Cider is having an American moment – thanks to a new generation of crafters

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TeaThe first time Peter Yee tried Basque cider, it struck him like a bolt of lightning. His experiences as a wine buyer made him think that cider was sweet, simple and did not pair well with food. But this one was different – ​​aromatic, dry and complex, everything he had expected from a fine wine.

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“It took me 25 years to be in the wine industry to understand that this is the taste I’ve been looking for all my life,” he says.

The fermentation was natural to Yi, a Korean American who made kimchi and Korean rice wine. He became obsessed with creating this style of cider in America, eventually founding Brooklyn Cider House With his sister Susan.

He is not alone. Craft cider-making has boomed in the US in recent years, with new makers arriving across the country. Americans are drinking 10 times more cider than they were a decade ago, says Michelle McGrath, executive director of American Cider Association (ACA). Small brands are now the hottest segment of the industry; According to Nielsen’s recent cider market review, regional cider market share increased to 51% in early 2022, up from 29% in 2018.

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And as the industry expands, it is becoming more diversified. Today’s cider drinkers are young, they come from different backgrounds, and they want to make wine made by people who look like them. In turn, Asian, Black and Latinx cider makers are experimenting with new flavors and methods that celebrate their culture, while making connections to land and agriculture in an industry that has often overlooked their contributions.

For Jose Gonzalez Sr., a real estate broker in Salem, Oregon, the cider-making journey began five years ago when he and his wife went to a cider festival in San Diego. He liked what he tasted, but something was missing. “My wife said it would be nice if we had ciders with flavors like lemon, tamarind and Jamaica. [hibiscus]”Gonzalez recalls.

The Gonzalez family of La Familia (left to right): JJ, Soleil, Jazelle, Armani, Shani and Jose. Photograph: Credit Brian Hayes Statesman Journal
cider on a table
La Familia specializes in ciders inspired by agua fresca flavors like guava and tamarind. Photo: Courtesy of La Familia Cider

He asked his mother Lourdes to make batches of tamarind and hibiscus agua fresca – a traditional Mexican soft drink made from fruit, water, sugar and lemon juice. He mixed the agua with bottles of hard cider and liked the taste. Today, they sell La Familia-brand hard ciders flavored with guava, tamarind, green apple, and hibiscus in their Salem tasting room and throughout Oregon.

Gonzalez says the brand has a large Latinx following, as well as people who appreciate craft beer culture and like to try something new. His son Jose Gonzalez Jr., better known as JJ, likes to see people who look like him and talk about trips to Costa Rica or salsa dancing.

“People love it,” Jay Jay says. “They tell us we are different.”

history of cider

The first recorded mention of cider dates back thousands of years, when the Romans wrote of a Celtic people who made the drink from local crab in 55 BC, according to one University of Washington Cider History, This ancient drink has long brought communities together to harvest, make and drink it, and while more traditionally associated with places such as the UK, France and Spain, the Americas also have a long cider history dating back to the 1600s. The decade began with the American colonists.

But the Cider story wouldn’t have been possible without people of color. “In our nuggets of the woods, like barbecue, slaves were responsible for brewing and making African American cider,” says Tristan Wright, founder of Lost Boy Cider in Virginia.

a glass of cider
People of color have been at the heart of cider’s long history. Photo: Alison Morgan

In Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, Jupiter Evans was a skilled slave cider maker, whose life was extended In a Civil Eats Profile, Japan and Korea share a long history of fermented foods and beverages, and apples are revered in Japanese culture. Today, cider apples are chosen largely by the Latinx workforce that sustains the industry, says Robbie Honda, who owns Tanuki Cider,

A fourth-generation Japanese American, Honda grew up playing in his great-grandfather’s 100-year-old Gravenstein apple orchard planted in Sebastopol, a small town in northern Sonoma County. Between his love of sustainability and reading Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he talked his late brother into launching a cider brand in 2014.

