What hard cider is gluten-free?

Hard cider, sometimes simply called cider, is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented apple juice. While traditional hard cider contains gluten from the grains used during fermentation, some cider makers now produce gluten-free varieties made from 100% apples. For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, finding a gluten-free hard cider is key to enjoying this apple-based beverage.

What is hard cider?

Hard cider refers to an alcoholic drink made from apple juice that has been fermented. The fermentation process converts the natural sugars in the apple juice into alcohol. The alcohol content of hard cider typically ranges from 4-8%.

Traditionally, hard cider was made by pressing apples to extract the juice. The juice was then fermented using yeast and sometimes sweetened with sugar or honey. In some recipes, malted barley was added to aid the fermentation process by providing fermentable sugars for the yeast. The gluten from the malted barley resulted in a hard cider that was not gluten-free.

Modern commercial hard ciders are usually made by fermenting a blend of apple juice, sugar, and yeast. The sugar helps boost the alcohol content. Flavorings like fruits or spices may also be added. Some cider makers use gluten-containing grains or malt extracts, while others have crafted gluten-free ciders using only apples, sugar, and yeast.

Why look for gluten-free hard cider?

For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, and fatigue. The only treatment is adopting a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.

Given the prevalence of gluten-containing grains in the average diet, sticking to a gluten-free diet can be challenging. For those who enjoy alcoholic beverages, finding gluten-free varieties is key to maintaining the diet while still indulging occasionally. When it comes to hard cider, gluten-free options provide the apple flavor and fun of cider without the issues caused by gluten.

How is gluten-free hard cider made?

Gluten-free hard ciders are made using juice pressed from apples as the main ingredient. Instead of malted barley containing gluten, cider makers use alternate bases for fermentation, including:

– Cane sugar – Adding extra cane sugar helps feed the yeast during fermentation to boost alcohol content.

– Corn – Some cider makers use corn or corn sugar as a gluten-free grain base.

– Sorghum – The gluten-free grain sorghum can be used in place of barley malt.

– Tapioca – Fermentable extracts from this gluten-free starch provide food for the yeast.

– Fruit – Extra fruits or fruit juices are sometimes added as a fermentable source of sugars.

No matter the base, the process starts with fresh-pressed apple cider. Yeast is added to begin the fermentation process, converting apple sugars to alcohol. The cider ferments for weeks or months before bottling. The end result is a gluten-free hard cider that retains true apple flavor.

What are some popular gluten-free hard cider brands?

Here are some of the most popular widely available gluten-free hard cider brands in the United States:

Angry Orchard – Angry Orchard is one of the leading and top-selling hard cider brands in the US. All of their ciders are gluten-free, made from apples, cane sugar, and yeast with no barley malt. Flavor options include Crisp Apple, Green Apple, and seasonal flavors like Cinnful Apple and Elderflower.

Strongbow – This imported English cider uses no barley malt, instead fermenting apple juice with sugar and yeast. The popular Strongbow Gold Apple and Dry Apple varieties are gluten-free.

Woodchuck – Woodchuck makes over a dozen gluten-free cider flavors ranging from Amber to Fall and limited editions. They use juice from apples grown in Vermont and New York and sweeten with cane sugar.

Bold Rock – This cider house based in North Carolina uses apples from the Blue Ridge Mountains. All Bold Rock ciders are gluten-free, including apple and specialty flavors like Carolina Apple and Pineapple.

Ace Pineapple Cider – Part of the California Cider Company, Ace ciders feature pineapple juice blended with apple. Their Pineapple and Pineapple Jasmine ciders are refreshing gluten-free options.

Crispin – Crispin Browns Lane ciders offer gluten-free varieties like Classic Apple, Pacific Pear, and Honey Crisp Apple. They use apple juice concentrate and cane sugar.

Smaller craft gluten-free hard cider producers

Beyond the major brands, dozens of small craft cider houses across North America also produce gluten-free hard ciders. Here are a few to look for:

Tilted Shed Ciderworks – Based in California, all their ciders are gluten-free using apples and cane sugar. Flavors include Lost Orchard, Starlight, and Semi Dry.

Eve’s Cidery – This pioneer New York cider company makes gluten-free bottlings like Albee Hill, Northern Spy, and Ida Red.

Redbyrd Orchard Cider – Redbyrd in Maine makes gluten-free ciders only from apples grown on their orchard, like Sparkling Sweet and Sparkling Dry.

Farmhaus Cider – This cidery in Ontario uses local apples to make several gluten-free ciders, including Dry, Semi-dry, and Cherry.

