With the craft beer revolution in full swing, it may be difficult to believe that hard cider remains one of the most popular alcoholic beverages worldwide. In fact, in Great Britain, over half of all apples grown in the country are used to make cider. What happened to hard cider in the United States though? The team at Cheers All explains what you need to know about hard ciders, including where they went.
What Is Hard Cider?
Everyone knows what apple cider is; however, hard cider is not exactly the same thing. Hard cider is an alcoholic drink made from fermented apple juice. Interestingly, only Americans use the term hard cider to distinguish the drink kids have on a picnic from the adult version. For the rest of the world, cider refers to the alcoholic beverage made from fermented apples. Alcohol regulations in the U.S. classify hard cider as a beverage with an alcohol content up to seven percent. Usually, an alcohol content above seven percent classifies the beverage as apple wine. To be classified as hard cider in the United States, the product must contain a minimum 50 percent fresh pressed or concentrated apple juice.
It is impossible to know how long hard cider has been produced; however, experts believe that alcoholic cider was being produced by the Greeks and Romans. When the Romans invaded England around 55 B.C., they found the locals drinking cider because the alcohol in the cider killed off bacteria that invaded the drinking water. Fast forward a few hundred years and you will find European settlers drinking cider in America for the same reason. They also believed that cider could help treat and/or prevent illness. Unfortunately, the cider business suffered tremendously during Prohibition, with many apple orchards being burned to the ground. In the decades after Prohibition, hard cider never truly rebounded.
How Is Hard Cider Made?
Hard cider begins with apples gathered at the orchard and ground down into what is called “pomace.” The pomace is layered onto racks, and the racks are stacked then pressed to extract the juice. The juice is then fine strained to remove any apple pulp. Once the juice is extracted, it is fermented at temperatures varying between 40-60F. The lower temperature helps slow the fermentation process to retain the natural flavors and aroma.
Fermentation can occur with natural present yeasts or added yeast that feeds off the natural sugars in the apple juice. The result is alcohol and carbon dioxide. Before fermentation is complete, the juice is racked (siphoned) into new vats. During the final fermentation carbon dioxide will be let off, which naturally produces a protective layer on the juice, reducing air exposure. Cider is ready for drinking as soon as two months after fermentation is completed. It can also be aged up to three years. Since no one batch of apples pressed is guaranteed to produce the same tasting juice, cider makers will blend batches to produce a more consistent taste and mouthfeel.
The Cider Revolution in America
Although hard cider fell out of favor in America after Prohibition, craft brewers have created a cider revolution of late in the U.S. One reason for the recent cider boom is the lack of regulations in the U.S. Unlike most European countries that employ strict production regulations regarding the types of apples or sugar content, American craft cider makers have considerable creative license to blend old-world tradition with new methods. The result has led to a hard cider revolution in America. Hard cider drinkers have an ever-increasing variety of ciders from which to choose. Things to consider when choosing your hard cider include dry versus sweet; still versus carbonated; and funky versus crisp and clean.
If you are a craft cider drinker, visit the Cheers All website to purchase glassware and other merchandise geared toward cider lovers.