It’s taken more than a few years, but Americans have finally discovered (or rediscovered) and are embracing hard cider. The category has grown nearly 70% for the past two years, according to data from our research unit, the Beverage Information Group.
Cider was until fairly recently defined by a few craft brands and imports. But the major beer players are now getting in on the action. Boston Beer Co.’s Angry Orchard is the leader, but Anheuser-Busch InBev has added three ciders to its lineup in the past two years—Michelob Ultra Light Cider, Stella Artois Cidre, and Johnny Appleseed—while MillerCoors includes Crispin and Smith & Forge.
The craft brew movement and resulting interest in different beer styles really paved the way for cider. Before that, a lot of U.S. consumers couldn’t get their heads around the fermented apple beverage, but cider now seems to be bridging the gap between beer and wine drinkers.
It also helps that many of the artisanal cider producers are making some intriguing varieties. I just visited Bantam Cider’s new tap room in Somerville, MA, and in addition to its core Wunderkind local apple cider, the tasting lineup included a cider aged with sour cherries and black peppercorns, another aged in bourbon and rum barrels and a smoked saison cider.
Not that cider needs to be crafty or flavored. The sweetness and tartness of a basic hard apple cider makes it a terrific match for many foods, and it’s a great base for cocktails.
While hard cider works in any season, most consumers think of fall as cider time. So if you don’t already offer cider now, it might be worth adding a few ciders or cider-based drinks to your beverage lineup. You may find that it’s something your guests will enjoy all year.
For more about cider, check out our 2014 Beer Growth Brands feature, which starts on page 22 and covers the fastest growers in beer, cider and fermented malt beverages. We also look at American whiskey (page 16), wine regions to watch (page 27), “bartender’s choice” cocktails (page 34), digital menus (page 38), and much more.Finally, you might have noticed that this issue seems a little different. Kudos to art director Dodi Vessels for giving Cheers a vibrant creative refresh. Let us know what you think of our new look.