Cider has been an American tradition since the birth of our nation. Our country’s indigenous apple trees, mostly crab apples, were ideal for making it. Colonists also brought Old World varieties to plant on their arrival.
It was considered much safer than water to drink and was even consumed by children. Orchardist and horticulturalist Tom Burford has said he believes Americans drank as much cider per capita in the 18th century as they do soft drinks today.
So, where did its popularity go?
During Prohibition, orchardists switched their marketing strategy from cider being what the doctor ordered to the famous saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and started growing apples for eating. The repeal of Prohibition allowed orchards to again focus on cider, but the return of its popularity has been a long process.
Cider, like craft beer, is enjoying revival. But here are a few things you need to know.
Not all cider is super sweet: Cider is made from a blend of juices from different apple varieties. The categories of apples include sweet, sharp, bittersweet, and bittersharp. If you like tart flavors, look for Basque ciders from Spain. They are still and can be described as briney and sour. Another great style description to look for is Farmhouse, these ciders can be wild fermented and tend to be dryer and offer a bit of funk.
Ciders come in a wide variety of carbonation levels: Some ciders are still, with no carbonation (think wine). Others are as bubbly as champagne. Champagne ciders are exquisite. They typically come from France and are a wonderful substitute to champagne. They are a bit sweet, but balanced. The most famous still ciders come from Spain, but there are also some wonderful cask ciders that are bottled still from England.
Some of the best ciders on the market right now are made right here in Virginia: In 2012, Virginia became the first state to have an official Cider Week proclaimed by the governor. Cider Week Virginia is Nov. 11-20, 2016 and The Birch will be celebrating by hosting an 11 Hours of Virginia Cider on Friday, Nov. 18, featuring at least five Virginia cideries. The reviews this issue are also all ciders made in Virginia.
Read the reviews:
Foggy Ridge Cider | ABV: 7%
Blue Bee Cider | ABV: 8.3%
Potter’s Craft Cider | ABV: 8.5%
Albermarle CiderWorks | ABV: 9.1%