Like any good red-blooded American guy, I'm planning on celebrating Independence Day by getting pleasantly buzzed, grilling some burgers, and setting off/viewing some very colorful explosions. I also have a pretty fly American flag tank top I'm planning on wearing, just like our forefathers did. This probably sounds like a lot of American's plans for Independence Day, so I have just one party-enhancing request, dear reader:
In the spirit of American ingenuity, I want you to drink cider for July 4th.
Now, I know you'll hear a lot about cider's historical value in American history from modern-day cidermakers, and I'm here to tell you that they aren't wrong. Our forefathers pounded hard cider like there was no tomorrow, probably because it tasted way better than the latrine they called city water back then and was naturally free of diseases and poisons. We even had a president, President Harrison, who ran on a “log cabin and hard cider” platform in the 1840s. His rallies would have made C-Span a lot more interesting... They would hand out hard cider to everyone who attended and party all day long. I'd vote for that guy!
We can also talk about reclaiming American heritage by drinking cider – during Prohibition, there was an actual FBI program to cut and burn down cider apple trees. Traditional cider apples are like crab apples – they taste awful – so they knew you were making booze with them if they saw them around your farm. It's crazy that we went from our forefathers advocating breakfast hard ciders (looking at you, Jefferson) to actively destroying the heritage beverage that fueled our westward expansion. It's time to reclaim our boozy inheritance! American farmers are getting up to speed with traditional cider apples now, but there's still a deficit we're working with. That's why you see so many adjunct ciders – we're using some of that American ingenuity I mentioned earlier to make some tasty beverages with what we have available. American cider is already delicious, and it's only going to get better as more options for raw ingredients (apples) become available and cidermakers combine those with the creativity and spirit we've already got going in the American cider business right now.
So, yes, cider is one of the most authentic American drinks out there, but let's be real for a minute – our forefathers weren't exactly choking down charcoal-grilled cheeseburgers or setting off Roman candles and M80s, so why should you care how authentically colonial the booze you're looking forward to crushing is? We have perfectly healthy tap-water available everywhere (except for select cities in Michigan – although there's still great cider happening in Flint!), we get enough daily calories, and I don't know anyone that's ever had scurvy, which was a surprisingly important part of why people made alcoholic beverages in colonial times.
You should care because your purchase of delicious American cider supports family farms (not a lot of agro-industrial cider orchards out there), artisanal producers, small distributors, and the re-proliferation of heirloom fruits. Basically, you should drink cider this Independence Day because it supports the culture and people you are already dedicated to celebrating!
Also, and potentially more relevant to you, cider is that good stuff! Cider is a unique beverage that combines all of the best parts of beer and wine – it's complex in flavor like wine, but quaffable and refreshing like beer. Also, due to its higher acidity, cider will cleanse your palate more than beer, so you can enjoy every single bite of your backyard burger's perfect, delicious, juicy, mouth-watering symphony of smokey flavor.
Plus, cider is significantly healthier than beer, and if you're anything like me, you are going to indulge in a potentially-more-than-average amount of alcohol for this holiday. Cider's average ABV is between 5 and 8%, much like your average craft beer, except it only has half of the calories. For example, a 12 oz serving of 101 Cider's India Pale Cider (6.9% ABV) has roughly 120 calories, while your favorite California fish-themed IPA (7% ABV) has 240 calories. That looks like I can get the same buzz and only get half as fat if I'm drinking cider as opposed to beer, and that's just good science.
I should mention the sugar, too. People always complain about the sugar. I've been selling cider for a few years now, and the most common objection I hear is that it's too sweet. YOU'RE TOO SWEET! Boom. For real, though, not liking sweet cider is the same as not liking beer because you don't like Coors Light; you just don't like bad beer. Is there a lot of overly sweet cider? For sure, just the same way that there's a lot of crappy light beer out there. But there's so much more! You wouldn't give up on beer entirely just because you appropriately classified light beer as poor quality; don't give up on cider just because you thought Miller Lite Cider (this is a real product) was a good idea. I always tell people that if you don't like cider with more sugar than a candy bar, you probably have really good taste in cider and just don't know it.
So drink some craft cider this Independence Day – give it a shot if you haven't before. See what that funky looking big bottle or four pack is all about. Visit your local cider house and grab a couple growlers, because stocking up on cider by the gallon is the kind of bold move that leads to an amazing night. You can still shotgun your beers during the fireworks grand finale (although there are plenty of shotgunnable ciders, speaking from experience), but revel in your capitalist opportunity of choice and include some of America's founding beverage in your July 4th BBQ lineup. You'll impress your fellow party-goers with your keen sense of taste and cultural apropos. And if your cider selection isn't the first to run out at your party, your next cider is on me.
Here are some July 4th cider recommendations available in California:
101 Cider India Pale Cider
Wild-fermented, dry cider with Citra hops. This is the ultimate BBQ cider – it's dry so you won't get tired of it, high-acid so it pairs super well with grilled meats, and pleasantly hoppy so your palate feels satisfied.
Stoked Baja Sunburn
Super crushable, semi-dry mango-habanero cider in a big 16oz can. The slight heat from the habanero combines with the refreshing acidity and slight sweetness of mango to make the ultimate pool-side cider. No one can be mad at this. They can only be mad they don't have one.
Embark Strawberry Rhubarb
Estate-grown fruits create a semi-sweet, fruity, refreshing cider. If you're looking for a tangy, summertime cider to go with your BBQ, this is it. If you've only had strawberry and rhubarb ciders with artificial flavorings, this will be a revelation!
Cider Riot Everyday Cider
Semi-dry cider made from fresh-pressed Pacific Northwest apples. If you need a cider to crush, look no further. The delicate flavor, low sugar, and moderate acid of this cider are enjoyable with or without food, and for the price-point and ABV, you can definitely enjoy several of these in a session.