Cider 101: From Fruit To Fermentation

Any time can be the right time for cider, with hard cider experiencing a remarkable surge in popularity over the past decade. Even so, you may be asking yourself, “What exactly is hard cider?”

Hard cider is cider with alcohol content. Traditionally crafted through the fermentation of apples, and now even pears and various other fruits, hard cider can exhibit a wide spectrum of alcohol content, ranging from a modest 1.2% to a robust 12% ABV. It can take on various characteristics, with some ciders either still or effervescent, dry or sweet. There really is something for everybody when it comes to hard cider, thanks to a rich history and creative production process.

The sky's the limit for this beverage, especially right here in Idaho. The state's cider industry is growing and the inaugural Idaho Cider Fest, happening Oct. 7 from noon to 6 p.m. at Freak Alley Gallery in Downtown Boise, is a perfect opportunity for you to get better acquainted with this tasty beverage. This family-friendly event will showcase offerings from Northwest Idaho cideries, along with fun games and local vendors. 

Read on to learn more about cider and the best ways to enjoy delicious, locally-produced offerings.

Pouring Cider in Glass in Orchard

The History of Hard Cider

Hard cider has been a beverage staple since the first recorded evidence of it in England in 55 B.C. It also has a deep-rooted history in the United States, dating back to the arrival of the first colonists. While there were some native varieties of apples in the Americas, European settlers brought their own apple varieties and cuttings. Apples were a practical choice as they were filling, had a long shelf life, remained fresh during winter, and, rich in vitamin C, warded off scurvy. It was convenient to produce and store a batch at home. Apples naturally undergo fermentation if left undisturbed, so making hard cider was a matter of guiding the process. 

Today, cider occupies only a small portion of the U.S. alcohol market compared to beer, but its growth over the past decade has made a notable impact on the alcohol industry. This is especially true in Idaho’s case; currently, Idaho is one of the strongest states in the nation for cider growth, with a 7.67% increase in sales in 2022.

How It’s Made

The cider-making process closely parallels that of grape-based wines. Similar to wine production, cider begins with the cultivation and harvesting of fruit, followed by crushing and pressing. The resulting juice is transferred to a container, where yeast is introduced to kickstart fermentation, converting sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. From here, some cideries opt to ferment their cider until it reaches a completely dry state and then reintroduce non-fermentable sugars to enhance its appeal to consumers.

What's particularly intriguing about cider-making is its wide scope for experimentation. Cider artisans enjoy ample creative freedom, allowing for an exhilarating and continuously evolving craft. Producers can explore a multitude of techniques to manipulate the cider's taste, fine-tuning acidity levels and experimenting with diverse juicing methods to craft unique flavor profiles.

Idaho Cider in Different Glasses

Cider In Idaho

Cider continues to grow in popularity statewide, and Idaho leads the nation for growth in regional cider brands. It was just five years ago that Idaho had only one cidery within the entire state; now, there are nine! You can find them in most of the growing regions:

And, there are usually events happening around the state to give consumers the perfect chance to learn more about local cider. In addition to the upcoming Idaho Cider Fest, be sure to mark your calendars for June 2024, which will be the next Idaho Wine and Cider Month. During the month of June, look for special events and promotions to help you sip, savor, and celebrate the amazing wines and ciders made right here in the Gem State.

Now that you know more about hard cider, you can explore all that Idaho’s local cideries have to offer. With multiple cideries located within the state’s six wine regions, there is plenty of opportunity to try local cider at a tasting room or for purchase at the local grocery.