A Brief History of Cider

Thursday, October 2, 2014 | Bold Rock Cider, Cider, Johnny Appleseed, McKenzie's Hard Cider, Stella Artois, Uncategorized


We’re right in the middle of apple season, so let’s take a minute to talk about a very important fruit and beverage in the history of civilization and particularly our country.

Wild apples have been around for up to 65 million years, appearing around the same time as primitive primates. The modern varieties originated in central Asia, where you can still find domesticated apple’s (Malus domestica) sole ancestor, Malus sieversii. Apple trees, a relative of the rose, have an incredibly complex genome (57,000 genes, as compared to our own 30,000), meaning that a seed planted may produce wildly different apples than those of the tree that begat it. Still, it was for this highly variable fruit that apple trees were one of the first trees to be cultivated by man. They have long held importance in a number of religions, mythologies and stories around the world, being a symbol of anything from forbidden knowledge to fertility. Being an autumn fruit with some varieties that can be kept over-winter in sub-freezing conditions, the apple is one of the most important fruits in Asia and Europe for millennia.

Where exactly cider was first created is up for debate, but we’ve managed to narrow it down to southern England, France and Spain, where cider was being enjoyed by the time the Romans invaded. The oldest orchards, which were made up of planted seeds rather than grafted cuttings, often held such an array of apples that some of them proved to be too bitter for eating. These were the apples that were chosen for the production of cider. Eventually, these varieties were reproduced through the science of grafting, gaining names and known properties in the areas of acidity, tannins, sweetness and aromatics. Many of the most popular cider-making apples originated in Normandy.

When colonists spread through the new world, cider took on a new importance. It was difficult to produce the crops needed for the production of beer in New England, but European apple trees did very well in the climate. Seeds were planted, then wood grafted to create the best cider-making apples, and eventually it became the drink of choice of early American settlers. Because of the dangers of drinking water, everyone drank cider, including children, who got a less-alcoholic version of the beverage.

John Chapman, better known by the moniker Johnny Appleseed, did his part in the spread of apples throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Rather than grafting to create orchards, Chapman seeded nurseries as he went, which lead to many uniquely American varieties of apples, of which the tartest were used to make cider. During the settlement of the Midwest, there were periods when it was required by law to have apple or pear orchards on land in order to hold right to it, because the need for cider was so great. This made land seeded by Chapman high in demand.

The decline of cider only came in the early 1900s, when an influx of German and Eastern European immigrants arrived with a taste for beer over cider. By this time, the land in the Midwest, where barley could be grown easily, had been settled, and refrigerating technologies were improving, making way for a budding beer industry that thrives today.

During prohibition, cideries might have made it through better than their beer and liquor-making counterparts, except that not only was their hard cider production brought to a halt, but producing sweet (non-alcoholic) cider was limited to 200 gallons a year. Prohibitionists took it so far as to burn hundreds of orchards of cider trees, leaving only sweet, eating apple trees in their wake. After the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, breweries could go back to brewing relatively quickly simply by importing grains and waiting for the next year for their barley to grow. However, it takes decades for a tree to begin producing apples, and by that time, Americans had lost their taste for the drink in favor of beer.

This did not spell the end for cider entirely, though. Since cheap apples are often imported from all around, orchards have begun looking at other ways to stay profitable, including the production of cider. And thus is the resurrection of cider in America. Today, there are a growing number of cideries within the United States, and demand for foreign ciders is also on the rise. A few examples of this new wave of ciders are listed below.

McKenzie’s Hard Cider – Their Original cider is sweeter with a bigger body than ciders of old for a bold apple flavor, but their Green Apple variety has a tart kick to it. They also have a spiced Seasonal Reserve variety perfect for autumn. Additionally, they have Black Cherry, a step away from traditional ciders.

Bold Rock – Their flagship Virginia Draft is brightly flavored and crisp, while their Virginia Apple variety has more of a bite.

Stella Cidre- For an Old World style cider that has a burst of fruity flavors, try Stella Artois’ cidre (no, that is not a typo; it’s pronounced see-druh).

Johnny Appleseed Cider – Named for Mr. Chapman, this cider does not disappoint. Sweet and fizzy, it’s greatly drinkable.

McKenzie’s Black Cherry

Thursday, October 2, 2014 | McKenzie's Hard Cider


McKenzie’s has turned cider on its head by adding bold black cherry taste over an apple base. Daringly tart over sweet, this pale cider is packed full of flavor and well-bodied. If you’re looking for a cider that’s doing things a little differently, this will certainly not leave you wanting for rich flavor and a juicy, lip-smacking finish. 5% ABV

Cheese and… Beer?

