Hard cider is having a hot moment. Hotter still, if it's locally made and distributed. Over the past four years, the number of cideries across the country has doubled, from 400 to 800, according to The Cyder Market LLC, a small business that keeps statistics on the cider industry. [...] Wine has long had its connoisseurs. With the rise of the craft beer movement, drinkers have learned to appreciate the nuances of that brewed beverage, too. But cider, in many drinkers' imagination, remains an unrefined, blandly sweet drink, says Johnson. The reality is far different, he says.
[...] Hard cider's history in the U.S. goes all the way back to the Founding Fathers. During the American Revolution, many landowners had apple orchards and made homemade fermented cider using the cider apples that grew in their backyard, says Michelle McGrath, executive director of the U.S. Cider Makers Association. "Prohibition came and most of the cider apple trees were cut down in this country. But now, it's having a renaissance," she says. "It's coming back really strongly; it's taking market share from beer."
Nielsen's research says sales for regional cider are up 35.6 percent. McGrath says this is because local cideries have more varieties of cider that appeal to more sophisticated palates. In other words, cider seems to be going through what wine and beer went through years ago: people moving from drinking big brands to being more discerning, niche, and sometimes downright persnickety.