- Associated Press - Saturday, October 8, 2016

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Hard cider has been around about as long as apples, but the recent surge in popularity is somewhat breathtaking.

National restaurant and bar sales of hard cider - and perry, its pear-based little sister - have grown nearly 320 percent between 2010 and 2015, reports Euromonitor, a market research firm. That’s a rise from $208 million to $870 million in sales over the five-year period.

It’s not just glasses of the crisp bubbly adding to the volume. Mixologists are looking to cider to add complexity to their crafted cocktails.

BRGR’s specialty cocktail menu features the Smoked Cinnamon Apple, a mix of bourbon, cinnamon and apple cider. Andys at the Fairmont, Downtown, includes the Mule Undone with Arsenal Cider shaken with ginger-infused vodka and spiced simple syrup. In Aspinwall, Fall in the Wall is Cornerstone Restaurant & Bar’s seasonal concoction. There, cider is enlivened with rum, pear brandy, allspice dram, apple bitters, lemon and honey, topped with grated nutmeg.

Pennsylvania stands proud among hard-cider sippers. Pittsburgh is third in the rankings of national sales, followed by Harrisburg at No. 6 and Philadelphia at No. 7, according to Information Resources Inc. The Pennsylvania Cider Guild currently lists 34 cideries in the state, with more expected to follow.

That’s no surprise to Bill Larkin, founder and vice president of Arsenal Cider House & Wine Cellar in Lawrenceville.

When Larkin first opened Arsenal in 2010, he hoped to produce 5,000 gallons a year in his rowhouse basement. This year, Arsenal is on track to produce 32,000 gallons. He and his wife, Michelle, president, secretary and “head cider wench,” will be expanding operations to Penn Hills, where they bought a building for a second production facility.

“People are starting to realize cider is a craft product, not just some junk alcohol product like they’re used to,” Larkin says. “For people who have a pre-existing opinion on ciders - like they’re glorified wine coolers - we tend to change their minds. Or we aim to anyway.”

Arsenal Cider is sold in about 120 bars from Ohio to Philadelphia. The Lawrenceville tasting room is on the first floor of the Larkins’ home, a regular mom-and-pop setup, with the family living on the upper two floors. The tasting room lists anywhere from five to 12 varieties of cider and cider-style fruit wines, ranging from a dry champagne style to ginger-flavored to a fizzy dark cherry.

Larkin’s passion flavors every barrel.

“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” he says.

The Pittsburgh Cider and Mead Festival offered than 60 products from producers traveling from as far away as Ireland and Great Britain.

It’s part of Larkin’s commitment to the “fermenting arts” and its burgeoning popularity.

“I think that it’s definitely going to keep growing,” he says. “I don’t think it’s a fad. I think it’s a trend. People are just becoming more educated on good cider.”





Information from: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, https://pghtrib.com

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