Is Cider Beer?

Bob Barnes - Explaining the difference

Cider has become a popular segment of the craft market and there are several available products. However, there seems to be quite a bit of vagueness and misconceptions about what cider is. Is cider a style of beer? If beverage menus at restaurants are any indication, one would think it is, as the majority of restaurants list ciders right alongside beer on both draft and bottle selections.

What constitutes a beer and what makes a cider?

Beer is a fermented, carbonated beverage made primarily with four ingredients: water, malt, hops and yeast. Cider is a fermented, carbonated beverage made primarily with fruit juice (usually apple) and yeast. So, cider is definitely not beer and the only common ingredient it shares with beer is yeast. Like wine, cider is made from fermented fruit, and the yeast strains commonly used for cider are wine or Champagne yeast; but unlike wine, other than sparkling wine, it is carbonated. Further distancing cider from beer is that many also contain sugar, malic acid (for added tartness), sulfites to preserve freshness (like wine) and natural and artificial colors and flavors. Unlike most beers, since no grain is used, ciders are gluten free. Furthermore, when poured, cider does not develop a frothy head as beer does.

As you can see, the only aspects they have in common are alcohol (which is approximately the same as most beers) and carbonation. Some of the larger craft beer companies, like Sam Adams with its Angry Orchard, are producing their own line of ciders, adding further to the confusion. In addition, most homebrew competitions have categories for judging cider (as well as mead), which is likely due to the fact that many homebrewers of beer also dabble in making cider (as have I), as the equipment needed for both is the same.

So why does cider get lumped with beer?

In the case of restaurant menus, it’s a simple way to group their fermented drinks, and as most only carry one or two ciders, it is easier to list them with beer. Cider can also be tapped and poured on draft just as beer can and it’s common to see cider tap handles right alongside beer handles. Also, many people who enjoy beer, also appreciate a good hard cider and drinking a carbonated fermented beverage has some of the same sensations in your taste buds.

Is there any crossover between cider and beer?

Actually, yes, kind of. Some cideries have experimented with adding hops, which is as noted above, a key ingredient in beer. One such is Square Mile Cider, a company located in Portland, Oregon with distribution in 12 states.

The cidery’s appropriately named Spur & Vine logs in at 6.7% ABV and uses Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious and Jonagolds apples that are picked and pressed by hand in Oregon. A generous addition of Galaxy hops is added during cold conditioning. Adding to the beer connection is that unlike the vast majority of ciders, a beer lager yeast is used. Since no heat is applied to the hops, this cider takes on flavors and aromas of peach, melon and honeysuckle but none of the traditional hop bitterness.Upon pouring, I am struck by its beautiful brilliant gold hue and noticeable aroma of hops. While many ciders can be served on ice, Square Mile recommends this one be served straight up to allow the complexities to shine, and I also recommend to fully appreciate this creation, allow it to warm a bit, as the hop citrus will become more evident as it warms. Furthermore, I find the citrus notes of the hops an interesting and enjoyable balance to the cider sweetness, to the point where my mind kept getting confused as to whether I was enjoying a beer or a cider, making this a complex and intriguing drink. This cider recently took a gold medal at the 2015 Pacific Northwest Cider Awards (PNWCA), the sixth notable medal for Spur & Vine in the three years it has been on the market.

The Author:

Bob Barnes is editorial director of The Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional, regional correspondent for Celebrator Beer News and writes the Top 10 Beer lists for He welcomes your inquiries and can be reached via e-mail at

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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