Want the fastest history lesson of your life on the history of cider? We will take you through centuries faster than the Delorean. Ready? Set?
The Start of Apple Culture: Who Invented Hard Cider?
The history of cider digs deep. How deep? We are talking 1300 B.C. That’s Egyptian pharaoh deep. Ramses was expanding the growth of apples. This blends into the growth of orchards in Caesar’s timeline. Apples were becoming a part of culture. Crab apples were being replaced with more friendly varieties. And you know what? They were making cider to drink as time shifted towards the end of the B.C. period. Like other alcoholic beverages such as mead, cider was discovered by accident and replicated, feeling the effects of drunkenness from natural fermentation without a word or understanding to describe it.
As understanding of alcoholic beverages expanded in the 13th century, and the need for clean liquids to drink was apparent, cider took over. Time passed. In the 15th century, Medieval folks were using cider as a form of currency. Individuals were drinking their merry way and making cider the drink of choice. Take this into the pilgrim era where cider and the apple seeds themselves were taking a journey from England to the New World, now the United States. Cider had hit the shores and only time would tell if it caught on in this new strange place.
Expansion of Cider in the US
Early America struggled to expand their apple orchards, needing more bees and bodies to spread the wealth. Those early colonists identified the issue and brought over swarms of bees to enact the level of pollination needed for thriving orchards. Time continued to turn and orchards developed right into the mid-18th century.
Fun fact, our founding fathers were avid cider producers, having their own apple orchards for cider making. If the leaders of the United States wanted cider, what do you think everyone else wanted? Cider!
John Chapman understood the notion that apples are easy to grow and fruitful! He took the apple seed at the cusp of the 19th century and spread it like a bad disease. Johnny Appleseed’s goal was to end hunger by increasing the number of fruit trees, but he inevitably made sure no one went home thirsty! Apples were abundant and cider was living easy. But, like all things, not everything can be rosy forever.
Cider Hits a Fork in the Road
Future immigrants from Germany and other European regions brought their love for beer into the US into the 20th century. Barley grew well on US soil. Beer production became cheaper and the urbanization of the United States only drove the cost of beer down further. Cider was losing its popularity to this new brew and was not becoming any cheaper to produce.
In conjunction, that pesky Temperance movement rolled through. Some weren’t drinking. Some were burning their orchards. Sure, beer was taking a similar hit to production, but orchards were slimmer. Bees and apples are more expensive to keep around. Beer was able to recover faster due to the lower cost of products, urbanization, and a general shift in consumer behavior was taking shape from the early 19th century right into the mid-19th century.
To show the general shift in consumer preference, we have the 1840s presidential election to look upon. Even back then, hard cider was being seen and referenced as rustic and something “real Americans” drank versus. the Democrats who drew their votes from urban centers and immigrants. Yes, hard cider was used as a political tool to divide the country!
Where is Hard Cider Today?
The 20th century rolled on and hard cider remained but not at a large scale. What brought back the resurgence of hard cider? Ironically beer and the microbrewing culture. As craft beer began to grow, larger droves of people were bringing their small-batch cider operation into the public light. Now, let’s not discount those orchards and families in the 21st century that were making cider and holding onto recipes passed down from generation to generation. The world of alcoholic consumption was mainstream enough to maintain a space for cidermaking. And since the mid-1990s, hard cider has been on growing! We all know where we are today in the cider world, and we couldn’t be more grateful! We are bringing back our roots and making clean craft products for the masses.
We mustn’t discount the deep culture of cidermaking in Europe and how it didn’t erode like it did in the states. This culture not only kept the traditions alive through the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, but it allowed cider enthusiasts in the United States to access perfected methods of working several apple varieties for their unique flavor profiles. Perhaps, without this education and outlet for US cidermakers to access, we wouldn’t be progressing as far as we are today. Understanding the mastery in Europe and taking that into US experimenting, we are living in our own cider revolution.
Any part of history we should expand on? Want to learn how cider is made? Let us know!