Great Ciders of the World
Saturday, June 25 from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm
All around the world, the public’s taste for fermented cider has been growing more rapidly than at any time in the past 150 years. From farmhouse ciders in France to Gallician Cidres in Spain to cideries popping up right here in Philadelphia, this tasting class is a love letter to the world of cider and a fascinating peek behind the beverage.
Taught by our resident cider maker, his passion for cider is evident. In this richly informative and entertaining cider class, Keith Wallace explores cider’s cultural and historical roots. Students will come away with a profound sense of the importance and history of cider both here and worldwide.
Keith also introduces you to its different styles during class: draft, farmhouse, Basque, French, New England, and sparkling. You’ll be tasting some great ciders during this two-hour class. In addition, this class includes excellent information on apple varieties, cidermaking basics, and barrel fermentation for the aspiring cidermaker.
This class is an essential guide to understanding today’s cider resurgence. From its rich history to its newest incarnations, students will gain insight into one of North America’s oldest fermented drinks. In addition, this tasting class captures the wide world of cider and the under-appreciated but almighty apple.
Tasting Sheets from Previous Cider Classes
12th Century Europe / Natural Funk
1. Barrika NV Cidre, Basque Country
2. Sandford Orchard 2013 “Straw & Oak” Scrumpy, West Country
17th Century America / Johnny Appleseed
1. Stone & Key NV “Heirloom” Cider, Southeast PA
2. Oyster River Winegrowers 2017 “Wildman” Cider, MidCoast
21th Century / Farmhouse Reinvented
1. Manoir du Kinkiz 2017 Cornouaille, Brittany
2. Aarron Burr Cidery 2017 “Appinette” Cider, Hudson Valley
21st Century / Getting Freaky
1. Graft “Lost Tropic” Hopped Cider, Hudson Valley
2. B. Nektar “Zombie Killer” Cyser, Detroit
1. Aval (Brittany, France)
2. Eric Bordelet ‘Authentique’ Perry (Normandy, France)
1. Isastegi Sagardo (Basque, Spain)
1. Fuchshof Most (Konstanz-Dingelsdorf, Germany)
2. Heck’s Traditional (Somerset, England)
1. Ploughman “Lupulin Lummox” (Pennsylvania, USA)
2. Hermit Thrush Brattlebeer (Vermont, USA)
1. Oyster River Winegrowers “Wildman” (Maine, USA)
- Domaine Dupont Cidre Dupont Réserve
- B. Nektar Meadery Whiskey Barrel Zombie Killer
- Tandem Ciders Smackintosh
- Finnriver Farm & Cidery Lavender Black Currant
- Txopinondo Sagarnoa
- Domaine de Kervéguen Cuvée Carpe Diem Prestige
- Bordatto Basa Jaun
- Sea Cider Wild English
Cider drinking has been around a long time; no doubt, the apple is one of the oldest fruits known. Originally thought to be from the Tien Shan Mountain valleys and foothills, apple specimens, and seeds have been carried by man and bird and beast for thousands of years. We can now find apples in all temperate climates. The first recorded examples of cider making occurred around the same time. The Greek geographer Strabo describes sidra in his journey through Spain’s Asturia region in 60 B.C. Julius Caesar’s Romans observed British Celtic people making an alcoholic beverage from native crabapples in 55 B.C.
As the Romans continued their conquests across Europe, they introduced various new foods across the growing Roman Empire, including Normandy, where cidre is still made today, improving orchard production and quality by employing their noted horticultural skills. After the decline of the Roman Empire, the monks preserved horticultural knowledge and cidermaking skill, using cider to pay workers. With their impressive botanical gardens, the Moors also significantly improved apple varieties and techniques in Spain through the fifteenth century.
England is where cider production reached new heights. The climate was ideal for growing apples, especially in England’s West Country, which became synonymous with orchards and cider making. Cider affinity peaked in the seventeenth century, sometimes called the Golden Age of Apples, since the rural agricultural economy ensured most had access to apples. The pilgrims brought their apple propagating skills and specimens when they set out for the New World.
Dr. David Williams from George Mason University relates in a 2010 interview that three days after William Bradford and the pilgrims set out from Plymouth, they encountered a storm that cracked a great beam. But since the pilgrims had brought apple seeds, saplings, and the supplies needed to make cider, a great screw in the hold, believed by some to be a part of a cider press, was used to stabilize the beam.
Orchards quickly became a staple on most farms, such that by 1775 one out of every ten farms in New England owned and operated its cider mill (Watson, 2009). Cider became the preferred American drink because water supplies were not safe. In addition, the New England climate and soil were perfect for orchards, and their British heritage predisposed them to this reliable and easily made drink. By 1767, the per capita cider consumption for Massachusetts was 1.14 barrels! Historical records are replete with references about cider and our founding fathers:
- President George Washington’s campaign expenses when he ran for the Virginia House of Burgesses included eight quarts of Cider Royal.
- Benjamin Franklin – “Give me yesterday’s Bread, this Day’s Flesh, and last Year’s Cyder.” “He that drinks his Cyder alone, let him catch his Horse alone.”
- President John Adams drank a tankard of cider each morning to put his stomach at ease and to alleviate gas.
- President Thomas Jefferson experimented with 18 apple varieties to create the cider he served at Monticello.
So, what happened to America’s favorite drink? There were many nineteenth and early-twentieth-century events that contributed to cider’s decline. First, the advent of the American Industrial Revolution and a population shift from a rural economy to an urban environment meant fewer people had access to apples or the space to produce cider. Second, the 1848 German state revolution resulted in a flood of German immigrants, who brought expert beer and ale-making skills and preferred low-alcohol drinks. Third, the temperance movement, which began in the early 1800s and reached its peak during prohibition (1920-1933), played an important role. Many orchards were razed during those years, and the beer industry lobbied for Federal regulations that favored them and restricted cider sales across state lines. And last, the arrival of soda at the turn of the twentieth century, with its cocaine stimulant found in Coca-Cola, was seen as a more healthful alternative to cider, now viewed as a debilitating alcoholic refresher.