Their Santa Cruz cider relies on the same Newtown Pippin apples grown for Martinelli, the brand famous for its sweet, non-alcoholic sparkling apple cider served to kids and teetotalers during the holidays. By paying a premium for apples, Honda’s brand is helping to keep the apple growing culture alive in Watsonville, California, where most orchards have been replaced with more profitable crops like grapes or strawberries.

“What it means symbolically … to save those trees and not break them down to plant berries or grapes or weeds and preserve that orchard and the historical narrative, which is interesting to me,” he says.

As well as reviving the link to history and land, today’s cider-makers and devotees are introducing new consumers to the breadth of cider’s offering.

The lines between cider and grape wine, both made by fermenting the fruit, are blurred. of oakland Redfield Cider Bar + Bottle Shop There are many types of local cider, including some made from natural winemakers. “What we’re excited about is that the natural wine world has really embraced cider,” says Mike Rees, who owns the bar with his wife, Olivia Maki.

family sitting on stage
Peter Yee of Brooklyn Cider House with his sister and co-owner, Susan Yee, and their daughter, Olivia Yee, an assistant cider maker. Photograph: Courtesy of YCOMSPACE/Brooklyn Cider House

Malaika Tyson, known as the Chicago half-couple cider sums, says that cider falls into two general camps: dried or tart made from heirloom cider apples, and sweet ones made from fruit or herb-flavored culinary apples. But within that, there’s a variation for every palate—from rosé, citrus, and single-varieties to more funky options made with natural yeast.

Tyson and her husband, Sean, who is black, first discovered cider in St. Louis and say moving to Chicago expanded their choices. While more black consumers are slowly discovering the drink, Tyson thinks it’s unlikely to fly into the next Moscato. “It doesn’t have the same reputation as wine or cognac for black people,” Tyson says. “It’s not like black celebrities are drinking it.”

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Hannah Ferguson — a black cider-maker and triple thrift who can also make beer and wine — says she thinks more black consumers will appreciate cider once they learn about it. At a recent black business expo, she had to tell attendees she wasn’t pouring apple juice. “I had to explain to them that it’s like a mix between beer and wine … and we carbonate it like beer and we add flavor to it,” Ferguson recalls. “And then they’re like ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ ,

‘The community cider has given us’

Ferguson began brewing as a hobby, trying his hand at homemade Riesling and Shiraz, which eventually led to the creation of beer. Now, she’s preparing to open it Dope Cider House and Winery (an acronym for “Residence on Positive Energy”) in downtown Youngstown, Ohio, which would make her the first black woman to open a cider house in the state.

Hannah Ferguson of Dope Cider House and Winery is a triple threat – beer brewers, wine and cider producers.
Hannah Ferguson of Dope Cider House and Winery is a triple threat – beer brewers, wine and cider producers. Photograph: Courtesy of Hannah Ferguson

At Dope, she will offer dry and sweet seasonal cider made from local apples, as well as a hot spiced cider in winter. Although the cider community is very white, Ferguson says it is also very welcoming. At her first cider conference, many people offered to share advice on getting started.

Across the industry, there is a growing commitment to fostering greater diversity. Wright says that Lost Boys has a 70% beepok and LGBTQ+ workforce, because it felt right to have a diverse team. angel cider And beer cultureA nonprofit dedicated to inclusion in the beverage industry, the American Cider Association’s annual meeting, funded scholarships for beepoque growers to attend CiderCon, says Mackie of Redfield Cider, an organization dedicated to promoting the ACA’s antiracism, equity and inclusion. sits on the committee.

Other large brands are collaborating with smaller minority-owned brands. Ferguson, for example, is teaming up with Angry Orchard—the brand credited with reigniting a taste for cider in America—on a cider barrel and flow, the annual Black Brewing convention in Pittsburgh this year. And in May, Honda and winemaker Michael Sons of Tanuki Cider released a co-fermentation of Newtown Pippin apples and Pinot Noir grapes called Newtown Noir.

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