Official New Hampshire State Beverage: Apple Cider

applesIn 2010, at the petition of fourth grade students from Jaffrey, New Hampshire and others, the New Hampshire General Court, by a vote of 230-74 approved apple cider as New Hampshire’s office beverage with the passage of House Bill 1206.


House Bill 1206 (2010)
AN ACT adopting apple cider as the New Hampshire state beverage
SPONSORS: Rep. Mitchell, Ches 7
COMMITTEE: Environment and Agriculture
ANALYSIS: This bill adopted apple cider as the official New Hampshire state beverage.
Apple cider is hereby designated as the official state beverage of New Hampshire.”

Historical Background:
Leave it to New Hampshire to approve apple cider, a potentially alcoholic beverage, as the official state drink. Oh, I realize the sponsors probably didn’t mean to promote alcohol.  House Bill 1206 was sponsored by Jaffrey New Hampshire grade school students, who surely meant apple juice, or sweet apple cider (the non-alcoholic variety). Several people involved in the submission and approval process probably checked the term “cider” on Wikipedia–the final and accurate word on every topic (written while I roll my eyes).

As late as 1889 the New Hampshire newspaper editorials were discussing apple cider in their articles–how the temperance people were against it, how it seemed that local farms were producing less because of pressure against alcohol.  For generations (including my own) in New Hampshire the non-alcoholic kind was called either apple juice or sweet cider, to specifically distinguish it from the ‘harder’ sort.

“The days of drinking cider as a beverage on the farm and the old farm cider mill are no more. The great waves of temperance agitation which have swept continuously over the country the past twenty years and the strong sentiment against cider, wine and all intoxicating liquor drinking have driven the cider press from the farm….” –New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), October 9, 1889, page 7

Oh, let me make myself clear. I am not arguing against the selection of our stately beverage, apple cider.  I rather like it.  That choice is more fitting than most of our neighbor’s picks: Maine chose Moxie as their official beverage, while Massachusetts chose cranberry juice, Rhode Island picked coffee milk, and Vermont chose milk. 

Kudo’s to the Jaffrey school children who wanted to test New Hampshire’s law-making process.   If you read the minutes of the hearing, you will see that certain dairy aficionados were cursing their luck in not thinking of nominating the state beverage first, and making a last minute end-run to promote milk, or a combination of cider and milk.  The dairy supporters seemed to be out-classed by the facts–that a former governor had invented the apple peeler, and that a historical important person could be quoted about it.

I find this discussion of the apple peeler highly ironic, as apples are not peeled in the process of making juice or cider, and so the peeler reference is irrelevant to the argument for apple cider. There was testimony on behalf of the New Hampshire Fruit Growers Assn. supporting HB 1206, stating for the record that “apple cider history is intrinsically woven into New Hampshire’s history…” Included in this testimony is: “Granite State native and journalist Horace Greeley, wrote that cider, next to water, was the cheapest and most abundant beverage in his home state.”

Horace Greeley (1811-1872)

Horace Greeley (1811-1872)

I have to roll my eyes again at the strange way that this famous man’s words were used to promote their argument, as Horace Greeley was actually criticizing apple cider.  This attitude can be seen by reading the full quotation below.

“Cider was, next to water, the most abundant and the cheapest fluid to be had in New Hampshire, while I lived there, — often selling for a dollar per barrel. In many a family of six or eight persons, a barrel tapped on Saturday barely lasted a full week…..The transition from cider to warmer and more potent stimulants was easy and natural; so that whole families died drunkards and vagabond paupers from the impetus first given by cider-swilling in their rural homes…..” [Horace Greeley]

Please lets not use incomplete quotations or references to irrelevant inventions to justify the selection of apple cider as our official state beverage.  Given time, a drink would have eventually been promoted and selected.  Perhaps a hero or heroine from the dairy industry will arise and promote milk as our second favorite beverage (I recommend the frappe).  But until then, apple cider will rule as the official favored beverage of New Hampshire.

New Hampshire does not have the most cider producers in the United States — New York does. New Hampshire does not even offer the most cider producers in New England –Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine come out ahead. New Hampshire is 20th in the nation for the number of cider producers.  Great Britain actually leads the world in cider production, with more producers than the United States and Canada combined.

South East View, Foundation of Barn, Apple Orchard Beyond, Pioneer Cabin, Campton Station, Grafton County, New Hampshire. Historical American Buildings Survey, L.C. Durette, Photographer; Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

South East View, Foundation of Barn, Apple Orchard Beyond, Pioneer Cabin, Campton Station, Grafton County, New Hampshire. Historical American Buildings Survey, L.C. Durette, Photographer; Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

New Hampshire has nearly 150 apple growers in New Hampshire (more than 1,400 acres of apple orchards).  The thing is–the apples grown for eating are not the same type of apples grown for cider production.  What I find interesting is that crab apples, New Hampshire’s only native apple is good for making cider. With apple cider (the hard type) drinking on the rise, New Hampshire’s selection of state beverage is timely.  As a localvore, I hope that this interest in apple cider will increase the need for New Hampshire home-grown produce.

There are a number of fresh cider producers in New Hampshire. I have to admit that one producer is my favoriteNew Hampshire Cider Works at Carter Hill Orchard in Concord, NH. There has been an active orchard on Carter Hill since the mid 1700s.  I am distant cousin to the Carter family who originally settled and planted the apple orchard there.  (Ezra Carter, one of the earliest owners, is my second cousin 7x removed).  It is worth a trip to their web site to learn the cider making process.

Other New Hampshire producers include: Poverty Lane Orchards and Farnum Hill Ciders of Lebanon, North Country Hard Cider [also on Facebook] in Rollinsford, White Mountain Cider Co, [on Facebook], Bartlett aka Cider Co., Glen, and Silver Mountain Cider in Lempster NH.  If you know of others based in New Hampshire, feel free to leave a comment with a link to their information.

***Additional Reading***

Making and Preserving Apple Cider


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4 Responses to Official New Hampshire State Beverage: Apple Cider

  1. heatherrojo says:

    Cider is produced in two of the four orchards in Londonderry. Mack’s and Sunnycrest produce sweet cider of all varieties, and label the containers with the type of apples used or if it is a mix. Their ciders are sold in the local supermarkets, too. and

  2. Thank you! I have deep Jaffrey roots so I will have to plan a visit to one of the producers to celebrate the students success!

  3. Amy says:

    I never knew Horace Greeley was from NH! And I love how his words were twisted to support their argument. And I do love apple cider—the sweet kind. Nothing says fall in New England like apple cider.

  4. Pingback: Why Milk Is Probably Your State's Official Beverage | MEL Magazine

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