Beer is without a doubt one of the most popular beverages worldwide. The drink comes in a wide range of styles, colors and flavors -- there are lagers, stouts, porters, IPAs, APAs, wheats... but what about hard cider? What is this sweet, amber drink? And is it a beer?
Cider dates back to 55 B.C. when the Romans marched into Kent, England, and discovered the locals were fermenting apples into an alcoholic drink. Over the centuries, the drink has remained popular and spread throughout the world. Though many people might acknowledge cider and beer as being similar or even related (after all, they are often served alongside each other at pubs), cider is not beer at all. Each beverage has different qualities that set them apart, from the origins, ingredients, colors and much more.
Beer is usually sugar-free, although during the brewing process small amounts of sugar may be added to balance the taste and prevent the beer from being too sour. Contrastingly, many ciders contain a high amount of sugar because it is fermented from apples, which gives it a much sweeter flavor than even the sweetest beers.
Although both cider and beer are made by going through a fermentation process, the ingredients for each drink are vastly different. Beer is fermented and brewed from malted barley and yeast, with added hops to achieve certain flavors. Ciders are normally made from fermented apple juice mixed with white wine and brewed with yeast for a sweet, sugary taste.
Cider is usually a light yellow or amber, and a glass of hard cider looks a lot like the apple juice from which it's made. Beer, on the other hand, varies from a pale amber to dark brown or even black color, depending on how it's brewed and the malt that's added.
It may seem surprising that alcoholic beverages have any nutritional value, but the main ingredients of beer and cider provide some health benefits when consumed in moderation.
Apples are high in vitamin C and antioxidants called polyphenols, which offer protection against certain types of cancerous cells and protect against heart disease. Because fermented apple juice is the key ingredient of hard cider, the drink contains a high amount of vitamin C and these polyphenols. However, because cider is high in sugar, the drink can contribute to weight gain if consumed in large quantities.
The barley, yeast and hops found in beer contain potassium, calcium, zinc, iron and other vitamins and minerals. Studies have shown that regular, moderate beer consumption can have a direct impact on lowering the risks of heart diseases and maintaining a healthy cholesterol.
Beer has a bit of a broader range when it comes to ABV, or alcohol by volume. The ABV is a measurement of the amount of alcohol in each glass. A light beer will normally have an ABV range of three percent to four and a half percent, while darker stouts and porters, as well as IPAs, have a higher range.
Compared to beer, hard ciders typically have a lower ABV. An average cider can have an ABV between four and eight percent, though this varies from cider to cider.