Cidermaker Zach Kaiser smells a glass of preserve memories made with blueberries in the production house at Absolem Cider Co. in Winthrop. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

When Mathias Kamin III filed federal paperwork in late September for his new Hancock cidery, Bon Vent, he recognized he was part of a hard cider “renaissance” in Maine.

As Kamin sees it, fermented cider’s rising availability and popularity has been driven by younger generations seeking new beverage options.

“As the millennials are coming into their own, they’ve chosen higher-quality products: craft beer and cider among those,” he said. “Cider is an incredible gluten-free option, but it’s also of this place. New Englanders have been drinking cider for hundreds of years, so it’s kind of getting back to what we used to do.”

Indeed, cider was the drink of choice for many Americans before the 20th century. For reasons that remain unclear, hard cider never rebounded after Prohibition like beer, wine and liquor did.

While the cider renaissance is quietly underway nationwide, it’s particularly noticeable in Maine. The United States has 1,310 active cideries, up 17% from 2019, according to the American Cider Association. In that same time period, the number of licensed cider producers in Maine about doubled, from 18 to more than 35.

Cider sales are categorized as a percentage of beer sales in a given state, and Maine’s 4% market is, proportionally, the fourth-highest in the nation, behind Oregon (7%), Washington and Vermont (both 6%). American Cider Association CEO Michelle McGrath notes that, in year-over-year cider sales from September 2022 to 2023, Maine saw more than 10% growth in sales of regional cider brands, a greater increase than Vermont’s, according to data from market research firm NIQ (formerly Nielsen).


McGrath sees Maine’s robust food and beverage scene as a major force behind the state’s growing cider market. “Like in Oregon and Washington, part of it is there is an existing culture that celebrates apples. Maine just has a really rich cider culture,” he said. “The craft beer and local food scenes have created an atmosphere where consumers are excited to try the local cider.”

“People are looking for different experiences in the alcoholic beverage world. I also think there’s more of a movement toward gluten sensitivity, and cider’s a great option there,” said Brewmaster Jason Perkins of Allagash Brewing Co., which started producing cider for its Portland tasting room in 2021. “In a lot of ways, it’s very similar to wine. But it’s a very approachable wine, something you can enjoy without getting too geeky.”

“I still think (Maine cider) is just at the beginning stage,” said Chris Hollingsworth, owner of Ayuh Cidah, which launched in 2019 in Farmington. “People are ready to try something different, something that’s closer to all-natural, and that is a real upside to the growth cider could see.”


There are surely many factors fueling cider growth in Maine, though many of the state’s cider-makers agree with Kamin that back-to-the-land career opportunities have proven most alluring to millennials.

“I do think that a lot of the people getting into cider are younger, not only because it’s interesting, but also because it fits in with the ethos of living a life associated with the land and quality,” said Ross Florance, 36, who is launching a small cider operation in Machias using foraged wild apples from around the state. “Physically, it’s a very demanding job as well, so it may help to be a little younger.”


John Bunker, Maine’s preeminent apple expert and historian, said millennials have been eager proponents of Maine cider. “They picked up on what my generation and people somewhat older saw as a traditional New England drink being a way of adding value to a wonderful local crop and decided to run with it.”

Tolman apples ready for pressing at Absolem Cider Company. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Others noted that Maine is exceptionally well positioned for a cider boom because its apple culture already runs so deep.

“There’s an unusual amount of apple infrastructure in Maine in terms of opportunities to learn orcharding skills, grafting skills,” said Khris Hogg, owner of the former Perennial Cider Bar in Belfast. Hogg is busy this fall fermenting his first batch of commercial cider, which he plans to serve at his forthcoming Swanville restaurant, Circumstance, in 2024.

Hogg pointed to home-state advantages like Fedco Seeds in Clinton being a handy source for traditional cider trees, the biennial Apple Camp educational event hosted by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, and the presence and influence of apple gurus like Bunker. “There’s just an active small community of people who are really interested in it, and that has inevitably led to more products on shelves,” Hogg said.

And then, of course, there are the apples themselves. Some Maine cideries use dessert apples (fresh-eating varieties like McIntosh, Macoun and Cortland) from local orchards, but many of the smaller operations forage for wild cider apples.

“Maine is certainly fortunate to have a glut of wild apples,” Hogg said. “That’s what got me interested in cider, and what sustains my interest.”


“We have more foraged apples available to us in Maine than in most states, just due to the history of apples in the state and how well they grow here,” said Zachary Kaiser of Absolem Cider Company in Winthrop.

“Maine has millions of feral volunteer apple seedlings,” said Bunker. “They’re everywhere, in every town in the state. Many of those apples have the quality of a good cider: They’re bitter and small, they have high sugar. The old-timers called those wild apples ‘cider apples,’ and it wasn’t a pejorative, it was a compliment. If you’re willing to forage for apples, they’re there.”


