DOESN'T FALL FAR
By Allyson Marrs
Fruit is making a frenzy of a comeback. If you've been watching the drinking scene lately, you'll have noticed that hard cider is making an appearance at more restaurants, breweries and bars.
Just this past summer, at the annual Bite of Seattle festival, the craft brew tasting featured a handful of hard cider options. Down south, at the Oregon Brewers Festival, guests tapped into cider, too.
It's a drink that's really burst onto the scene in the last year, bringing fans and devoted drinkers with it. In 2012, cider sales were up more than 62 percent, according to CNN, with Woodchuck Hard Cider—the most popular brand—selling more than two and a half million cases.
The drink's popularity has a history, though, as our forefathers guzzled it more often than other alcohol options since apples were easier to grow than barley during Colonial times.
Now, its rise could be contributed to the growing popularity of craft breweries. According to Time magazine, there were 1,693 craft breweries in the U.S., and that number is only growing—especially in the Pacific Northwest. We're a creative bunch. We're a boozy bunch.
The craft industry is exposing drinkers to a variety of brews, which means consumers are becoming bolder, more daring and more willing to try new things. This has made room for ciders to push into the market because of their versatility.
Cider is taking leaps away from the "fermented apple juice" label, as companies begin playing with the flavors—from dry to bold to fruity to complex. Like beers, they come in different styles, and apples aren't the only fruit on the farm, giving way to raspberries, peaches and blueberries, among others.
The lighter texture also helps play to wine drinkers, as some say that hard cider has become the happy medium between beer and wine. This middle road seems to hold up along gender lines as well, with cider being considered more gender-neutral than beer, which has an 80 percent male consumer bases, according to the 2012 BeerTAB report from Technomic.
The market for cider, however, appears to be wide open to both men and women, and as women have become more interested in the craft brewing industry over the years, the curiosity about cider makes sense, given the beverage's flexibility.
There's no denying that it's usually sweeter than beer, though. For this reason, most consumers tend to start the night with it, choosing to end the evening with something a bit heartier. Companies that now produce both—Stella Artois, for example—most likely don't mind such an attitude.
If nothing else, these new tap picks offer one more reason to sample the best of the Northwest. Chances are, these ciders are only just grazing the creative surface. Predictions aside, these apples don't fall far from the craft tree.
Allyson Marrs is a contributing editor for REFLECTIONS.