The craft cider culture in America, and for that matter the craft cider trade, embraces today a distinctly beer-centric perspective on this rising drink and rising business. I find this puzzling given the fact that cider itself is distinctly more wine-like in character.
• One is far more likely to seek out craft cider, or cider of any kind, in beer-centric restaurants and taverns.
• One needn’t move beyond he beer section in grocery stores and bottle shops to find what craft cider might be in stock.
• The products is largely bottled and canned like beer, not like wine.
• The pricing of craft cider is much more akin to that of beer than wine.
• Those who write about cider are far more likely to have a background in beer than in wine.
I would submit that it is in the best interests of the craft cider trade to look to the wine industry as a model, and just as well, it is in the interests of cider drinkers to look at cider through the lens of wine (if a lens is needed) in order to develop a coherent intellectual appreciation of the beverage.
Certainly this might be my 25-year wine background talking. But there is a good argument for this perspective as well. Consider the making of cider. Like wine, we have are talking about the fermented juice of a fruit, whereas beer is a matter of fermenting a grain and adding water. This is a fundamentally different chore. Also like wine, craft cider is predisposed to being influenced by the character of the weather during a specific year than is the grain grown for beer. Finally, the very character of cider, with its lighter body, it’s color, its aromas, its tannins and the fundamental importance of acid is far more like wine than it is beer.
And yet, cider in America is nearly always categorized next to beer. This is puzzling.
I think it will be one of the missions of the craft cider industry over the next 5 to ten years, as it continues to evolve, develop and expand, to explore this puzzle. More importantly, it will be the job of the craft cider industry to determine if it wants to continue to hitch its wagon to beer.