Real cider.

With the arrival of three new ciders from Henney’s, we’re growing even more excited about the future of this traditional drink. Along with Farnum Hill and Oliver’s, Henney’s Ciders are the real thing. It is time for us to ask a very important question: are Americans ready for real cider?

To most Americans, “cider” means the sweet, non-alcoholic beverage available at farmer’s markets and grocery stores. It is expected to be spiced with cinnamon, or spiked with rum (to get through the holidays). It is considered a seasonal treat. What we are talking about is something completely different.We’re drinking cider that tastes like apples not sugar; it’s dry, not sweet. It’s delicate but intense, rustic but elegant, and filled with flavors ranging from citrus fruit to freshly cut grass. Did we mention it’s fermented? That’s right; you won’t find our cider in gallon jugs in the juice aisle. However, with an average alcohol level of around 6%, you can still enjoy a few glasses at a time. (Believe us, you’ll want a few.)The cider we’re talking about is much older than the non-alcoholic stuff. In 55 B.C., Julius Caesar’s soldiers discovered hard cider made from fermented crab-apples in what came to be Britain. In 14th century England, this cider was used as currency. Right here in America, before pasteurization and Prohibition, back when English settlers had just arrived, “cider” was not only complex, dry, and fermented, but also the drink of choice. Apples were one of the easiest crops to grow in New England’s harsh climate, and hard cider required no refrigeration. American families, young and old, drank it to stay healthy, because it was safer than possibly contaminated water or milk. Then came Prohibition. The temperance movement (and the US government) waged a fierce war on traditional cider, almost killing it completely. The sweet stuff took over as the “wholesome” alternative, and, to this day, is still what America refers to as “cider”.

Don’t get us wrong, the cider you buy at the farmer’s market is good. It’s just not as good as the cider we’re talking about. Fermentation brings out the subtleties of fruit that are masked in non-alcoholic ciders. Hard ciders are surprising, and extremely refreshing. They are more aromatic, and filled with flavors you’d never expect to come from apples. One word of caution: we aren’t talking about the mass-produced, industrial, alcoholic ciders that taste like tart corn-syrup. As far as we’re concerned, they don’t even have a place in this discussion.

Shelton Brothers was founded when our president, Dan Shelton, began importing traditional lambics from Cantillon. At the time, the only lambics Americans were drinking were from Lindemans. Today, some of our most highly sought beers are from Cantillon. We hope this means America is also ready for a cider revelation. That question remains to be answered. In the meantime, we are assembling some of the world’s best, so we’re ready when you are.

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