TWhen Peter Ye first tasted Basque cider, he struck it like lightning. His experiences as a wine buyer led him to believe that cider was sweet, plain, and unsuitable for food. But this one was different – aromatic, dry and complex, everything one would expect from a good wine.
“It took me 25 years in the wine industry to understand that this is the taste I’ve been looking for my whole life,” he says.
For me, a Korean American who made kimchi and Korean rice wine, the fermentation was natural. Obsessed with making this style of cider in the United States, he eventually founded the Brooklyn Cider House with his sister Susan.
He is not alone. The artisanal cider industry in the United States has boomed in recent years, with new producers emerging across the country. Americans drink 10 times more cider than they did a decade ago, says Michelle McGrath, executive director of the American Cider Association (ACA). Small brands are now the hottest sector in the industry; The regional cider market share grew to 51% in early 2022, up from 29% in 2018, according to Nielsen’s latest cider market report.
And as the industry expands, it becomes more diversified. The cider drinkers today are younger, from different backgrounds and want beer from people who look like them. In contrast, Asian, black, and Latin cider makers are experimenting with new flavors and ways that celebrate their culture while forging links with the land and farming in an industry that often overlooks their contributions.
For Jose Gonzalez Sr., a real estate agent in Salem, Oregon, the journey into making cider began five years ago when he and his wife traveled to a cider festival in San Diego. They liked what they tasted, but something was missing. “My wife said it would be nice to have apple cider with flavors we grew up on like lemon, tamarindo and Jamaican. [hibiscus]Gonzalez remembers.
He asked his mother, Lourdes, to make infusions of tamarind and hibiscus agua fresca—a traditional Mexican soft drink made with fruit, water, sugar, and lemon juice. They mixed the agua into bottles of cider and loved the taste. Today, they sell La Familia hard cider flavored with guava, tamarind, green apple, and hibiscus in their tasting room in Salem and throughout Oregon.
Gonzalez says the brand has a large Latino following, as well as people who appreciate craft beer culture and try something new. His son, Jose Gonzalez Jr., better known as Jay Guy, loves to see people who look like him sipping cider and talking about trips to Costa Rica or salsa dancing.
“People love it,” says Jay Jay. “They tell us we are different.”
The history of apple juice
The first recorded mention of apple juice dates back thousands of years to the Romans in 55 B.C. University of Washington Cider history. This ancient drink has long brought communities together to harvest, make, and drink, and while the United States is traditionally associated with places like Britain, France, and Spain, the United States also has a long history of cider that began with American colonists in the 17th century. century.
But the history of apple juice would not have been possible without people of color. “At the edge of the woods, like a barbecue, enslaved African Americans were responsible for making and making cider,” says Tristan Wright, founder of Lost Boy Cider in Virginia.
In Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home, Jupiter Evans was an accomplished enslaved winemaker whose life was detailed in a civilian eating profile. Japan and Korea share a long history of fermented foods and drinks, and apples are revered in Japanese culture. Today, cider apples are picked by a mostly Hispanic workforce keeping the industry alive, says Robbie Honda, owner of Tanuki Cider.
Honda, a fourth-generation Japanese American, grew up in a 100-year-old Grainstein apple orchard his great-grandfather planted in Sebastopol, a small town in northern Sonoma County. Somewhere between his love of sustainability and reading Michael Pollan’s Plant of Desire and the Omnivore Dilemma, he convinced his late brother to launch his cider brand in 2014.
Its Santa Cruz juice is based on the same Newtown Pepin apples grown for Martinelli, the brand famous for its sweet, non-alcoholic cider served to children and holiday drinkers. By paying a premium for apples, the Honda brand is helping keep the apple-growing culture alive in Watsonville, California, where most orchards have been replaced by more profitable crops like grapes or strawberries.
“What that means symbolically…save those trees and not uproot them to grow berries or grapes or herbs, and preserve the orchard and the historical story you tell, that’s very interesting to me,” he says.
Besides reviving bonds with history and the land, today’s cider makers and devotees are introducing new consumers to the wide range of what cider has to offer.
The lines fade between cider and grape wine, both of which are made by fermenting fruit. The Redfield Cider Bar + Bottle Shop in Auckland stocks a range of local ciders, including some from natural winemakers. “What made us especially happy was that the natural wine world really embraced cider,” says Mike Reese, a bar owner with his wife Olivia Mackie.
Malaika Tyson, half of the Chicago couple known as The Cider Soms, says cider falls into two general camps: dry or tart, made with aged cider apples, and sweeter, made with cooking apples flavored with fruits or herbs. But there is a contrast in every taste – from pink, sour and individual variety to unusual options made with natural yeast.
Tyson and her husband, Sean, who is black, first discovered cider in St. Louis and say moving to Chicago has expanded their options. As more black consumers slowly discover the drink, Tyson thinks it’s unlikely to explode in the next Moscato. “It doesn’t have the prestige of black wine or cognac,” Tyson says. “It’s not like black celebrities are drinking.”
Hannah Ferguson — a black cider maker with a triple threat who can also make beer and wine — believes that once they learn about cider, more black consumers will appreciate it. At the recent Black Business Expo, she had to tell the audience that she wasn’t spilling cider. “I had to explain to them that it was like a mixture of beer and wine… and we carbonated it like beer and flavored it,” Ferguson recalls. Then they said, ‘Oh, that’s cool. “”
Society gave us apple juice.
Ferguson started making wine as a hobby, dabbling in homemade Riesling and Shiraz, which eventually led to a job as a brewer. Now she is busy preparing to open her own Dope estate and winery (short for “dwelling on positive energy”) in downtown Youngstown, Ohio, which will make her the first black woman to own a cider house in the state to open.
At Dope, they offer a selection of dry and sweet seasonal ciders made with local apples, as well as warm ciders in winter. Although the cider community is very white, Ferguson says it’s also very welcoming. At the first cider conference, several people offered advice on getting started.
There is a growing commitment to promoting greater diversity across the industry. According to Wright, Lost Boy has a workforce of 70% Bipoc and LGBTQ+ because it’s just right to have a diverse team. Anxo Cider and Beer Culture, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inclusion in the beverage industry, has funded scholarships for Bipoc makers to attend CiderCon, the annual meeting of the American Cider Association, says Redfield Cider’s Mackie, who serves on the ACA Commission on Anti-Racism, Justice and Inclusion Exist.
Other big brands partner with smaller minority-owned brands. Ferguson, for example, is working with Angry Orchard — the brand credited with reviving the taste of cider in the United States — on ciders for Fass & Fluss, the annual Black Brewing Conference in Pittsburgh this year. And in May, Honda of Tanuki Cider and winemaker Michael Sons released a joint brewing made with Newtown Pepin apples and Pinot Noir grapes called Newtown Noir.
Honda, for its part, is uncomfortable being called a Bipoc, or Japanese-American cider maker — he’s just a guy who decided to make cider because he thought it would be fun. “Do you do some T-shirts and posters, throw parties and music, like, yell, you know?” Honda says. But it became much more than that.
He says the races never appeared during his partnership with Sons, and he is white. They are just two people who both love to brew. “What I have gained from the community that Cider has given us is certainly the most valuable.”