Beer vs. Cider — What’s the Difference?
Hard ciders have been in the alcohol industry for a long time; but only recently has cider gained popularity as a beer replacement. This leads to the questions, “What is cider?” and “What are the differences between cider & beer?”
By Mairyn Chorney on Jul. 23, 2019
Hard cider started as an alcoholic staple in the United Kingdom and Ireland and is now starting to gain popularity around the world. Here at JustBeer, we were surprised to learn that cider is becoming a strong suitor as a beer replacement.
But is it really? While hard cider is a very tasty alcoholic beverage, we think there are too many significant differences between cider and beer for it to be considered as a “replacement”. What do you think?
What’s the difference between beer and cider?
What is Hard Cider?
Hard cider is a (generally gluten-free) alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice of apples.
Hard Cider vs. Apple Cider: What’s the difference?
Apple cider is very similar to apple juice, only spicier (not in a tabasco-spicy way, but more like a cinnamony way). Apple juice is usually filtered and pasteurized, whereas apple cider is not.
Hard cider is regular cider that has gone through a fermentation process that results in the production of alcohol in the cider.
Hard Cider Fun Fact:
In Germany, hard cider is called “Apfelwein“, that translates to “apple wine”.
How is Hard Apple Cider Made?
The process of making cider will start in an apple orchard. Apples are generally picked in early September because this is when apples start to ripen. The apples will then be pressed into fresh juice and then fermented in fermentation tanks. The cider takes about six weeks to fully ferment. Once the fermentation process is completed, the cider is moved to a different tank where it can chill and be carbonated. After that, the cider is bottled, or canned, and ready to be sold in a liquor store near you!
The process of making cider, it is actually more similar to winemaking than beer brewing because you’re working with fermented fruits.
What kind of apples make the best apple cider?
Many cider-makers use a variety of apple kinds when making their ciders. While the style of apple isn’t all that important when making cider, it’s more about the combination of apple styles and their distinct flavours mixed together. When making cider, you want to pay attention to the consistency in flavour, sugar and acidity in the apples that you’re using.
What is a Cidery?
A Cidery is where cider is produced commercially.
While ciders are generally brewed in ciderys, don’t write off local breweries or wineries in your city when looking for a tasty cider. Many breweries, including Big Rock Brewery in Calgary and Alexander Keith’s Brewery in Halifax, produce ciders along with their beers.
What is the Difference Between Beer & Cider?
Cider vs. Beer: Ingredients
Is cider gluten-free?
Beer lovers know that beer is made from malted barley (a.k.a grains), hops, water and yeast. While it is common for brewers to add fruits to their ingredient list, ciders never contain malted barley or other grains which results in most ciders being gluten-free and safe for celiacs to consume. You can find apples/apple juice/apple cider, yeast, and sugar in most hard cider ingredient lists.
Beer vs. Cider: Flavour
What does cider taste like? Does cider taste like beer?
Beer and cider really differ when it comes to flavour. Because cider is made from fermented apple juice, it results in a sweeter taste when compared to a classic beer style. Some ciders are described as being dry, while others are described as being a mix between apple juice and white wine.
Beer has more variety when it comes to flavours as there are many different styles. Click here to learn how to describe the flavour of your beer like a pro.
Cider vs. Beer: Alcohol Content
Can cider get you drunk?
The alcohol content in beer and hard cider are generally similar. Commercially sold hard ciders usually range as low as 3% to as high as 8%. Be careful with those dry ciders, because typically the drier the cider; the higher the alcohol percentage. Because there are more styles of beer, it’s alcohol content can vary, but common beer styles often range between 4% and 10%.
According to the Food and Drug Regulations in Canada, cider cannot contain less than 2.5% or over 13% alcohol by volume.
Beer vs. Cider: Calories & Sugar Content
Are ciders better for you than beer?
The average bottle of cider (500mL) typically contains around ~200 calories. The average caloric value of a standard beer is roughly 140 – 180 calories. The calories are generally going to be higher in a cider than in a beer because hard ciders have a higher sugar content (roughly 20-25g per serving) than most brews. Beer is generally sugar-free. If you’re worried about the high sugar content in your hard cider, pick a dry cider, like a Wyder’s Cider Dry Raspberry Cider (12g of sugar), because they usually contain less sugar.
Cider is known to contain many antioxidants, like polyphenols (the cancer-preventing micronutrients that we receive from eating plant-based foods). Cider is also packed with Vitamin C. Polyphenols and other micronutrients are often removed from beer in the brewing process as they cause beers to look cloudy. However, there have been many studies about the health benefits of beer. A study from Pennsylvania State University found beer may reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
While cider, or beer, isn’t actually bad for you, we don’t suggest replacing your daily fruits and vegetables with it.
JustBeer’s Favourite Canadian Hard Ciders:
Apple Cider – Yellowbelly Brewery (NL)
Apple Lime Twist – Rider Cider (BC)
Classic Apple – Wanderoot Craft Cider (AB)
Pear & Apple Cider – Lonetree Cider Co. (BC)
Somersby Apple Cider – Carlsberg Group (ON)
Sunday Cider – Steel & Oak Brewing Co. (BC)
Now that you know the differences between beer and cider, learn more about beer and other alcoholic drinks with these links:
Pilsners vs. Lagers — What’s the Difference?
What is the difference between a pilsner and a lager? Is pilsner a type of lager? If you find yourself asking questions about pilsners and lagers every time you reach for one, continue reading for your answers!
Beer Styles 201: What is a Barleywine?
Barleywine: where they come from, their appearance, flavour & aroma, palate & mouthfeel, food pairings and serving suggestions are all explained in this Beer Styles 201 article.
Beers That Taste Fruity or Spicy (Flavour Profile – 6 of 7)
Fruit and Spice Beers: The perfect beers for anyone who’s morning routine consists of chugging a glass of orange juice or anyone who never says “when” when the waiter is adding pepper to your meal.
What are Beer Varieties? – The Origins
David Nuttall is an instructor at the Alberta Beer Festivals’ Beer School. He has worked in almost all aspects of the liquor industry. He is the current Judging Co-ordinator for Calgary International Beerfest and completed the Beer Judge Certification Program in 2012. He is passionate about beer and beer culture. This article is the first of a fascinating series on different beer styles.