Tieton Cider Works – All the ciders produced by this Washington cidery are gluten-free, including Apple and Cranberry varieties.

Blackthorn Cider – This Portland-based cidery makes three gluten-free ciders: Dry Hopped, Rosé, and Perry (made with pear juice).

Checking your local cider houses can uncover even more gluten-free artisanal options not widely distributed. Many smaller producers clearly label their ciders as gluten-free.

Cider style matters

When selecting a gluten-free cider, the cider style makes a difference in gluten content:

Traditional or dry cider – Made only from pressed apples with no additions like barley or wheat, dry traditional ciders are generally gluten-free.

Crisp or sweet cider – Many crisp, fruit-forward ciders boost flavor with cane sugar. Without gluten-grains, these are usually gluten-free.

Hopped or spiced cider – Flavored with hops, herbs, spices or other fruits, these ciders typically ferment without gluten-grains.

Malt cider – Ciders made with barley or wheat malt for flavor are not gluten-free.

The more additions a cider contains beyond apples, the more important it is to verify the cider is gluten-free by contacting the producer. Simple dry ciders with no additives are least likely to contain gluten.

What about beer and gluten-free claims?

Some alcoholic beverages made from apples or pears may be marketed as “gluten-free beer.” Under U.S. labeling laws, a product labeled as “beer” must contain barley malt, which contains gluten. So by definition, a gluten-free beer doesn’t legally exist.

True gluten-free beverages made from fermented apple or pear juice are classified as hard cider or perry, not beer. When buying, look for ciders verified as gluten-free, not beers making a gluten-free claim. For those with celiac disease, it’s advised to contact the manufacturer to confirm no gluten-containing ingredients.

Choosing safe gluten-free hard cider when dining out

When drinking hard cider in restaurants or bars, caution is needed as beers and ciders often share tap lines. Here are some tips for safe gluten-free cider enjoyment when dining out:

– Ask which cider brands are served and look for known gluten-free options.

– Inquire how the cider is served. Draft ciders are risky due to shared lines with beer. Opt for bottled or canned cider.

– Verify the cider is gluten-free by speaking with a manager or reviewing the cider maker’s website.

– Check the cider menu or bottle list online first when possible at restaurants or bars you’ll visit.

– Check the cider itself when arrives – smell or visually inspect it for clarity. Cloudy cider may indicate gluten contamination.

– Consider potential cross-contact from shared glassware. Request a fresh glass if concerned.

The best strategy is sticking to reputable gluten-free brands in bottles or cans. While cross-contact is still possible, bottled ciders have a lower risk than tap lines. Informed choices and good communication allow those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity to enjoy hard cider safely.

Making your own gluten-free hard cider

Hard cider is relatively straightforward to make at home using just apples, yeast, and time. Here is an overview of how to make your own gluten-free hard cider:

– Apples – Fresh or store-bought juice. A blend of sweet and tart varieties is best.
– Yeast – Cider or champagne yeast. Be sure yeast is marked gluten-free.
– Sugar or honey (optional) – For added sweetness and to boost ABV.
– Other flavorings (optional) – Fruits, spices, or juices like berry, peach, etc.

1. Wash and chop apples if using whole fruit. Press or juice to make 3-5 quarts of juice.
2. Pour apple juice into fermenter or glass gallon jug. Add any sugar or flavorings.
3. Sprinkle cider yeast according to package directions. Attach airlock.
4. Allow to ferment at room temp 2-6 weeks until bubbling stops.
5. Optional: Rack into secondary fermenter for clarity. Allow to condition another 2 weeks.
6. Bottle and store warm 1-2 weeks to carbonate.
7. Chill and enjoy your homemade gluten-free hard cider!

With some basic equipment and gluten-free ingredients, you can easily experiment with different apple cider recipes at home. The same process works for making perry from pressed pears. Just be sure to maintain good sanitation.

Should hard ciders be a certified gluten-free?

While not required, some hard cider companies choose to have their products tested and certified gluten-free by organizations like the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO).

Certification ensures ciders are tested to contain less than 10ppm of gluten. This added testing provides extra assurance for gluten-sensitive drinkers.

Look for the GFCO logo or other certifications on cider packaging. Terms like “crafted to remove gluten” or “made from gluten-free ingredients” on hard ciders don’t guarantee certification or sufficient testing. Contact the cider maker if uncertain about their certification and testing protocols.

Potential gluten cross-contact risks

While many cider makers avoid gluten ingredients, cross-contact during production is a potential concern for sensitive individuals:

– Shared equipment – Bottling lines or fermentation tanks may process gluten-containing beers or grain-based spirits.

