Hard ciders no longer a hard sell


A bottle of Strongbow, a popular English cider.

A bottle of Strongbow, a popular English cider.
A bottle of Strongbow, a popular English cider.

Until recently, I lumped hard cider in the same category as Smirnoff Ice and other pre-made cocktails, a category to which beer and wine drinkers often condescend. Yet despite this negative reputation, hard ciders have made their way more and more into the bar scene, occasionally even appearing on tap, which suggests to me that there is perhaps more to cider than I originally anticipated. In an article entitled “Americans Rediscover The Kick of Hard Cider,” the author discusses the sudden resurgence of the beverage in America, stating that “U.S. hard cider sales are up 65% over last year.” I use the word resurgence here because at one point in time, hard cider was one of the most popular beverages in the United States.

From the mid-1700s until the start of the Prohibition Era, cider was regularly consumed. The second president of the United States, John Adams, wrote that he would regularly drink a cider in the morning to settle his stomach. Unfortunately, unlike its rival, beer, this historic drink did not bounce back in popularity after Prohibition ended.

Now that hard cider has found its way back to the American palate, it’s time to discover if our forefathers knew what they were talking about. Below are a few good hard ciders that are found on the shelves of San Antonio’s Central Market, Whole Foods or Spec’s Wine, Spirits and Finer Foods.

1) Woodchuck Hard Cider

Starting in the early 1990s, Woodchuck Hard Cider has grown in popularity at an astonishing rate and was the first company in the U.S. to sell over 1 million cases. Although they have a variety of seasonal flavors, they are best known for their Amber and Granny Smith ciders. The former is noted for its classic sweet flavor, while the latter is considered more tart.

2) Aspall

This cider from Suffolk, England, is noted for its tall tapered bottle and smoky flavor. The extra-dry finish of this cider would be good for someone who doesn’t want a sweet beverage. It has also been well received in the beer and wine community, getting a high rating of 98/100 in a “Draft” magazine review.

3) Strongbow

As a popular English cider, Strongbow is noted for its crisp flavors and its ability to balance tartness and sweetness well.

4) Woodpecker

This cider is particularly known for its champagne-like consistency and its desirability as a light sipping drink. It is a good choice for those who would prefer a less filling alternative to beer or some of the heavier ciders.

5) Ace

This company is well known for its variety as a cider brewer. They have received great reviews on their Ace Hard Pumpkin Cider, Ace Pear Cider and Ace Apple Honey Hard Cider.

6) Do it Yourself

According to my research, hard cider is incredibly easy to homebrew. A would-be cider brewer can find dozens of recipes online, but I’d suggest going to Todd Huntress, owner of San Antonio Homebrew Supply on 2809 N Saint Mary’s St. for equipment and advice.