Roadshow Lessons – Fall 2019

It’s been a busy fall for offering cider history roadshows. I’ve presented at a beer festival, a living history market fair, and two cider events. Presenting at such different events in such a short time offered a glimpse into the state of cider culture out in the world. Well, around Philadelphia and in one Delaware town anyway.

The following is a quick encapsulation of many of the conversations I’ve had.

  • There is a growing number of people who say they like, even prefer dry ciders. This includes women of all ages. (Philadelphia)
  • Angry Orchard and Woodchuck continue to be the ciders most people are familiar with, especially beer drinkers.
  • Grafting and tree planting has suddenly become a favorite topic. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve started to include more about it, or because it’s a surprising addition to what they thought they knew about how apples are grown, or both.
  • Older folks continue to remember making sweet cider when they were kids (and that one relative who made the “special” bottles).
  • There was some surprise that cider could be anything other than sweet. (Delaware)
  • Many families are attracted to the wholesomeness of apples and cider, and are surprised to hear that so many early American families made alcoholic cider at home. (Delaware)
  • I was surprised at the historic market fair event that almost everyone who saw cider maker on my sign automatically thought it was sweet cider. I tried to edit the sign to be more explicit.

I sincerely enjoy offering these presentations. If I have any complaint about recent events, it’s that I was yet again forced listen to a beer “historian” talk about German purity laws and how water wasn’t safe to drink “back then,” but beer was.

Perhaps the most unusual conversation was with a large family at the market fair. I was talking with them about seedling and grafted apples. I mentioned that apples are extreme heterozygotes, that the seedling apple is nothing like the parent apple. The mother heard this and said how can anyone believe in evolution when nature does this. I am still trying to understand what she heard.

I also got thinking about where I heard some of these comments. If place is important for cider, it’s equally important for cider culture. For instance, based on what I heard over the last two months, Philadelphians are more aware and more sophisticated about cider than Delawarians. However, that might be because Delaware only has one cidermaker. Most people’s cider experience is what they can find at the store, which seemed to be mostly six-pack ciders.

While this is all anecdotal, it still supports the common observation that while cider drinkers are looking for new ciders, cider is still a long way from most people’s tables, much less from reclaiming its place as America’s drink.

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