Cider in America Today

April 5, 2010

Between a shift in rural to urban populations, natural causes destroying apple trees, shady cider making practices, and Prohibition, cider lost its popularity in the United States. Brian Palmer for Slate describes the impact it had, “Most Americans now consider cider—if they consider it at all—to be in the same category as wine coolers or those enigmatic clear malt beverages: chemically suspect, effeminate alternatives to beer. And who can blame them? America’s mass-market ciders are comically weak and inexplicably fizzy. Many are made not from cider apples but from the concentrated juice of eating apples, which is a bit like making wine from seedless table grapes.” Admittedly, it is a little sad, as some of the homebrew forums discussions center around how to reproduce these products, as it is the only thing our culture knows instead of how to make quality craft cider.

This time, I’m going to look at where the industry is now, and where it could go from here.

  • In 1990, cider consumption was at 271,000 gallons. In 1996, cider consumption had risen to 5.3 million gallons. In 2004, cider consumption was over 10.3 million gallons. This shows that cider is gaining popularity again. Production in England is growing again, and new markets like China show promise for a cider market.
  • However, in 1999, cider accounted for only 0.2% of the total United States beer market. With the increase in demand, one would hope that there will be an increase in the market availability.
  • Small orchards are beginning to replant cider apples again, and cider houses are popping up. In Washington State alone, three new cideries opened in 2009.
  • Brian Palmer believes that quality ciders are beginning to develop, and that the English and French artisanal ciders are spreading to America, which are light yet complex, unlike beer. He goes on to say, “Cider makers haven’t yet been infected with whatever fever has propelled vintners toward unreasonable alcohol levels and garishly imbalanced flavor profiles. Unlike mead, that other resurgent libation of antiquity, cider pairs beautifully with food. And, because cider is an agricultural product, it can lay claim to the currently fashionable quality of ‘somewhereness.’”
  • Ben Watson is optimistic, stating, “Over the past few years, it has become easier and easier for cider lovers to find high-quality beverages made by region cider mills and wineries. And in the twenty-first century, blessed and encumbered as we are with our Information Age technologies, it’s nice to know that something as old and traditional as the art of cidermaking is not only alive and well, but flourishing” (page 28).

My sources include:

Also see:

  • Morgan, Joan and Richards, Alison. The New Book of Apples: The Definitive Guide to Apples, Including Over 2,000 Varieties. 2002
  • Juniper, Barrie B and Mabberley, David J. The Story of the Apple. 2006

One Response to “Cider in America Today”

  1. […] Cider in America Today Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Shirley Hughes’s top 10 picture book characters Posted by candlewineproject Filed in books Tagged: cidermaking, historical, Michael B Quinion, Quinion Leave a Comment » […]

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