Cider: America's Forgotten Drink (And Its Bold Return)

Cider has a story – centuries of revelry, a brush with extinction, and a rebellious comeback. Discover forgotten flavors, oddball apples, and a drink with more personality than your average lager.

Cider: America's Forgotten Drink (And Its Bold Return)
A weathered wooden barrel overflowing with various colorful apples.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, an apple had only two fates: a sweet, crisp autumnal snack, or a slow, mushy death on the ground. Oh, the indignities a fallen apple faced! But then there was cider. It was America's drink, born in the New World yet with roots winding back through centuries in the orchards of olde England. Cider wasn't just a beverage; it was sustenance, currency, and a cause for knee-slapping revelry. Then, it nearly disappeared.

You might think cider was like an old pair of bellbottoms – trendy for a while, then destined for the back of the cultural closet. But cider's comeback story is as unexpected as its centuries-long reign.

The Reign of Cider

Picture colonial America: settlers didn't plant fields of barley and hops – they planted apples! Hard cider wasn't a weekend tipple; it was safer than dodgy 17th-century water supplies. Kids got watered-down cider for breakfast; farmers paid tithes and taxes with barrels of the fermented stuff. Johnny Appleseed, that wandering, barefoot fellow? He wasn't handing out pie-worthy fruit. His trees were for one thing: making cider.

The cider wasn't fancy— it was rough, ready, and occasionally a bit too potent. Think of cider like the wild west cousin of genteel European wines and ales. Yet, it was an essential thread that ran through colonial life.

You can guess how the story soured from here. Westward expansion meant more land for grain, not apples. That led to cheap beer, pushing cider to the dusty back shelf of taverns. Then, oh those spoilsports – Prohibition, World Wars, and the Great Depression. Those events nearly drove the stake into cider's heart. Orchards were razed for suburbs, and America became a nation of mass-produced, flavorless lagers. Cider looked deader than a worm in a tequila bottle.

But just when you least expect it, here come the little guys to the rescue. Turns out, cider never truly died in pockets of England, or in places like the Pacific Northwest, where apple growing stuck around. Small, passionate cider makers kept traditions alive, experimenting with apple varieties, fermenting methods, and adding a dash of modern panache absent in the mass-produced cider of the past.

Suddenly, cider wasn't just for crusty old farmers. There were ciders made with heritage apples, strange brews with wild yeasts, and even ciders dry enough for champagne lovers. Like craft beer a decade before, this new wave of cider was about flavor, story, and recapturing the rebellious spirit of its American birthright.

A tasting flight of ciders in various glasses, demonstrating the color variations found in different cider styles.
A flight of ciders in glasses, showcasing a range of colors from golden yellow to deep amber.

So, Where's Cider Now?

Think of cider as the oddball, older sibling of craft beer. It's got its own language (still versus sparkling, farmhouse funk versus clean and crisp), and it's attracting adventurous drinkers. Sure, you’ll find sweet cider next to the apple juice, but there's a world beyond that.

Cider is having a moment—a long, strange, and delightful one. It's showing up in fancy restaurants and dive bars alike. It's a beverage with stories to tell—stories of history, lost apples, dedicated cider makers, and a whole new generation of drinkers saying, “Hey, that looks interesting!” Every so often, the best comebacks are the ones you never saw coming.