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In the earliest days of American history, long before Samuel Adams became a beer label, hard cider was the drink of choice. George Washington’s troops received cider rations, and American homesteaders planted apple trees and then fermented much of what they grew.
Later, as cities replaced homesteads and German immigrants brought beer to the United States, cider became less popular. The final nail in cider’s coffin was Prohibition. The drink didn’t rebound like beer and wine after the U.S. repealed the 18th Amendment.
Hard cider is finally making its comeback. In 2004, only 4 million gallons of the stuff was sold in the U.S.; by 2012, that number topped 17 million.
Cider’s resurgence isn’t limited to tiny pockets of the country; even major liquor labels like Anheuser-Busch and Heineken are crafting the stuff and distributing it nationwide. But the most readily available ciders are often sickeningly sweet, more like a Jolly Rancher than a fine beverage.
Your best bet for quality cider comes from small-scale craft producers, like Grizzly Ciderworks in Woodinville, Wash. Grizzly’s unique ciders incorporate hops in part to attract beer drinkers.
“At Grizzly, dry-hopped cider is our thing. Rather than producing products similar to the existing successful cider companies, competing in a ‘Coke versus Pepsi’ type arena for the same consumers, we decided to seek out a new group all the while creating ciders with robust flavors and broad appeal,” says Co-Founder Andy Petek.
Cider, which is naturally made without wheat, has attracted beer drinkers who have had to go gluten free. Grizzly’s appeal, though, aims to be much broader.
“The Grizzly Founders’ Series ciders are aimed at cider enthusiasts who are looking for a full-bodied next step in the market. They’re also designed for beer drinkers who are looking for an approachable beverage that may seem somewhat familiar with dry styling and hops,” Petek says.
Grizzly released its first ciders in October, including The Ridge, a dry, crisp cider; The Bruin, a darker dry cider, the citrus-laced Hopclaw, which is triple-hopped; and RazzBear, which incorporates a raspberry puree.
As more craft cideries pop up around the country, pushing the creativity envelope, perhaps that Jolly Rancher stigma will go the way of the 18th Amendment.