Historians largely agree that apple trees existed along the Nile River Delta as early as 1300 BC, but it is unclear whether cider was ever produced from the fruit.
When the Romans arrived in England in 55 BC, they were reported to have found the local Kentish villagers drinking a delicious cider-like beverage made from apples. According to ancient records, the Romans and their leader, Julius Caesar, embraced the pleasant pursuit with enthusiasm. How long the locals had been making this apple drink prior to the arrival of the Romans is anybody''s guess.
By the beginning of the ninth century, cider drinking was well established in Europe and a reference made by Charlemagne clearly confirms its popularity.
After the Norman Conquest of 1066, cider consumption became widespread in England and orchards were established specifically to produce cider apples. During medieval times, cider making was an important industry. Monasteries sold vast quantities of their strong, spiced cider to the public. Farm laborers received a cider allowance as part of their wages, and the quantity increased during haymaking. English cider making probably peaked around the mid seventeenth century, when almost every farm had its own cider orchard and press. The industry later went into decline, due to major agricultural changes. Cider regained its popularity during the twentieth century, but demand was largely for the mass-produced variety. Only in recent years has traditional cider making finally triumphed.
American history tells a different tale. Early English settlers introduced cider to America by bringing with them seeds for cultivating cider apples. During the colonial period, grains did not thrive well and were costly to import. On the other hand, apple orchards were plentiful, making apples cheap and easily obtainable. As a result, hard cider quickly became one of America''s most popular beverages. Consumption of cider increased steadily during the eighteenth century, due in part to the efforts of the legendary Johnny Appleseed, who planted many apple trees in the Midwest.
However, a series of events led to cider''s fall in popularity. The introduction of German beer with its faster fermentation process quickly made beer popular because German immigrants were able to set up large breweries for producing great quantities of beer. The production of apple cider was still limited to small farms. The religiously based Temperance movement then caused many church-going farmers to give up cider. Some even went as far as to chop down their apple trees. Then Prohibition became the law and pretty much destroyed the market for apple cider.
Today, with the growing popularity of microbreweries, the tide has turned. Traditional cider making is experiencing a major resurgence in both America and Europe.