Hard apple cider, (re)discovered

What do you get when you combine a chemist, a farmer, and a wine salesman? Quite possibly one of the healthier alcohol choices and perhaps the tastiest! Hard apple cider has made its way into the alcoholic beverage market with clout, as substantiated by the number of cider enthusiasts in attendance at the first ever Vermont Cider Festival, which kicked off last week at the Foundry in Killington. Jess Hamilton of Citizen Cider attested to the immense growth the cider industry is experiencing. “We produced and sold 28,000 gallons of cider in 2013. We set out to produce and sell 100,000 in 2014, which we’ve done, so we are now shooting for 250,000!”

Hard cider production in America has more than tripled since 2007, with over $600 million in sales last year, around 15 million barrels. In 2014, the U.S. market welcomed an additional 36 new cider producers.

But contrary to popular belief, hard cider is not a “new thing.” In fact, according to Stefan Windler, founder of Stowe Cider, “Cider was the original American table wine.” It seems we are going back to our colonial roots, with cider taps popping up everywhere and entire sections of local beer and wine shops devoted to a variety of local hard ciders. Even in the alcoholic beverage industry, trends repeat themselves. In this instance, it just took a couple hundred years for the repetition to occur.

“A cider a day…”

Is cider’s popularity the result of hipster-esque craft beer fanatics simply craving something on the sweet side, or is there more to this trend? Some say cider has the ability to aid in longevity. Researchers at the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council have discovered evidence that suggests that cider may contain polyphenols, are known to act as antioxidants within the body to fight off free radical damage.

In addition, cider is naturally gluten-free, which makes it a better beverage option for some. For those who are sensitive or allergic to gluten, yet aren’t quite looking for the hardness of liquor, cider is a wonderful option.

Just like beer, wine or liquor, not all ciders are created equal.

I made my rounds early at the Vermont Cider Festival, which allowed me to converse with the cider makers, but also to assist newly arriving friends to the tables that would best suit their cider-preferences (sweet or dry).

Drier ciders are a better choice, if one wants to associate cider consumption with healthly benefits. Look for brands with “no sugar added.” Cider, if done correctly, really needn’t have any added sweeteners — apples contain enough natural sugar to do the trick. When you add sugar to alcohol, it creates a massive blood sugar spike, which may contribute to hangovers, as well as a stronger desire to eat heavier, not-so-healthy foods, post-drink.

With cooler weather ahead, it’s safe to say that the embracing of Fall with a cider in hand is not only in good taste, but in good health.


By Kate Robitello

Kate Robitello is a Plant Based Nutritionist (CPBN) and Lifestylist. She works at Pyramid Wellness in Rutland.

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