According to Sarah Showalter, hard cider was a trendy beverage of choice among the American colonists. The cider industry, however, suffered a blow in the 1800s, due to the growing popularity of beer. When prohibition banned the sale of alcohol in 1919, Showalter says the already dwindling cider industry was finished.
“It became virtually non-existent,” she remarked. “It was a lost art.”
Since the 2000s, however, hard cider has been making a comeback.
“My understanding is that it’s the fastest growing segment of the alcohol industry,” she explained.
As the co-owner of Old Hill Cider in Timberville — one of only eight hard cider industries in Virginia — Showalter is at the forefront of the beverage’s revival. Although the crafting and bottling processes require “hard work and long hours,” she says it’s well worth the effort to be part of an emerging trend.
“We’re both really excited about it,” she said, waving her hands enthusiastically. “We’re driven by how excited others are, too.”
As the guest lecturer for the upcoming Wine and Cheese in the Trees event at the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, situated on the James Madison University campus, Showalter is looking forward to sharing her passion for cider with others.
“[The arboretum] asked us to share our story about the development of Old Hill Cider…we’re excited,” she remarked.
According to Gail Turnbull, the arboretum’s assistant director, the event is part of an ongoing program that occurs twice annually.
“It’s a wonderful lecture program that has such a wide reach — it’s really popular,” she remarked. “We’ve really been gratified by how the public has received [it].”
Turnbull says the event will start with a period of mingling, followed by a demonstration led by a chef from JMU’s catering services. When the demonstration concludes, participants will have the opportunity to try a variety of cheeses and snacks, as well as beverages from Old Hill Cider. The program will conclude with Showalter’s lecture, which Turnbull says she’s excited to hear.
“I, personally, enjoy commercial bottled cider,” she said. “I’m very much looking forward to hearing [her] presentation.”
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Heritage — The newest of the ciders, this craft is “less filtered” and made primarily from French and English bittersweet apple varieties.
Yesteryear — created to resemble colonial cider, Showalter says this “dry” craft pairs well with food.
Betwixt — Nicknamed “front porch” by the Showalters, Sarah says this “apple forward” libation is perfect for summertime.
Cidermaker’s Barrel — Showalter’s personal favorite, this “full-bodied” craft is made with wild, all-natural yeast.
Want To Attend Wine & Cheese In The Trees?
When: 5-7 p.m. Aug. 30
Where: Ernst Terrace in the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum & Botanical Gardens on the James madison University campus in Harrisonburg.
Cost: $15 per person — price includes two beverages, cheese and crackers, and a chocolate tasting.
Ages: 21 & Up, IDs will be checked
Pre-registration required. To register, visit jmu.edu/arboretum/wine-and-cheese-lecture-series-registration.shtml