Thursday, October 2, 2014 | Anchor, Beer News, Evolution, Goose Island, Hoegaarden, Lancaster Brewing, Magic Hat, Victory


Last year, Philly Beer Scene made a whole feature on the topic of beer and cheese pairing. Victory is taking it to a whole new level when they created beer-infused Wisconsin cheddar cheese spreads with Key Ingredient Market. HopDevil and Golden Monkey have been paired with cheddar spread, and Headwaters with cheddar dip for something really special.

And if you’re looking to pair some of your own, try these on for size.

Hoegaarden pairs well with fresh cheeses like feta and gooey, fragrant cheeses like brie, with its fruity, citrus notes and spicy finish. Another one to try alongside these would be Magic Hat’s Circus Boy

Hard, aged cheeses like sharp cheddars and gouda need a strong flavor to match. Goose Island’s IPA and Evolution Lucky 7 stand up to the challenge.

Bleu cheese is varied, and thus, can be paired in a variety of ways. Try it with Lancaster Milk Stout or Anchor’s IPA.

Anthony’s Coal-Fired Pizza

Thursday, October 2, 2014 | Restaurants


With specialty hand-crafted pizzas, traditional Italian food and local craft beers, Anthony’s has more than just a good atmosphere going for it. They use only the best ingredients available, provide entertainment, live or televised, and feature craft beer dinners, tap takeovers and more… they even prominently feature ciders. So if you’re looking for some great Italian cooking, stop on by Anthony’s Coal-Fired Pizza for a bite.

Anthony’s Coal-Fired Pizza
2733 Paper Mill Rd
Reading, PA 19610

Hoppy Fall

Thursday, September 18, 2014 | Evolution, Ithaca, Prism, Rebates, Troegs, Uinta, Victory


Hopheads, we’ve got some great news for you! From now until the end of October, there will be a $5 rebate on cases of select IPAs and DIPAs purchased at your local Delaware, Bucks, Montgomery and Berks County Beer Distributors. Simply fill out and mail in this rebate form with the UPC from the case and a dated receipt, and you’ll receive $5 back on up to 2 cases per household. If you’re having trouble deciding which of these fantastically hoppy beers to get, take a look at the descriptions below to get a better feel for them.

Evolution Lot No 3 IPA – Fruity citrus and sharp pine notes sit heavily on a quiet but firm malt backbone in this vigorously hopped brew. 6.8% ABV

Uinta Hop Nosh IPA – Grapefruit is the flavor at the forefront of this IPA, with earthy hops and fruit inflections over a smooth, malty base. 7.3% ABV

Ithaca Flower Power IPA – The flavor starts with rich malts, which flow smoothly into herbal hops in this five-times-hopped ale. 7.5% ABV

Prism Felony IPA – At 100 IBUs with ten different hop varieties, this DIPA isn’t messing around. Hoppy fruit and pine notes dominate, balanced by maltiness. 10% ABV

Victory DirtWolf Double IPA –  Robustly hopped, this ale holds floral nectar, herbal and pine flavors amongst the pleasant bitterness, with slight citrus traits intermixed. 8.7% ABV

Troegs Perpetual IPA – Peppery, piney and grassy. This bold IPA (that’s Imperial Pale Ale) serves up a healthy serving of hops with every sip. 7.5% ABV

320 Market Cafe

Thursday, September 18, 2014 | Restaurants, Retailers


Stocked with fresh, seasonal produce, artisan cheeses and your favorite craft beers, 320 Market Cafe is a great place to go whether you’re stopping in for lunch or or to do a little grocery shopping. The Swarthmore location has 3000 square feet of foods that will get your mouth watering as soon as you come through the door. Not only do they do dine-in and take-out lunches and dinners, but they’re happy to cater your next event with hot and cold deli platters, sandwiches, antipasto, fresh fruits and veggies and dessert trays. So whether you need a quick bite–and a beer to wash it down–or you’re looking for something special at your next party, 320 Market is the place to go for gourmet.

320 Market Cafe
713 Chester Rd.
Swarthmore, PA


Thursday, September 18, 2014 | Goose Island, Old Dominion, Susquhanna, Victory


Can’t make it over to Munich? Want to try your hand at hosting your very own Oktoberfest this year? Well, we’ve got the tips to help you make that happen. This is our official Oktoberfest Party Guide.’


Victory Festbier – A favorite local marzen, it’s perfect for this event with its pleasant German malts. 5.6% ABV

Susquehanna Oktoberfest – Another local marzen with caramel and toffee notes, and Bavarian hops to balance the flavor. 6.2% ABV

Goose Island Oktoberfest - Sweet dried fruits, burnt sugar and earthy hops make up the flavor profile of this lager. 6.4% ABV

Dominion Octoberfest Maerzen – Smooth caramel, honey and bready flavors are followed by crisp hops, creating a warm yet refreshing beverage. 5.7% ABV

For the little ones or anyone else who doesn’t drink, you could always serve hot or chilled apple cider, seasoned with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg for a perfectly autumnal flavor.


