roots in the United States stretch back to the early days of British colonisation,
and the pages of American history are littered with anecdotes about everyone
from farmers to politicians drinking fermented apple juice by the gallon. The second US president John Adams, for
example, reportedly drank a tankard every morning. Those apple trees Johnny
Appleseed grew? They were for drinking, not eating. Sometimes cider even was
used as currency.
Yet in the
19th Century, quality American cider all but disappeared, thanks to the
combination of a rising temperance movement, a massive influx of beer-brewing
Germans, and urbanisation, which made brew-ready facilities easier to come by
than open cider fields. Until recently, if you were lucky enough to find a bar
serving decent cider in the US, it probably came from England or France.
But in the
last few years, artisanal cider makers have begun to sprout up across the US, helping
to shed the drink’s image as the cloying stepchild of beer.
Vermont Hard Cider Company started out in Proctorsville in 1990, very few cider
producers existed. Today, the company’s Woodchuck cider is one of the most widely-found ciders on the
market, with common variations that cater to broad palates and a variety of very
good seasonal and limited edition ciders, including their private reserve
Barrel Select and Belgian White.
But as popular
as Woodchuck has been, the company’s greatest achievement has been paving the
way for the country’s other cider producers and helping the Green Mountain
State have a bigger hand in the cider renaissance than any other.
Vermont cidery, the Eden Ice Cider
Company in Newport produces two aperitif ciders and three complex ice
ciders, the latter of which are made by fermenting fresh frozen apple juice.
The Heirloom Blend ice cider is well balanced, with just the right amount of
sweetness and acidity.
available at several tasting
rooms throughout Vermont, including Burlington’s East Shore Vineyard
tasting bar at Shelburne Vineyard,
a 10-acre sustainable farm and vineyard. Shelburne also bottles a variety of wines
made from nine types of grapes, including riesling and marquette.
state might be second to Washington in terms of apple production, but is second
to none when it comes to the quality and quantity of craft cider producers. The
Hudson Valley, the heart of New York’s “apple belt”, now has a burgeoning cider alliance that has grown
from six to 10 members since 2013. Hicks Orchard, which became
the first orchard in the state to allow customers to pick their own fruit in
1905, is home to the Slyboro
Ciderhouse, which produces still, sparkling and ice ciders, including the
crisp, slightly spicy Old Sin.
Also in the
Hudson Valley, Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery likes to get creative with its
cider, blending its flagship Doc’s Draft Apple Cider with a variety of other
ingredients, such as pears, pumpkins and hops. In the warmer months, drink on Warwick
Valley’s patio overlooking the orchards, and in winter, relax inside the barn’s
tasting room, complete with wood-burning stoves.
further south in New York City is Tertulia,
an Asturian cider house in the West Village, where servers dish out tapas and
pour Spanish sidra the traditional
way – from over their heads.
Michigan is the
king of Midwest apples, producing more than any other state in the region, and Almar Orchards in Flushing is the among
the state’s best cider producers. From the two-ingredient JK’s Scrumpy Orchard
Gate Gold, which uses nothing but apple juice and yeast, to the lightly spiced JK’s
which adds syrup from the farm’s organic maple trees, Almar makes its ciders
using only organic ingredients grown onsite. But if you’re prepared to make the
80-mile trip northwest from Detroit, beware – owner Jim Koan said that “when [people]
call for directions we tell them to wear their boots, because this is a working
farm, not a tourist attraction”. The 500-acre farm allows visitors plenty of
time to stroll around the meadows and orchards before sampling cider at the small
tasting bar inside Almar’s farm market and bakery.
the largest city in Wisconsin, the AeppelTreow Winery
and Distillery is worth the 40-mile trip southwest to the town of Burlington. After
exploring the neighbouring Brightonwood Orchard – which
is home to more than 200 varieties of apples, including the wealthy, the winter
banana and other rare heirloom apples – visitors can pop into AeppelTreow’s
tasting room for free samples of up to five beverages, including wine, cider
and whiskies made onsite. Try the Sparrow Spiced Cider, a semi-dry, slightly
bubbly blend of heirloom and modern apples with a generous mix of cinnamon,
allspice and cardamom.
With their abundance
of apples and shared affinity for artisanal products, it’s no surprise that Oregon
and Washington produce some of the country’s most innovative and aggressive
ciders. Salem, Oregon’s Wandering
Aengus Ciderworks produces some of the region’s strongest, including the
mildly tart Golden Russet spring varietal, which is a whopping 9.8% alcohol. On
the last Friday of every month (or by appointment), visitors can sample up to eight
products at the onsite tasting room.
miles north in Portland, Bushwhacker
Cider offers more than 100 different bottles from all over the country, as
well as imported bottles from as far as Lithuania and New Zealand. It also
produces a rotating cast of house ciders, including some aged in gin and rum
in Washington’s famed Yakima Valley produces cider as tasty and as varied as
anywhere in the nation. With nearly a dozen varieties – everything from Bourbon
barrel aged to dry-hopped – this award-winning producer hosts regular tasting events
throughout Washington and along the US west coast.