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Don’t Count Out Cider

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Don’t Count Out Cider
Text by Brian Ahnmark / Photos by Chris Johnson and Kip Dawkins
HarvestRation
Photo by Chris Johnson

Imagining a modern craft beverage fanatic, several potions of choice automatically come to mind: Wine, beer, spirits.

But how about cider?

Even as the popularity of craft beverages grows, true artisanal cider is still fresh on most drinkers’ radar. And while people know how an IPA tastes and how bourbon tastes and how a merlot tastes, they often have no concept of the wide-ranging creativity and possibilities presented by cider.

The burgeoning artisanal cider crusade counters the common perception that cider is an uber-sweet, overwhelmingly carbonated “girly drink.” Artisanal cider is crafted by fermenting 100 percent raw, fresh-pressed apple juice over the course of several weeks, often resulting in an alcohol-by-volume in the neighborhood of 9 percent. We’re now seeing intensely sour ciders, dry-hopping and barrel-aging. In Virginia, we’ve incorporated other fruits such as heirloom purple raspberries, blackberries and mulberries (yes, it changes the color of the cider). How about dessert ciders fortified with custom apple brandy that taste like liquid butterscotch and come in at 18 percent ABV?

Folks are getting excited about this “new cider movement,” but truly it’s a revival of an old tradition with modern twists. Cider was the beverage of choice for the earliest American colonists, back when water was dangerous. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams drank the stuff by the tankard. But unlike other libations, cider didn’t bounce back after Prohibition. Until now.

Better late than never.

Editor’s Note: Brian Ahnmark is a self-proclaimed Cider Evangelist with Blue Bee Cider in Richmond, Virginia. Blue Bee’s Mill Race Bramble, a cider infused with raspberries and blackberries (the first of its kind in Virginia), debuts this month.