Total Wine offers a history of cider—and some great samples

Crispin Cider Company, co-host for the event, exclusively produces apple ciders. Its sister company, Fox Barrel, bottles ciders of the pear variety.
Photo: Justin M. Bowen

Cider was all the rage in colonial America—and it’s on its way back. About 20 people gathered Friday at Total Wine in Henderson to learn about the fruity libation, courtesy of Crispin Cider Company regional sales manager Chris Sineni. Although Total Wine offers a number of wine and beer classes, Sineni said this particular cider class was the first of its kind.

That could be due to cider’s market share. Sineni explained that cider revenues account for only a half-a-percent of the country’s beer sales, a far cry from the state of things two centuries ago. In 1700, Sineni said, one in 10 New England farms operated a cider mill, while hops was difficult to grow and ale expensive to import. Cider saw a decline in the 1900s, when the population began shifting from the country into metropolitan areas and after a boom of immigrants arrived with brewing knowledge and savvy.

Sineni remains positive about cider’s future. “Right now we’re having the American cider renaissance,” he said, adding that cider is the fastest-growing category in the market, even ahead of craft beer.

While tasting the many ciders offered, class participants were asked to share what their tongues and noses were picking up with each individual variety.

After a quick history of the apple, hard cider and the Crispin company, it was time to taste. We started by sampling British ciders Strongbow (U.K.) and Magners (Ireland), comparing them to Crispin’s only import, Browns Lane (pressed, fermented and produced in England). We also learned that the English traditionally drink their cider over ice.

We quickly moved on to American-made products, evaluating the Crispin Original next to Spire and Wyder’s apple ciders. In comparison, Crispin was light in color, easy on the nose, and, uh, well—crisp. The company’s products are made from a premium juice blend (never from concentrate), are cold-filtered and do not include any colorants.

Crispin’s sister company, Fox Barrel, exclusively produces pear ciders and also operates under the same requirements. After we compared its Pacific Pear and Blackberry Pear ciders to the Wyder’s and Spire pear varieties, it was easy to observe that Fox Barrel’s drinks were also not too sweet and refreshingly crisp.

After rounds of Crispin’s artisanal ciders, cheese pairings and beer mixology, the tasting concluded with a float made with Crispin’s Honeycrisp variety and vanilla ice cream—and with many of us feeling confident about our ability to choose a kickass cider.

“We’ve been drinking cider for a while” said Las Vegan Melisa Mills. “I had a really good one in Michigan, so that kind of resparked an interest to learn more about it so we knew what we were picking.”


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