Hard cider is a delicious beverage enjoyed by people around the world. In the USA, there are 752 cider manufacturers dispersed among 46 states and the District of Colombia. It can be dry or sweet, and can vary in temperature. Many people choose to drink hard cider instead of other alcoholic beverages because it is gluten free, and lower in alcohol than hard liquor and most wine. Hard cider’s popularity, however, is by no means new. In fact, its presence in America has existed since the first English settlers arrived. Many people don’t realize how big of an impact cider had on early American life and the country’s formation. What started with a few seeds transformed in to a drink that shaped a nation.
Shockingly, the only apple that existed in North America prior to European influence was the crabapple. Once the English arrived in America and found that the land was suitable to grow apples, they brought over other seeds from England. The New England soil easily grew apple trees, but was not as compatible with growing barley and wheat to make beer. For this reason, New Englanders drank mostly cider. It is estimated that early colonists drank an average of 35 gallons of cider per year. Since hard cider was so popular, apple orchards supported the colonists and their economy. People would even pay their bills with barrels of hard cider. Not only was it used for drinking and currency, but it also was used to preserve vegetables during the winter. By fermenting the cider even more, it became a vinegar that could keep produce good for long periods of time.
One of hard cider’s most notable roles in the country’s history was during the Revolutionary War. At the Battle of Concord, a man named Elias Brown sold hard cider to both the colonists and the British troops during lulls in battle. The troops drank hard cider throughout the entirety of the war. When water was scarce, cider was available! Another reason for choosing cider and other alcoholic beverages over water was the fact that many colonists believed water was unclean, and in those days it usually wasn’t sanitary. After the colonists won the Revolution and founded the United States, cider consumption continued to increase. Founding fathers such as John Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin were all connoisseurs of cider. John Adams drank a tankard of cider every day because he believed it promoted good health. George Washington won his election into the House of Burgesses in 1758 after serving up 144 gallons of hard cider and other beverages to voters. Thomas Jefferson took pride in American apples, and had his own orchards where he made hard cider. Benjamin Franklin wrote many one-liners about cider. One of his most famous was, “He that drinks his cider alone, let him also catch his horse alone.”
Later in the 1800’s, hard cider became the base of a political campaign. William Henry Harrison, a rugged frontiersman, was up for election of President in 1840. He was known as the “hard cider candidate” because he was a common man and cider was a common drink. He wasn’t too fancy to drink cider, and therefore wasn’t too fancy to interact with average Americans. The American people wanted a President to whom they could relate, and Harrison was portrayed as a man of the people. The fact that he was associated with one of America’s most popular drinks, boosted his popularity. He won the election in a landslide, and it is mainly due to the hard cider campaign.
Unfortunately, the hard cider industry took a hit when Prohibition banned alcohol in the United States. Although people made moon shine and other alcoholic drinks in their homes illegally, hard cider was more difficult to make in the home without being caught. The prohibition was eventually repealed in 1933, however the cider business didn’t recover until 60 years later. Beer and wine were the front runners for the most part of the 1900s, however modern-day alcohol consumers are beginning to change that.
With so many people going gluten free in the 21st century, beer is being cut from their diets. Hard cider is gluten free because it doesn’t contain wheat or barley, so health-conscious consumers are choosing it as their go-to beverage. New trends in craft alcoholic creations are also transforming the way people drink. Many people choose hard cider made locally over big-name beer companies. Some cider drinkers also prefer it because of its pleasant taste and lower alcohol content, making it a more relaxing and enjoyable choice. The rise in hard cider’s popularity is not just speculation. Since 2009, hard cider has been the fastest growing product in the alcohol industry. Even famous beer brands such as Anheuser-Busch InBev and Heineken are starting to make their own lines of hard cider. Cider sales in the US skyrocketed in 2014 to $2 billion. America is bringing back the drink that fueled a revolution. Only time will tell if hard cider can become the drink of choice in America like it once was, but it is clear that the industry has experienced a recent rebirth in popularity.
Don’t know if hard cider is for you? Come in for a tasting! Rebel Seed Cider is available for tasting throughout the year. Find out what all the buzz is about, and take a sip of American history! We’ll save you a glass.
-signed your favorite rebel,