Mention hard cider ten years ago and you might have been presented with some confused looks. But recently in the United States we’ve seen a surge in hard cider consumption and the revival of hard cider is officially underway. With this industry on the increase, cider industry pros and aficionados will be filling the Waterfront Marriott in Baltimore for the highly anticipated CiderCon 2018. In a bid to pay homage to the USA's hard cider revolution and the brilliant existence of the CiderCon, which was created to bring about positive changes to cider making, cider fruit production and the cider market, we’re celebrating the best US ciders makers on the market.
Now us Brits might be confused when we hear the phrase ‘Hard Cider’ and with good reason. What the British call cider, the Americans usually call hard cider. Reserving the word cider instead for non-alcoholic varieties (typically unfiltered apple juice to us Brits!). So, here’s the low down of the best US cider makers in case you decide to brave the uncharted world of US hard cider.
Justin Heilenbach, Bryan Holmes and Kris Nelson founded Citizen Cider in 2010 on a hunch and some good old-fashioned hard work. Kris was working as a wine salesman, Bryan as a chemist and Justin as a small farmer. All discontent for one reason or another, they started pressing sweet cider in Kris’s barn and fermenting test batches of hard cider in Bryan’s basement. As it happens, they discovered that their ideas about hard cider translated into some pretty unique and interesting finished products.
In 1881, the Schilling family founded Schilling Spice Company in San Francisco. With a goal to bring pure, natural spices to everyone in the West and one hundred thirty years later Schilling Cider carries on this tradition of premium quality. Today, most of American hard cider is produced on the East Coast although many of the apples come from Washington State. Friends shouldn't let friends drink mass-market ciders, says Colin Schilling, master cider-maker and founder of Schilling Cider and we wholeheartedly agree!
Snowdrift Cider has grown apples, pears, cherries, and grapes in the Wenatchee Valley since the 1940s. The orchard of today was planted in the late 1960s and Peter and Mary Ann started farming it in 1974. In 2003 they got hit with the cider making bug. Between discovering a new world of ‘lost’ apple varieties and some coaching from one of the United Kingdom’s premier cider makers, they found their way into the world of artisan hard cider.
How did Ed Gibson, an Englishman and former cider bar owner in the heart of England's cider country, wind up in Austin, Texas? Who knows, really? All that matters is he brought with him an encyclopedic knowledge of cider, a great recipe, and an eye for branding. Ed quickly found Mark King, a man who understood the business side of beer and liquor better than anyone around. In 2012, Ed and Mark produced their first cider, Gold Top. With each new release, they brought more newly-minted hard cider drinkers into the fold.
Though the “Reverend” part is slightly tongue-in- cheek, Rev Nat’s is absolutely serious about spreading the gospel about hard cider. It all started in 2004 with an unknown variety of apple being grown in a neighbor’s yard, a bountiful harvest, and a cider experiment in the basement. He has never looked back. West says cider is “the apple’s deepest purpose realized,” and has spent the intervening years experimenting, perfecting and educating people about its many glories.
California Cider Company is the first family owned cider in the US. They’ve been making ACE ciders since 1993 in the beautiful Sebastopol area of Sonoma County California just north of San Francisco. Located among some of the world’s most renowned wine makers and apple orchards their ciders are loved in America.
In 2014, Smith & Forge Hard Cider was born. Boasting the “Made Strong” slogan on all of its cans, Smith & Forge takes a head-on approach to its hard ciders, “fermented in the tradition of days gone by”. Wearing a rich amber color and 6% ABV, Smith & Forge Cider offers a distinct, not-too-sweet taste and crisp, refreshing finish. Smith & Forge Hard Cider is gluten-free.
Through the marriage of English traditions and Northwest micro-cidery techniques, Portland Cider Company was established in 2012 by Jeff & Lynda Parrish. Lynda, an expatriate from the Somerset region of England (the Mecca of cider), married Oregon native Jeff, inspiring the English-style ciders crafted from Northwest apples Portland Cider is known for.
Three childhood friends banded together with meager savings and a love of craft brewing and cider to launch 2 Towns Ciderhouse in 2010. This trinity seeks to advance the craft cider industry through mixing both old and new cider techniques and experimentation. They offer a number of flagship ciders, as well as a variety of seasonal and experimental brews to please every palate.
Gregory Hall founded Virtue Cider in 2011. In the spring of 2011, Hall left Goose Island Beer company and embarked on a two-month pilgrimage to study the craft of cider, touring and tasting at top cidermakers in England and France. He brought his extensive experience and innovative style to launch Virtue Cider. In 2013, Hall brought the cidermaking venture as close as possible to one of the United States' best apple-growing states of Michigan and launched Virtue Cider in Fennville, Michigan.
Angry Orchard was developed over a span of 15 years, as they explored apples and techniques that would produce a cider of highest quality. Their search for ingredients ultimately led to Europe, where they discovered that the pairing of culinary apples from Italy's Alpine foothills and French bittersweet apples from Normandy was a winner.
There you have it; an interesting array of HARD cider being produced all over the US. This is just a small sample of some of the key players within the cider industry, that are changing the way people view cider on the other side of the Atlantic. Here at Crafty Nectar, we are always keen to see fresh ideas and approaches to the best way of promoting all types of cider, from all over the cider-world! We love how big cider has become in the US and credit should be given to all the people involved within the industry over there, for putting that buzz back into cider! We can’t wait to see what happens at this year’s CiderCon…