It’s thought that the Irish have been making cider for over 2,000 years. The drink has always enjoyed fluctuating levels of popularity but has undergone an image change over the last decade that has seen sales fly through the roof.
For centuries cider was made all over Ireland, not just apple rich regions such as Armagh, Tipperary, Kilkenny and Waterford. It was predominantly produced by monks in monasteries.
There are four types of cider making apples, each providing a different taste, sharp, bitter sharp, bittersweet and sweet.
Cider was a hugely popular drink in the 16th to 19th century. It was produced all over the country and the standard was extremely high. At a competition in Dublin in the 18th century a cider maker had to prove that he hadn’t used any fine white wine in his recipe before he was presented with an award, such was the quality of the drink.
In the middle of the 19th century the Irish famine caused the cider industry to grind to a standstill. Several decades later cider making began its revival. The government sent skilled instructors to the apple growing regions of Ireland and invested in machinery and equipment. The machinery was moved from one region to another which meant several farms could develop their own brands. Once again the industry began to flourish.
However, it was a short lived revival as the two world wars as well as the Irish civil was took its toll on Ireland and the cider making once again fell into decline. The machinery had to stay in one place to save costs which caused many farmers to stop producing cider.
In the 2000s Irish cider company Magner’s re-branded the drink to appeal to a younger market. Rather than presenting it as a drink for farmers and country folk it was advertised to young people.
Magner’s was served in glasses filled with ice and became a fashionable refreshing summer drink. They branched out from simply making apple cider, creating alternatives such as pear and ginger, spiced apple and honey, spiced apple and rhubarb and berries with a taste of peach.
As well as Magners there are are several regional brands that have been a part of the drinks latest renaissance. With consumers taking a keener interest in the origins of their drink, both the human story and the production process, smaller cider producers are confident about the future.
This gives independent producers the freedom to experiment with each maker creating drinks with unique character and flavour.