Did you know that hard cider is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in the world?
It is older than America and even accompanied the Mayflower to the New World.
Hard cider’s roots are rich in American tradition. Because colonists preferred the drink over beer, wine, or liquor, apple orchards were planted all over the region to supply the demand.
Remember Johnny Appleseed? John Chapman, colloquially known as Johnny Appleseed, was born in 1774 and planted apple trees throughout Appalachian Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and beyond.
But it wasn’t because he was interested in apple pie or cobblers. His apples had one purpose: to make hard cider.
At its core, cider is simply plucking a particular blend of apples, juicing them, and then leaving the juice out at room temperature to allow it to ferment naturally. Of course, creativity and taste play a role, as well.
Hard cider fell out of favor during the late 1800s when beer became more popular with the influx of German and Eastern Europeans to the region. Coupled with Midwest expansion that provided more suitable land for growing hops and barley, beer outpaced hard cider, which was then mostly relegated to the countryside. Prohibition further pushed hard cider into the hills, away from the law.
Within the last couple of decades, though, hard cider has seen a resurgence in popularity. There are a number of national brands distributing craft hard cider, as well as many in Appalachia reviving the tradition.
Check out these hard cideries drawing on traditional practice to create delicious beverages rooted in history:
1. Hawk Knob Appalachian Hard Cider
Lewisburg, West Virginia
Taste the tradition at this Appalachian hard cidery that focuses on taste and quality. “At Hawk Knob, we hope to provide more than the cider we make; we hope to share a little bit of our culture and Appalachian heritage,” the website reads.
It continues to note that hard cider has existed before, during, and after prohibition in the region and throughout much of Appalachia.
“Many of these ciders were made from heritage apple varieties, wild apples, or a combination of the two. More often than not, these ciders were fermented and aged in used whiskey and bourbon barrels. While barrel aging and barrel-influenced ciders are becoming more common these days and are considered by many to be a modern trend, this style of cider-making is part of our cultural heritage. Much of what we do at Hawk Knob is an homage to the old-time cider crafters and our Appalachian roots.”
2. Flat Rock Cider Company
Hendersonville, North Carolina
Much like the “farm to table” moniker restaurants utilize, Flat Rock Cider Company employs the motto “Orchard to the Glass.” “We strive to support local agriculture by using fresh fruit straight from our community orchards. We love uplifting our neighbors and making great cider at the same time,” the website reads. “Our cider is made with apples from some of the oldest orchards in Henderson County — the largest apple-producing county in North Carolina.”
3. Wise Bird Cider Co.
This small, family-run business crafts ciders in a traditional style. The small-bath ciders are made with local apples from Kentucky, as well as Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Their impressive list of ciders includes:
● Pomme Pomme
● Rose Cider
● Commonwealth Gold
● Holy Beez Orchard
● Browning Orchard
● Royal Red, and many more
You can even enjoy hot mulled cider, which features Wise Bird cider steeped with cranberries, ginger, cinnamon, clove, and citrus (plus an optional shot of bourbon. Or, try “Tim’s Toddy,” which is mulled cider with bourbon, early grey or black tea, and lemon. Learn more at https://www.wisebirdcider.com/.
4. Appalachian Mountain Brewery
Boone, North Carolina
Appalachian Mountain Brewery creates both craft beer and hard cider. They even bottle their Southern Apple Hard Cider, inspired by their mountain orchards. “Southern Apple is a classic Semi-Dry cider that brings you that fresh picked experience like you’re coming right off of the orchard,” the website reads. “Crisp, clean, smooth, dry, and crafted to be incredibly sessionable, our Southern Apple cider makes for good times with friends all year round.”
Other varieties include Mystic Dragon, infused with green tea, rhubarb, and strawberries; Roots, named after the company’s mountain roots and infused with turmeric and ginger; Cider, which incorporates a splash of orange juice; and Scarlet Rose, infused with cinnamon and plums. Find more information at https://www.amb.beer/.