A Short History of Cider

Ancient History

Archaeologists suggest that wild apple trees were first domesticated in the Tian Shan mountains of central asia some 10,000 years ago. 

By 800 BCE Apples had made their way East across the Middle East, and The Appendix to the Book Of Proverbs in the Christian Bible, 31:6 states "Give ye cider to them that mourn, and wine to them that be of bitter soul."

Origins of the word Cider

Shekhar is Ancient Hebrew for "strong drink" which morphed into Ancient Greek "sicera" to the old French "cisdre" to modern "cidre".

After 1066, in a bizarre twist, the beaten Anglo-Saxon-Viking inhabitants of Britain stopped calling mead and cider "béor" and "CIDER" entered the English language.

"Beer" didn't re-appear in the English language until that new fangled infusion from Belgium, called "bier" appeared in the 1500s.

Invented Words for Cider

John Beale (1608-1683)

Born in the heart of the Hereford Cider Country, it isn't surprising that John Beale turned his brilliant academic mind to a treatise on Cider. Published in 1644, Beale describes the cidermaking process in detail, including secondary fermentation, using the newly developed high strength glass bottles. These avoiding the explosive consequences of the lightweight earlier glass bottles. Sparkling bottle fermented Cider was alive and well in England by 1644, and a few years later Mr Beale shared his thoughts on Cider with the Royal Society at their second ever meeting in 1664.

John Worlidge (1640-1700)

If there was ever any doubt about when and where bottle fermented fruit wines began, The Vinetum Brittanicum, published in 1676 told which apples were for cooking and which for drinking, and strongly advocated the technique of fermentation in the readily available strengthened glass bottles.

Dr Christopher Merret (1614-1695)

On 17 December 1662 Dr Merret presented "Some Observations concerning the Ordering of Wines" to the Royal Society In this paper,  Merret described how winemakers in England were using Cider Bottle technology, and adding sugar or molasses to make the English wines drink "brisk and sparkling". (Today this would be called the methode champenoise). This was six years before Dom Pérignon arrived at the Abbey of Hautvillers and nearly 40 years before it is claimed that he invented Champagne.

"Howay the Lads" - Newcastle and Cider Bottles?

An unlikley link to the cold North East of England, (where apple trees are scared to grow), lies in Sir Robert Mansell. This enterprising individual developed the required technology to produce glass bottles that could be used to ferment ciders, and built factories on Tyneside. Local very hot burning anthracite coals, and air assisted wing furnaces did the trick.

It's hard to prove a Geordie link here, and despite the owner of Heritage Cider being born on Tyneside we like to think that the Newnham-on-Severn glassworks is a far more likely candidate for making cider bottles. Nestled in the heart of Ciderland, this glassworks could call on the same high grade coals from the forest of Dean, and the ingenuity of the early industrial revolution in the area.