Hard apple cider seeing welcome revival

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, then some might just become healthier than ever. Hard apple cider is having a moment right now here in the U.S., or really, a revival. Once the most popular drink during colonial times (settlers imported apple trees from England), and still pervasive throughout the United Kingdom, hard cider fell on hard times when beer became the tipple of choice during the 19th century. But hard apple cider is back — hardcore.

Maybe it’s the recent attention to gluten, or maybe it’s our love affair with nostalgia, but hard cider sales have reportedly tripled over the last three years, raking in approximately $1.3 billion in 2013. A U.S. Association of Cider Makers was formed in February 2013 to advance cider in the market. Big brewer MillerCoors released its Smith & Forge Hard Cider in March. In May, Anheuser-Busch InBev presented its first new product in eight years when it introduced Johnny Appleseed Hard Cider, whose namesake (Johnny Chapman) grew apples for making hard cider during the late 1700s to early 1800s.

Not to be confused with non-alcoholic juice sometimes sold as cider, hard apple cider is a fermented beverage usually made with an assorted variety of apples that can alter the taste of the finished product, from bitter to sweet and even bitter-sharp.

In San Francisco, the trend is in full bloom with companies like Golden State Cider (www.drinkgoldenstate.com) leading the charge. The brand is part of the portfolio of family-run Devoto Orchards (www.devotocider.com/the-ciders) in Sonoma County who also produce several ciders under their own label.

Golden State Cider’s co-founders, Hunter Wade and Nils Reid, launched their canned Mighty Dry Cider in pint cans in August, made with fresh-pressed West Coast apples. They are one of the country’s few producers that don’t add sugar, water, gluten or concentrates to the cider.

“We are thrilled to be a part of hard cider’s reemergence with Golden State Cider,” said Reid. “Cider is a great beverage choice, as it is a refreshing alternative to beer, and offers a gluten-free option for active, health-minded individuals who enjoy its crisp flavor.”

Four-packs of Golden State Cider are available at retailers around the Bay Area including Bi-Rite Market (www.biritemarket.com) and Whole Foods.

For a great belly-up option in The City, check out Upcider at 1160 Polk St., a gastro pub serving a veritable orchard of ciders, from California and around the world. Richmond Republic Draught House opened a few weekends ago at 642 Clement St. in the Richmond district and includes Golden State Cider among its hefty craft brew menu.

Kimberley Lovato has been writing about travel, food, and drink for the last 20 years and, from Alabama to Tanzania, has never met a happy hour she didn’t like.; ww.kimberleylovato.com

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