationally and locally known ciders and tell us what you think!