History of Hard Cider in WV
Swig a rich history of tradition.
Apple cider was the go-to beverage of America throughout the 1700s and 1800s. Businessmen like John Chapman, who you might know as Johnny Appleseed, invested into orchards, and sold their crops to frontier settlers. Much of Chapman’s business was done in what is now West Virginia! Clean drinking water was not always a guarantee, so settlers would distill apple cider to use as a safe (and delicious) drinking source.
It is estimated that more cider was consumed by Americans per capita during those two centuries than soda consumed today. The majority of the nation’s cider was distilled right here in West Virginia! The citizens of the Mountain State passed down the cider-making tradition from generation to generation, utilizing the land’s unique agricultural properties to provide the nation with the cider it craved.
The good times didn’t last forever, though. According to National Geographic, the beer culture brought over by German immigrants in the late 1800’s became monumental in American society. Wheat and barley were cheaper and easier to mass-produce than apples, making beer more affordable than cider. Beer quickly overcame cider as America’s beverage.
Then came Prohibition. The remaining commercial cider operations were wiped out, but West Virginians don’t quit that easily. Resourceful folks were able to keep distilling cider on their farms and in their homes, protected by the mountains from the government’s gaze. Almost all the commercial cideries in West Virginia never reopened after Prohibition, but these men and women have kept the West Virginian cider tradition alive all the way into the present. Some have even established commercial cideries to bring cider to the American people once more!