Hard cider is a wonderful, bubbly and crisp drink with growing popularity in the United States. Made by
fermenting fruit juice or cider, there is a whole new crop of high quality ciders coming on the market. Not yet what you could call a "craze," cider is still somehow reminiscent to me of the microbrew boom that took off in the early 1990's. The Pacific Northwest is once again leading the nation in developing new brands in this emergent beverage category. Also made in small batches, brewers are combining beer experience with one of the worlds largest apple growing industries in Oregon and Washington.
Though unfamiliar to many Americans today, hard cider was one of the most popular alcoholic beverages here until the mid-1800's. Check out this interesting article on the demise of cider in America. Hard cider is still quite popular in the U.K., available in many pubs, which is where I first had it on tap about 6 years ago. Known as Sidra in Spain, it's an inexpensive alternative to champagne often drunk at celebrations.
With alcohol content similar to beer, ciders range from sweet to quite dry. While some producers are experimenting with other fruits, including pears, I'm really enjoying the ones made from different heirloom varieties of apple. Similar to a fine sparkling wine, hard cider pairs well with cheese or a roast of pork.
Our newest discovery is from Oregon, with the wonderfully itinerant name "Wandering Aengus Ciderworks."