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From the founding of Jamestown through the Revolutionary era, cider was a common drink for both the rich and poor in early America.  Considered a source of nutrition and often safer to drink than water, cider was drank as much out of necessity as pleasure.

Cider consumption waned as the Industrial Revolution brought changing demographics who preferred beer.  Prohibition dealt a final blow to many orchards and cider consumption.

Thanks to a committed group of women and men, Virginia, along with several northeastern states, is in the midst of a cider renaissance.

Home to 26 cider producers, Virginia is the 6th largest apple-producing state by acreage.  The local cider industry contributes about $235 million to the Commonwealth’s economy.

In 2012, the Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate passed House Joint Resolution 105 to designate the full week before Thanksgiving as Cider Week in Virginia.

At a ceremony at the Virginia Executive last Thursday, Governor Ralph Northam gathered with the cider industry, trade and media to reaffirm this commitment to Cider Week via proclamation

Intended to raise awareness and recognize cider’s growing popularity in the Commonwealth, Cider Week Virginia takes place November 15 – 24.  Cideries across the Commonwealth are offering special tastings and other cider events this week (Cider Week Virginia events page).

Six Facts Virginians May Not Know About Cider:

  • Cider is fermented like wine, not brewed like beer.  
  • One of the biggest differences between hard cider and wine  — or, apples and grapes — is that apples must be ground before pressing. The entire apple is ground to a pulp called pomace and the juice is then fermented.  
  • There are over 30 different apple varieties grown specifically for cider production throughout Virginia. 
  • Artisan ciders are typically made from blending different apples.  Many of the best apples for cider production are not ideal for eating.  The primary types of apples are: Sharps (grown for high acid), Sweets (grown for high sugars), Bittersharps (grown for high tannins and acid), and Bittersweets (high tannins and high sugars). 
  • According to several cidermakers, one of the most common cider misconceptions amongst consumers is that hard cider is made in just ‘one’ style.  Hard cider is produced in many different styles and levels of quality — from the commercial 6-pack grocery store brands that are chaptalized and diluted with water, to bottle fermented cider, to bone dry cider, to fruity cider and sweet, dessert-style cider. 
  • Based on current law, Virginia hard apple cider can be up to 10% alcohol by volume, without chapitalizing (adding sugar to the juice).  Any fermented apple juice above 10% alcohol must be labeled ‘apple wine.’  A cider can not have more than 7% alcohol when chapitalized.

Throughout Cider Week, I’ll post interviews with Virginia Cidermakers and cider reviews.  Tomorrow’s featured cidermaker is Courtney Mailey, founder of Blue Bee Cider, Virginia’s first urban cidery.

Get out there and support local cideries!