Cider is an alcoholic drink produced by fermenting extracts of apples, though in the United States the term generally describes a non-alcoholic product, with the alcoholic version being termed 'hard cider' and produced in such apple-growing states as New England and upstate New York. Much of the latter is actually produced for direct conversion into vinegar.
In this chapter, I focus on cider making in the United Kingdom, but it is important to stress that cider is also important in France (Normandy and Brittany), Germany (the Trier/Frankfurt area) and Northern Spain, each of which has some individual manufacturing approaches.
Perry is the equivalent product made from pears, but production of this is on a far smaller scale. Both of these products have a pedigree stemming back at least to the days of Pliny in the Mediterranean basin. Cider production probably came to England from Normandy even before 1066.
The United Kingdom is the biggest producer of cider. Historically the major production areas have been the West Midlands, notably the counties of Hereford and Worcester, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Devon. Smaller amounts have been produced in East Anglia, Sussex and Kent.
In the earliest days of cider production in England, it achieved such a high status that it was a peer for wines. However, particularly during the nineteenth century, its quality declined and it assumed the status of being a low-cost source of alcohol for peripatetic farm workers. The 'scrumpy' image was assumed. However, in the late twentieth century, cider once more gained appeal as a drink of quality, including for young people.
The biggest selling style of cider is as a clear carbonated, light flavoured beverage in bottle or can with an alcohol content of between 1.2% and 8.5% ABV. Increasingly there is a trend towards chaptalisation - that is, the addition of sugars or syrups prior to fermentation to supplement the carbohydrate derived from apple. For the most part, modern ciders may comprise only 30-50% apple juice.
New product development has been rife in the cider industry in recent years. Thus, inter alia there have been higher alcohol variants, 'white' ciders stripped of their colour, so-called ice versions (cf. beer) and ciders flavoured with diverse other components.
When served on draught, cider is essentially a competitor for beer, primarily the lager-style products. However, there are styles of draught cider that are much more akin to cask conditioned ales. Nonetheless, there is probably a closer match between cider making and wine making than there is with brewing.
In France, ciders tend to be of lower alcohol content and distinctly sharp in flavour. Those from the Asturias region of Spain are somewhat vinegary and foamy, while those from Germany tend to have relatively high alcohol content.
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