McGrath says the first wave of cider resurgence in America started in the mid-2010s, a time when big national brands like Angry Orchard and major regional labels like Vermont’s Citizen Cider were launching. She says we’re now in cider’s second wave.

“I think the second wave is going to rely heavily on celebrating American apples,” McGrath said, as opposed to European-grown cider apples like bittersweets and bittersharps, which local and national producers use to some extent. “And that’s why I’m so excited about some of the foraging that’s happening in Maine, because those wild apples are a source of the tannins and acids that the producers are looking for, but they’re American apples.”

Portland lawyer and cider connoisseur Sean Turley, founder of a monthly cider club that has sampled more than 650 ciders in the past several years, said he sees a push-and-pull in Maine’s cider industry between quantity and quality. When cideries start their batches with dessert apples or bulk sweet cider, he said, the resulting cider is often “very light, very acidic, and doesn’t have much character to it,” because those apples don’t contain the bitter tannins that produce complexity and depth in the finished product.


Foraging can be very time-consuming, though, and also hit-or-miss, as some traditional cider trees only bear fruit every other year. Cider producers who exclusively use traditional cider apples or foraged wild fruit can only put out so much cider (usually 5,000 gallons or fewer a year) because their access to the raw materials is necessarily limited.

But some cider-makers are already working with Maine orchards to plant more traditional cider apple trees. Yet the economics become challenging, according to Andy Ricker of Ricker Hill Orchards in Turner, which supplies bulk juice to a dozen Maine cideries.

Ricker’s orchard grows about 25 acres of traditional European cider apples. But unlike his farm’s dessert apples, the cider apples don’t have any market for fresh eating, only for juice, which can make the pressed cider apple juice prohibitively costly for cideries.

As a workaround, some cideries are making their own cider apple orchards. Jared Carr of Cornish Cider Co. has planted a 5-acre orchard with about two dozen varieties of traditional cider apples he’s encountered while foraging around the state. Carr said he’s growing some of the trees from seed and is making his own cross-breeds as well.

Hollingsworth has also planted cider apple trees – including Dabinett, Black Oxford and Wickson varietals – at Morrison Hill Orchard, where Ayuh Cidah is based. Ayuh produces about 1,000 gallons of cider a year – enough to sell at the cidery, but not to bottle for distribution. Hollingsworth said his new cider apple orchard, which has started bearing fruit, will eventually help him boost production to about 5,000 gallons annually.

Erika Colby, owner of Anoche on Washington Avenue in Portland, pours a Spanish Gurutzeta cider. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer



Hogg said while Maine’s cideries offer the full range of cider flavor experiences from sweet to dry, some with creative flavor infusions as well, he sees “different camps” forming around production methods.

“In the coming years, you’ll have folks primarily working with orchard fruit and dessert apples and working side by side with the orchard trade, and another set of people who look at what they do like natural wine making and talking about terroir and producing their cider at a relatively small scale,” Hogg said, noting that the production method schism will lead to more diverse cider offerings that benefit the consumer.

“With more people making cider, intentionally or not, it pushes people to make better cider,” said Carson James, co-owner of Lorne Wine in Biddeford, which carries 20-30 ciders from about 10 producers, including Maine brands like Absolem and Cornish. “It’s so interesting to see how many different things people are doing with it. And I think it’s just going to keep getting better and better as cider makers hone their crafts and the public becomes more responsive.”

Erika Colby, owner of Anoche cider bar in Portland, said she’s seen the public’s palate for hard cider change over recent years. “I’ve seen it go from everyone wanting a sweet, juicy apple-y cider to the only thing people ask for now, which is a well done, dry-fermented dry cider. Which is phenomenal,” Colby said. “They understand cider better now, that it doesn’t have to have added sugar and taste like watermelon to be approachable.”

“You can get an interesting Maine beer in 95% of the restaurants in Maine that serve alcohol,” said Bunker. “And that’s the way it should be with cider, too. It may never be as popular as beer, but it may be almost as popular at some point. It has so much potential because of the variety of different ways it can be made and because all the ingredients you need are right here in Maine.

“A lot of the success of cider going forward depends on how we educate the curious to try it,” Bunker added.

McGrath said she sees cider nationwide continuing to grow “slowly and sustainably. We’ve proven it’s not a fad.”

“I’d say (Maine cider) is headed on the same path that the craft brewing industry is on,” said John Villeneuve of Tin Top Cider in Alna. “Hopefully, when you go into the grocery store throughout New England, you start to see more Maine ciders being sold outside of Maine. For local craft cider, there’s probably nothing but growth if you make a good product here.”

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