The art and science of hard apple cider has been practiced in America since long before there even was a United States. The first English settlers to arrive in New England are said to have promptly requested apple seeds from the motherland upon learning that the crabapples native to the promised land were unsuitable for the making of their favorite fermented beverage.
The first American apple orchards were soon planted in Boston, Massachusetts, in the early-1600s, and wood grafting and other agricultural technologies advanced quickly. American production of hard cider was soon in full swing. Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were known to have made the stuff — and it’s said that John Adams’ “preferred drink before breakfast” was a “a morning ‘gill’ of hard cider.”
With an influx of German and Eastern European immigrants to the States in the early-1800s, so came a shift in America’s alcoholic beverage preference. The westward expansion to the Midwest had provided farmers access to soil and conditions more conducive to the growing beer ingredients like barley. Beer quickly became the most consumed adult beverage in the country. While the rapid expansion of beer production put cider into decline in the United States, Prohibition is responsible for the most crushing blow.
When the Volstad Act was passed and Prohibition went into effect, draconian laws restricting the production of even non-alcoholic cider led orchards to stop growing cider apples altogether. In an effort to eradicate the production of hard cider, FBI agents chopped down and burned countless acres orchard, permanently killing an untold number of apple trees and the industry of hard cider in America.
By the numbers, hard cider is the fastest-growing segment of the United States’ beer market. Seeing more than 70% growth each of the past two years and a market share that has grown fivefold in the past three years, hard cider is in the midst of a full-blown renaissance.
The reasons for hard cider’s resurgence are many. An increase in options is a big part of it. Until recently the only hard ciders widely available in Minnesota — or the rest of the country for that matter — were imports from Europe and a handful of mass-produced (oftentimes overly-sweet) big brand ciders.
The growth of craft beer has also undoubtedly played a role in hard cider’s new evolution. As consumers have become more interested in quality and flavor in their beer, they have also become more eager to explore their palates and try new things outside the realm of malt beverages. And there’s a new generation of cider makers who seem eager to please.
We are seeing the early stages of a resurrection that shows no signs of slowing any time soon. Minnesota is now home to more than a dozen licensed cider makers dotting our landscape and there are several more soon-to-open cideries in the planning stages. The best thing about the cider scene in Minnesota right now is the same thing that makes their products so intriguing: individuality. There are urban cideries, farmhouse cideries, vineyards that make cider, make-your-own-cider breweries, cideries focused on foraged ingredients, and the list goes on. Some make dry ciders. Some make sweet ciders. Some only make one cider. Some make a new cider every month.
What’s most exciting about the state of cider in Minnesota though, is the future. Increased options and access for consumers combined with a passionate and creative group of hard cider producers has the state primed to make a splash on the cider scene nationally.
Check out our map below or click the link in the below tweet to hear our own Joseph Alton chat with the 89.3 The Current Morning Show crew about The State of Cider in Minnesota.
— TheCurrent (@TheCurrent) April 29, 2015
Minnesota Cidery Map
A map of hard cider producers in Minnesota (click the icon in the upper-lefthand corner to display a list). Don’t see your favorite cidery listed? Email [email protected] to have them added.