Hard cider was at one time a very common beverage in North America. A tradition brought to the new world by English settlers, cider was enjoyed by men, women and even children in early American homes.
Then, cider all but disappeared. Where did it go?
Some point to the prohibition era as the demise of cider in America, but things went downhill long before that. The consumption of cider had been considered an alternative to the assumption water was an unhealthy alternative in early America. An assumption that may have been correct in heavily populated areas. Bad water had been responsible for some serious public health problems in Europe, and no one seemed ready to forget that. So, the cider flowed – like water. The problem was that all the men women and children who were drinking all this cider found themselves a bit intoxicated, or a lot intoxicated.
The temperance movement is thought to have been a major factor in the decline of cider consumption. Alcoholism had become an issue with the consumption of not only low-alcohol beverages, like cider, but also with the proliferation of cheap hard liquor – like rum. Domestic violence, joblessness, and the breakdown of the family was a real concern, and the temperance movement sought to address these issues. From Wikipedia: “The Temperance movement sparked to life with Benjamin Rush’s 1784 tract, An Inquiry Into the Effects of Ardent Spirits Upon the Human Body and Mind, which judged the excessive use of alcohol injurious to physical and psychological health.”
Temperance was primarily a movement among White Anglo-Saxon Protestant immigrants. In the meantime however, America had seen huge waves of German, and Irish immigrants. As far as temperance, they weren’t so excited about it. With the Germans, came beer, good beer. The irish brought whiskey, and they were pretty happy about beer too.
In the mean time, the temperance movement had seen it’s over-achievers burn apple orchards, and swear off cider for good, sort of. Beer continued to make inroads. Beer was more economical and practical to produce. Cider required apple orchards–not a good thing in the big city. Milwaukee for example saw some real economies of scale with all the beer ‘a brewin’. Apple trees take years to achieve full production of good, cider producing apples. Barley on the other hand, can be grown in a season, it’s light, and can be trucked hundreds of miles with no problem. Apple juice can’t be transported as easily, and doesn’t keep like barley. So, beer started to make major headway in the cities. All that is needed (basically) for beer is barley and water.
Other factors contributed to cider’s decline, like prohibition. By the time prohibition reared it’s ugly head, beer was well entrenched as the low-alcohol beverage of choice. Apple orchards had declined, and were too much trouble. Beer was cheap and easy to make, and good. At the end of prohibition, the big beer companies were still well aware of the threat cider could present though. Federal regulations were enacted that disallowed the sale of cider containing preservatives like sulphites. There were no such regulations for beer. Mysterious indeed.
Beverage companies had by now developed other choices as well – like Coca Cola. The New York Times at one point even made the case for Coke rather than debilitating, alcoholic cider” by pointing out the refreshing effervescence and the “lift” Coke provided – like cider. Of course the “lift” at that point was provided by the cocaine in the original – original recipe.
Well, like the slow food movement, local food, wholesome organic food, and fresh food, cider’s back and coming on strong. Still just getting rolling, the cider industry (we predict) will rise again, in a big way. There are many small cider producers poppin up. And like all great food of late it seems, many of them are in the northwest. If you’d like to get your hands on some of the “new” cider, may we recommend Two Town Ciderhouse in Corvallis. Lee Larsen, Dave Takush, and Aaron Sarnoff-Wood, three life-long friends young men from the valley are making quite a stir. You may have noticed the giant building on Hwy 34 that just went up and now houses 2 Towns cider operatiion. What the heck are those young whippersnappers doing in there your ask? Stop by and see for yourself – they have a great tasting room, and love to talk about cider. Bottoms up!
2 Towns Ciderhouse
Wandering Aengus Ciderworks
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