Apart from beer, food is the most important thing about Oktoberfest. Pretzels are a must, the salt and breadiness coupling perfectly with malty beers. This pairs well with mustard, obatzda and weisswurst, a mild, pale sausage made of veal and pork. Of course, you can always use your favorite sort of wurst. For appetizer or buffet-style servings, make or purchase small pretzels, cut one-inch lengths of sausage, and arrange with a dish of mustard and/or obatzda and toothpicks on a fall leaf-colored platter.

For a heartier meal, you could make Bavarian style burgers, using traditional Leberkäse or ground beef with German-style fixings like sauerkraut, pretzel or kaiser rolls, tasty cheeses and of course mustard. Goes great with potato salad.

The natural dessert option here is Lebkuchen hearts, a style of gingerbread cookie decorated with icing, but you could also go with the fall-appropriate apple strudel if you’d rather.


Blue and white are the traditional colors of Oktoberfest, typically seen in a lozengy pattern as they are in a variant of the Bavarian flag. This can come in the form of tablecloths, flags, paper plates, hats, etc., all readily available at many party stores and online. For splashes of color that won’t overload the senses, fill beer steins with blue and white flowers, or tie blue and white ribbons around silverware or mug handles.

Speaking of mugs, it’s important that you aren’t drinking out of bottles or plastic cups, since that just isn’t in the spirit of Oktoberfest. Beer steins in glass, ceramic or plastic are perfect for this event, adding to an authentic atmosphere.

The backyard is the perfect spot for your Oktoberfest, and the addition of a pop-up tent or canopy can make it feel less like a yard and more like the fest itself. Using smaller tents, you can designate a biergarten, buffet and dining areas with festive signs.


Stein Race: Fill a stein with beer (or any liquid), and have contestants race from one side of a field to the other, spilling as little of their beverage as possible. Whoever can fill a most of a bucket at the end of the line in the allotted time wins.

Chicken Dance: Great for kids and adults alike, this silly dance actually started as a German tradition, originally called the Duck Dance.

Barrel Roll: Another traditional Oktoberfest event. Use an empty barrel or keg, and have participants roll it through an obstacle course. The fastest time wins, and points are deducted for losing control of the barrel and crashing into spectators.

Beer Tasting: Set up a table with a variety of the beers you’ve purchased for the occasion and small tasting glasses, allowing party-goers to try a few beers before they pick what they’d like a full glass of. For the full tasting experience, include pretzels and cheeses that pair well with the different brews.

Long Trail Limbo

Thursday, September 18, 2014 | Long Trail


Brewed with new breeds of hops from Australia and the Pacific Northwest, this IPA from Long Trail’s Farmhouse Pilot brewery is chocked full of citrus and resiny pine taste. The fruity aroma paves the way for big grapefruit and light pale malt flavors that give just enough balance to the lovely bitterness. Greatly refreshing with a beautifully complex flavor. 7.6% ABV

Looking Forward to Fall

Friday, September 5, 2014 | Anchor, Long Trail, Shock Top, Uinta, Victory


Though the temperatures haven’t yet dipped, it’s already nearly a week into September and fall is just around the corner. So now’s the time to start thinking about what autumnal brews you’ll be enjoying this season. Given that this is the season that beer drinkers look forward to all year, it’s a lot to think about. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with a few beverages that you don’t want to miss.

Anchor BigLeaf Maple - This autumn red ale has a hint of maple syrup in it to add to its maltiness, and enough hops to balance its rich flavor. The taste will bring fall foliage to mind, especially changing maples.

Long Trail Imperial Pumpkin – The first in the Brush and Barrel series, this beer is brewed with pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and cloves for a flavor profile that screams fall.

Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat – A traditional Belgian-style wheat ale that’s been brewed with ripe pumpkins, making it a perfect go-to this season for all sorts of fall fun; picking pumpkins, harvest parties and of course, Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Uinta Punk’n – Roasted pumpkin, honey, vanilla and a strong ale backbone combine to make this great brew. Add to this that it’s quite sessionable, and you’ll be looking for space for a handful of six packs in your fridge.

Victory Festbier – Smooth German malts and hints of earthy hops make for a lovely Oktoberfest with a thick mouthfeel and satisfying flavor. A shining example of the style.

Jack Joyce Scholarship

Friday, September 5, 2014 | Beer News, Rogue


In association with Columbia Distributing, Rogue announces the Jack Joyce Scholarship. This $10,000 annual scholarship is awarded to a student in the Fermentation Sciences Program at the Oregon State University in the department of Food Science and Technology. This scholarship was created to honor the memory of Jack Joyce, co-founder of Rogue Ales, prominent brewing visionary and Oregon community leader, who died earlier this year at the age of 71. The hope is that this scholarship will allow students to pursue their dreams and continue innovative brewing practices in the next generation of American brewers.

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