America’s Hard Cider Boom Has One Problem: Not Enough Apples | culture: the word on cheese
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America’s Hard Cider Boom Has One Problem: Not Enough Apples

The hard cider industry has experienced quite the boom in the past few years, perhaps thanks in part to the popularity of gluten-free diets. Regardless, more Americans than ever (well, maybe since colonial America, at least) are quaffing the stuff, but as demand increases, cider makers are running into a problem — there aren’t enough apples. The apples needed to make cider aren’t the same kinds available in your grocery store — they’re bitter and generally worth less, which is why large-scale farmers typically don’t grow them. (Looking for hard cider and cheese pairings? Grab our Ultimate Pairings Guide, Cheese+, which has an entire section devoted to cider and cheese!)

Trouble is, cider apples haven’t kept pace with cider. Many of these fruits are heirloom varieties—distinctively flavored, colorfully named cultivars such as Kingston Black, Yarlington Mill, and Porter’s Perfection — that went nearly extinct on American soil during Prohibition and haven’t been cultivated on a large scale since. Walking through the dwarf-sized, just-budding trees of Bull Run’s orchard, where more than 60 apple varieties are represented, cidery co-owner Galen Williams explains that for the time being, most cidermakers are making do with widely available cooking and dessert varieties, such as Red Delicious, along with whatever traditional cider varieties they can lay hands on. (Most ciders are made from a blend of apple types.)

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Rebecca Haley-Park

Rebecca Haley-Park is culture's former editor and resident stinky cheese cheerleader. A native New Englander, she holds a BFA in creative writing from University of Maine at Farmington.