What is Cider? Cider is fermented apple juice. Some ciders are fermented with the addition of other fruits, herbs, and spices. Cider is naturally gluten free and is the original colonial drink in the US, popular long before the availability of imported wines and industrialized beer--and before Prohibition saw the destruction of cider apple trees. We refrain from labeling our cider “hard cider,” just as one doesn’t call call beer or wine “hard” to distinguish it from “root beer,” “ginger ale” or “cheerwine.” These sugary sodas became popular during Prohibition at the same time the word “cider” was misappropriated to signify cloudy apple juice. Traditionally, the word “cider” always meant fermented apple juice, and it still does everywhere in the world except North America. We aren’t fans of Prohibition so we don’t call our craft “hard cider.”
What Makes a Real Cider? At Black Mountain Ciderworks + Meadery, we make real cider from 100% apple juice and other actual fruit, free of manufactured flavors. Real cider should be crafted only with real apple juice--not from apple juice concentrate. Apple juice concentrate is used to produce cider much more often than you might think, especially among large industrial cideries. These cider manufactures use concentrate fortified with glucose syrup to make cider on a two week cycle all throughout the year, whereas real cider is made during the apple harvest in the fall, fermented from fresh juice pressed from actual apples. If you’re familiar with fermentation at all, you probably know that two weeks is far too short a turn-around time for an decent alcoholic beverage! This cider, sometimes referred to as “white cider” due to its lack of color, is often quickly fermented to 15% and then diluted down to between 4% and 6%. The result of this concentrate-glucose monstrosity is a bland but alcoholic wine beverage that then must be gussied up with fake apple flavors and artificial colors. Sadly, there are even some cideries masquerading as “craft” who also use concentrate and manufactured flavors.
Why would these cideries choose to make--not good, real cider--but bad, alcoholic apple soda? Consistency and expense; this version of “cidermaking” is easier and cheaper. These cideries would have consumers believe that consistency is the most important factor when choosing a cider. Actually, cider is a natural product, fermented like wine, and exact consistency can be difficult to achieve due to fluctuations in apples’ acid, tannin, and sugar, as well as what side of the tree an apple grew and how much sun it received. These variations in soil, environment, sunlight and weather that affect how cider will taste-- or the terroir of the region--- is cherished by real cidermakers with but rejected by large industrial cidermakers who just want to turn a profit as easily as possible. Their cider no more resembles ours than a wine cooler resembles a fine bottle of Bordeaux.
Real cider is also clean cider. Cider is clean when it made without manufactured flavors, whether they be natural or artificial. If we say our cider is made with lavender, it is indeed made with real lavender flowers rather than lavender flavor.
In North Carolina, real cider is truly a North Carolina product. Of all the alcohol produced in our state, cider is made ONLY from produce grown in state. This is not always the case with NC’s numerous wineries and breweries. Other than muscadine and scuppernong grapes, most wine grape varieties do not grow as well in North Carolina’s climate as they do in Europe or California. Therefore, many wine producers source some grapes and juice from other locations, sometimes thousands of miles away. Likewise, some NC breweries use barley that has been malted in the state, but barley doesn’t grow well as far south as North Carolina, so breweries must import barley from New England, Canada or perhaps Europe. However, a proper cidery in NC will use apples from this state, making an authentically North Carolina product.
We graciously adhere to these real cidermaking standards when crafting our ciders. Throughout the year we produce many ciders, including some seasonal offerings, and in our taproom we serve six ciders at any given time from among the following:
POMONA: Flagship, named after the 17th century cider treatise dedicated to the Roman goddess of the harvest, Pomona is a rich, semi-dry real cider that embraces the terroir of our Southern apples. A subtle bouquet of apple blossom and vanilla precedes a buttery, full body that ebbs into a bright semi-dry finish.
THE DREADNOUGHT: First scrumpy in the south! A scrumpy cider made in the style of the English West Country; the whole apples are fermented rather than just juice, and with the wild yeasts of the apples. The Dreadnought has a deceptively sweet nose of honeysuckle and freshly-cut hay, trumpeting an assertive dryness. A tue cider lover's cider.
ALL HALL: Summer cider with hand-picked watermelon, mint, and Cornish sea salt.
ATALANTA: Early summer cider with rosemary, honey, and peach.
THE BASILISK: Summer cider with basil and honey. Herbaceous.
BLUE CHRISTMAS: Cozy Christmas cider with blueberry, cardamom, and honey.
THE CAPE FEAR: Semi-sweet cider made with muscadine grapes from Eastern North Carolina. These grapes are native to the Southeastern United States and were first discovered by the Italian explorer Giovanni di Verrazzano while exploring the Cape Fear River Basin in 1524.
CHARLEMAGNE: Semi-sweet cider; floral bouquet punctuated by notes of quince + caramel.
THE CHURCHILL: Cider with elderberry, elderflower, honey. Earthy, flowery, jammy.
CROATAN: Fall sweet potato cider with honey. Sweet potatoes are the NC state vegetable.
GOLDEN HIND: Fresh lemongrass + honey cider.
GOOD QUEEN BESS: Lavender + honey cider, named for Queen Elizabeth I, who loved lavender.
THE HOLLY KING: Winter cider made with black currant, honey, and vanilla. Winter
JACKANAPE: Semi-sweet pumpkin cider with honey and cinnamon.
NOTUS: Summer cider with strawberry-rhubarb, honey, and a touch of black pepper.
NUNCIO: First cider from 2016 harvest. Semi-sweet, fresh, and young. Summer.
PEPINO: Semi-sweet summer cucumber cider. Crisp and refreshing?
POPERIN’ PERRY: Dry cider made with apples and pears.
POMDEMONIUM: Cider with pomegranate, clove, honey. Spicy and cloven, like Robert Smith's tears.
THE PURITAN: 17th century colonial New England-style cider involving the wild yeasts of raisins. The Puritan lays bare a singular devotion to the apple, eschewing ornament and idolatry with its semi-sweet nose, round body and rustically dry finish.
THE SAXON: 6.0%. This cider is our homage to the dry apfelwein of Germany, found in the Sachsenhausen district of Frankfurt (Sachsenhausen translates to Saxons' houses). Dry and austere.
SCARECROW: Chai and honey cider. Semi-sweet with soft notes of mace, cinnamon, and allspice.
VALKYRIE: Cyser (cider fermented with honey). Dry funky barnyard and crisp apple with clean, lager-like finish.
VIKING BLOOD: Barrel-aged cherry + honey cider.
THE WILDLING: Cider fermented with natural/wild yeast of the apples. Dry and zesty.
ZEPHYRUS: Seasonal spring cider with candied orange peel and fresh ginger, named for the west wind that brings in the spring. Zephyrus offers a velvety orange-oil caress followed by a spicy, correcting slap of ginger.