Hard cider goes back to the first English settlers. Upon finding only inedible crab apples upon arrival, the colonists quickly requested apple seeds from England and began cultivating orchards. Grafting trees to produce proper cider apples. Soon after the American cider production was well under way.
While apple trees had little trouble taking to the New England soil, it was trickier to cultivate the barley and other grains required for the production of beer. So cider became the beverage of choice on the early American dinner table. Even the children drank Ciderkin, a weaker alcoholic drink made from soaking apple pomace in water.
By the turn of the eighteenth century, New England was producing over 300,000 gallons of cider a year, and by midcentury, the average Massachusetts resident was consuming 35 gallons of cider a year. As the settlers began moving west, they brought along their love for cider. By the end of the nineteenth century, it was not uncommon for to find a small cider orchard on the grounds of most homesteads.
Cider’s popularity began to wane in the early 1900s. Huge numbers of German and Eastern European immigrants brought with them a thurst for beer over cider. Plus, the soil in the Midwest was more barley-friendly, so beer production was easier than it had been. The advent of mechanical refrigeration also improved the quality of beer year-round.
While all this beer swilling did have an adverse effect on the cider industry, it did little compared to the devastating blow of Prohibition and the Volstead Act. While some breweries survived these dark times by producing a range of goods from sodas to refrigerated cabinets, cider orchards had less flexibility. In addition to outlawing alcoholic cider, the Volstead Act limited production of sweet cider to 200 gallons a year per orchard. Prohibitionists burned countless fields of trees to the ground and surviving orchards began cultivating sweeter (non-cider) apples out of necessity.
American’s love for cider never really returned after the repeal of Prohibition. While breweries could go back into production almost immediately with imported grains and barley fields could yield their first crops within a year it would take decades to convert the orchards, and the demand, back from snacking and cooking apples to cidermaking ones.
But almost a hundred years later, American cider is once again on the rise. As globalization brings cheap apples to grocery stores from half way around the world, many American orchardists have turned to cider to keep their farms profitable. More and more cider makers are showing up every year, honing their craft, and helping us rediscover this delicious lost American beverage. That’s were Batch 1 Brewing comes in. We strive to produce the best tasting Hard Cider out there.