I was featured in this August 24, 2016 Slate article, provocatively titled: “Why Artisanal Cider-Makers Hate the Fizzy Stuff Sold in Six-Packs: Hard cider doesn’t belong in the same category as beer”, by Adrienne So.
Mom always told me “hate” was a strong word, so it’s not the title I would have chosen.
But for once we have a piece of cider writing that’s not just uncritical industry cheerleading. Clearly, cider is not a monolith so there should be room enough in the category for all types.
The problem comes from a lack of transparency in ingredients, corporate marketing cooption of the words “dry” and “craft” and the accompany dismissal that there is any way you could actually taste the difference between something made from 51% AJC plus apple essence and a real orchard based cider.
Adrienne So sums it up this way:
“There’s just one problem. Many of these ciders are made from dessert apples, like Fujis, or from juice concentrate made from dessert apples, or even from juice concentrate diluted with sugar water. To cider-makers like Stoschek, this practice is akin to making wine from bags of grocery-store seedless grapes, jugs of Welch’s grape juice, or Kool-Aid. It’s just not the same drink.
If you’ve ever tasted a wine grape, you know that they’re very different from the table fruit. The same goes for cider apples. Heirloom cider apples, like a Kingston Black or a Northern Spy, have different levels of sugar, malic acid, and tannins. Tannins give both fine cider and wine a sense of depth. Without tannins, cider can taste flabby, one-dimensional, limp—and in need of flavorings to mask the fact that it tastes like, well, jugged juice.”
The controversy comes in the comment section, where folks who like soda cider feel attacked for their personal preference. For too long, US cider has been a category for people who really do like soda but want to want to appear hip by drinking the latest “dry craft cider”. It’s about time to start calling cider what it is: a diverse category which ranges from “coolers” to “champagne” with everything in between. And it’s time for everyone involved to start telling the truth: about how much sugar was added, what varieties the cider was made out of, where they were grown, whether or not concentrate was used, or whether very many apples were used at all.