The beverage of choice for founding fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams is having an American revolution of its own. A wealth of apple orchards makes Virginia the natural epicenter for this cider revival.
Cider is simply defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau as fermented apple juice. Cider is made much like wine, by grinding down apples, pressing them and fermenting the juice, instead of brewing it like beer.
“There are dramatic differences between the types of cider made in Virginia,” says Diane Flynt of Foggy Ridge Cider. “From commercial beer-bottled styles to small batches of cider made from specific varieties of apples.”
Foggy Ridge Cider, a licensed producer since 2005, was the first cidery south of Massachusetts. Flynt has noticed a significant increase in the number of Virginia apple cideries in the past five years.
“Virginia orchardists are beginning to plant tannic apple varieties that are more suited to cider production than commonly planted varieties, like Red Delicious or Granny Smith,” Flynt says. “Cider is the fastest-growing segment of the alcohol industry and has attracted a lot of investment.”
Today, Virginia boasts at least 10 cideries.
Much of cider’s national demand can be traced to commercial brands owned by beer companies, paving the way for smaller, local cideries.
“I think it has been marketed very successfully by some of the big, commercial cider producers that are actually owned by beer companies, like Angry Orchard, Crispin and Woodchuck,” Flynt says.
Locally, the popularity of cider is linked closely to the eat-and-drink- local movement sweeping the nation. Consumers are conscious of the origin of their food and drink, and take pride in supporting local cideries.
“People are also increasingly interested in experimenting with what they drink,” Flynt says. “There is wine from all over the world in the grocery store and countless varieties of beer. Cider is just one more option.”
Naturally gluten-free, cider is a popular alternative for those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
Virginia celebrates its delicious legacy with numerous cider-centric events throughout the year. Cider Week VA is the country’s first governor-proclaimed cider celebration. For more information about the Virginia cider industry and Cider Week VA, visit ciderweekva.com.