Hard cider has been around for thousands of years…and has
recently gained in popularity again. Jason Newell, the manager of wines &
spirits at our
Chanhassen store, shares some must-try ciders and the history behind this
refreshing alternative to beer.
It is only natural that the apple, one of the
oldest cultivated fruits in the world, also produces hard cider, one of the
most popular fermented drinks in history.
First recorded by the Romans in 60 BC, cider-making
history reads like the history of the development of Europe. Romans, Celts,
Moors, Vikings and Saxons all play a part in cider’s legacy. As armies invaded
and conquered regions, they would bring their culinary delights with them. They
would also find new types of food and drink in the conquered lands. When those
cultures were driven out or moved on to conquer new lands, they would take
their new discoveries with them.
Britain in the 1600s, before the Industrial
Revolution, was cider’s golden age. The climate in Britain is ideal for growing
apples, and at the time fermented drinks were safer to drink than water. The
Pilgrims brought apples and their love of cider to the New World, where cider’s
popularity reigned until the Industrial Revolution. During this period, people
moved off farms and into cities to work in the factories. At the same time,
there was a mass movement of German immigrants to the Americas, bringing their
love of beer and expert knowledge of brewing. That was the end of cider’s
In the past three years, cider’s popularity in the
U.S. has increased dramatically. Before that, it was rare to find cider on a
restaurant menu and we had only a couple of brands in our stores. Today we
carry more than 25 types and it’s hard not to find at least one on tap at any worthy
restaurant. The styles range from traditional European dry to very sweet. Most
ciders are gluten free with 4-7% ABV and a great alternative to craft beer if
you’re looking for something a little sweeter.
In order to achieve their signature flavors, cider
producers press juice from different varieties of apples. One of my favorites is
Ireland, which boasts the use of 17 varieties of apples that are aged in giant
oak barrels for up to two years. Strongbow
Cider uses over 50 types of apples and has the largest alcohol holding tank
in the world, which holds 15 million gallons of juice. Angry Orchard has at least 6 different
flavors that range from traditional to unique, flavored with ginger, cinnamon,
elderflower and even hops for all you IPA lovers.
I like to look for local small-production hard
ciders. They tend to have fewer additives and utilize apple varietals that grow
in the region. Loon Juice
is crafted just south of Rochester, Minnesota, at Four Daughter’s Winery. They
use the Honeycrisp
apple variety that was developed at the University of Minnesota. Loon Juice
features a wonderful balance of sweet and crisp, not to mention the coolest
name for a Minnesota hard cider.
Try a variety of ciders to find the type of style
that fits your taste. We always have a selection available in the Pick Your Own
Six Pack section of our store. Hard cider can be drunk as-is, out of the can or
bottle – otherwise, try it over ice or warmed up. If you’re feeling adventurous,
try mixing up the Ciderac Cocktail, one of my favorite creations.
- 1 ½ oz. Bulleit Rye
- 2-3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
- Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Hard
- 1 Honeycrisp Apple Sliced
- Fill a tall glass with ice.
- Add Bulleit Rye and Peychand’s Bitters.
- Top with Angry Orchard Hard Cider.
- Garnish with a slice of Honeycrisp apple.