Drunk, Counterdrunk: Big Cider

According to E.J. Schultz of AdAge.com, Big Beer is jumping on the cider bandwagon as MillerCoors acquires Crispin Cider Co. and Anheuser-Busch moves to launch a new product under their Ultra umbrella: Michelob Ultra Light Cider.

How do I feel about this? I think it could go either way. This is…

Drunk, Counterdrunk.

Huzzah! Big Cider is an excellent development!

Cider has a complicated place in American drinking culture. For many, it carries the same stigma as hard lemonade, but “many” could not be more wrong.

 The first time I saw hard lemonade, I was in a basement in high school and two girls were splitting a 6-pack of Mike’s Hard. But the first time I saw hard cider, I was in a bar in college when an enormous, British, terrifying friend of mine shoved a snakebite (Guinness and cider cocktail) in my face.

 True, both are alcoholic versions of innocuous, fruit-based drinks, but these introductions illustrate the very real differences. Hard lemonade is enjoyed by  teenagers. It is fruity and disgusting, and it is made for people who hate drinking, but love being drunk (I have had one more recently than I’ll admit).

Hard cider is different. It’s a legitimate beverage choice, crafted for quality and taste, and no daintier than a beer, a scotch, or an aged bacon liqueur, the latter of which I unfortunately just made up.

With Crispin under the watch of the MillerCoors powerhouse and A-B pushing their own creation, the legitimacy of cider in the states should rise, and the niche will grow as smaller craft brewers dabble as well.

Lame. The big boys don’t need to sully this niche market.

Here at the BoozinBlog, we know that cheap alcohol is necessary, wonderful, and never going away. But that does not mean that MillerCoors and A-B need to create a cheap, watered-down version of every single drink out there.

Cider’s presence is established and holding strong. It can be found at virtually every English or Irish-style pub in the states, and often at any bar that gives a damn about their beer menu. But, from my experience, even bars that serve cider have no more than one or two options (bottled or on tap). So what happens when MillerCoors and A-B muscle their way into this already cramped space?

I’m not saying these ciders will be impotable; I’m not sure how much Crispin will change under the new ownership, and I’ll surely try Michelob’s creation. I’m just saying that it would be a shame to watch these heavy-hitting newcomers push the smaller, better, but ultimately more expensive ciders into obscurity.

What do you think? Does more cider beget more good cider, or will Big Cider simply take up space previously occupied by smaller craft ciders?


~Don Julian



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