An Apple Shortage Is Setting Back America’s Booming Hard Cider Business

American-made hard cider is rapidly gaining popularity, but there just aren't enough cider apples, reports Modern Farmer.

Photo: Apple Harvester,

Photo: Apple Harvester, Eat, Drink, and Run

To make truly good cider, you need very special apples. These particular varieties are high in sugar—which encourages alcohol fermentation—and have particular levels of acid and tannins. The problem is that there aren’t enough of them.

“You won’t find these so-called ‘bittersweets’ and ‘bittersharps’ at the grocery store because, eaten as fruit, they taste terrible,” reports Modern Farmer. Apples sold for taste fetch a far higher price than those sold for juice (cider included). The consequence? Farmers lack the incentive to grow cider apples at the same rate.

It’s a problematic situation for hard cider breweries, particularly because the United States is experiencing an incredible cider revival. According to Modern Farmer and the Beer Institutedomestic cider production rose 264% between 2005 and 2012.

It’s worth noting that even the big guys are hopping on the cider bus. Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors both created their own cider brands this past year.

Bull Run Cider co-owner Galen Williams tells Modern Farmer:

“The hard-cider industry is essentially developing without a true raw material. Cidermakers are using everything they can to make interesting, good-tasting ciders without actual cider fruit…Nobody’s planting apples to do anything but try to put them into that high-value category.”

Many cidermakers are making do with widely-available cooking and dessert varieties, such as Red Delicious, along with whatever traditional cider varieties they can get their hands on.

Some cider producers, like J.K.’s Scrumpy and Eve’s Cidery, are making do by growing their own cider apples. Bull Run’s Pete Mulligan estimates that, much like Bull Run, about a third of cideries are growing their own apples, but he dreams of a day when he and his fellow cider makers can easily order 40 bins of cider apples from commercial growers.

[via Modern Farmer]

RELATED: Get on Board the Cider Revolution

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