A Cider Timeline
1840–Rapidly losing ground to cheap whiskey, cider stages a comeback during the presidential election. The Whigs tout their candidate, General William Henry Harrison, as a cider-swigging, hardtack-eating man-of-the-people. To drive home their point, they ladle out free cider by the barrelful at their political rallies.
1899 to 1919–Hard cider consumption decreases from 55 million barrels to 13 million barrels. Competing industries like lager beer and soft drinks are to blame, as is the Temperance Movement.
1920–Prohibition goes into effect nationwide. A loophole in the law allows the production of hard cider as a prelude to manufacturing vinegar.
1935–The Internal Revenue Code treats cider for the most part as a wine. A total exemption from taxes is granted to farmers selling the odd jug of unfiltered, uncarbonated cider at roadside stands. The provision may have been inserted to absolve farmers of liability if their sweet cider ferments spontaneously.
1979–The legalization of homebrewing sparks a new interest in wine- and cider-making as well.
1980–Storey Communications, Inc. publishes Sweet & Hard Cider: Making It, Using It, & Enjoying It by Annie Proulx and Lew Nichols.
1986–Jeffrey House begins importing Dry Blackthorn from Taunton Ciders (since absorbed by Matthew Clark Brands. Ltd.). Joseph Cerniglia founds the Cerniglia Winery (later renamed Green Mountain Cidery) in Proctorsville, Vt. Ciders rebirth has begun.
1995–E.&J. Gallo, the nation’s largest winery, launches its Hornsby’s Draft and Hornsby’s Dark ‘n’ Dry ciders, and quickly moves to the number one position on the basis of its distribution clout.
1997–Several leading cider producers, led by Elizabeth Ryan of Hudson Valley Draft Cider Co., announce the formation of the North American Hard Cider Association. Congress passes the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, which substantially lowers the tax on cider under 6% abv.
Greg Kitsock is the editor of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, a long-time resident of Washington, DC, and a frequent contributor to beer-related publications.