– Shared facilities – Some cideries occupy former breweries where airborne grain dust is a hazard.

– Use of malt extracts – Even gluten-removed malt extracts can test above 20ppm.

– Unclean kegs or lines – Tap lines and kegs also used for beer may contaminate ciders.

If you have celiac disease or are highly gluten-sensitive, consider consuming only hard ciders certified gluten-free to under 10ppm. Adhere strictly to the gluten-free diet and consult your doctor if any symptoms develop after drinking cider.

Gluten-free hard cider recipes

Beyond drinking hard cider straight, it can also provide a useful substitution for beer or wheat-based spirits in cocktail recipes. Here are some delicious gluten-free cocktail recipes that use hard cider:

Apple Cider Sangria
– 1 bottle (12 oz) gluten-free hard cider
– 1 cup pomegranate juice
– 1 orange, sliced
– 1 apple, cored and sliced
– 1/4 cup brandy (optional)
– 1/2 cup blueberries or raspberries
– 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
– Ice
– Orange slices for garnish

Mix all ingredients except ice and garnish in pitcher. Refrigerate 1-2 hours. Pour over ice and garnish with orange slices.

Maple Bourbon Cider
– 2 ounces bourbon
– 1 ounce maple syrup
– 6 ounces gluten-free hard cider
– Dash cinnamon
– Apple slice garnish

Combine bourbon, maple syrup and cinnamon in glass. Add ice and hard cider. Garnish with apple slice.

Cider Spritz
– 1 1/2 ounces vodka
– 2 ounces gluten-free hard cider
– 2 ounces sparkling water
– 1 ounce lemon juice
– Lemon wheel garnish

Mix vodka, cider, sparkling water and lemon juice in glass over ice. Garnish with lemon wheel.

The carbonation and fruit flavors of gluten-free cider make it perfect for spritzers, sangrias, and fall-inspired cocktails. Explore your favorite gluten-free cider tail combinations.

Storing hard cider

Like wine and beer, proper storage helps maintain hard cider’s quality and taste. Follow these storage tips:

– Store unopened hard cider bottles upright and away from direct light. A cool dark place like a cellar or pantry is ideal.

– Avoid storing hard cider in places with large temperature fluctuations like by a window or in garage. The temperature should remain reasonably cool.

– Once opened, hard cider should be tightly sealed and refrigerated. Use within 3-5 days to prevent oxidation.

– Cans or screwcaps help prevent oxidation compared to pry-off bottle caps after opening. Drink any partially consumed bottles promptly.

– If making your own hard cider at home, rack into a secondary fermenter before bottling for clearer, better cider.

– When fermenting and bottling homemade hard cider, sanitize all equipment thoroughly to prevent off-flavors.

With the proper storage conditions, packaged hard cider maintains optimal flavor for up to two years or more past the bottling date. Freshly fermented homemade cider is best consumed within a few months.

Hard cider pairing ideas

Beyond drinking hard cider solo, it pairs excellently with a variety of foods:

Cheese – Cider’s acidity balances fatty cheeses. Pair dry cider with goat cheese or blue cheese. Sweeter cider complements Brie or Gouda.

Salads – Fruity ciders liven up salad with vinaigrettes. Match the cider and dressing flavors.

Seafood – Light ciders pair well with fish and shellfish. Sparkling hard cider cuts through fried fish.

Pork – The sweetness of cider balances pork’s richness. Complement smoked pork with a dry hopped cider.

Dessert – Consider pairing sweet cider with apple pie or poached pears. Ice cider makes a decadent match for cheesecake.

Charcuterie – Dry acidic cider cleanses the palate from rich pâtés and cured meats.

Experiment with food pairings at home to find your favorite combinations with different ciders and menus.

Is hard cider healthier than beer or wine?

Compared to other alcoholic drinks, hard cider offers some potential health benefits:

Fewer calories and carbs – At 100-200 calories a serving, cider has less calories than a typical beer or mixed drink. It also contains fewer carbs and sugar.

Gluten-free – Cider avoids the allergens of barley and wheat used in beer. This makes it an accessible option for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

Antioxidants – Apples contain polyphenol antioxidants which may remain present through fermentation. These beneficial plant compounds are lacking in other alcoholic drinks.

Probiotics – The natural fermentation process may boost the probiotics or “good bacteria” content compared to beer or wine. This can aid digestion.

Any alcoholic beverage should only be consumed in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet. While cider has advantages over beer or wine, overconsumption negates any potential benefits.


Hard cider offers a tasty gluten-free alcoholic beverage choice for those following a gluten-free diet due to celiac disease or intolerance. Look for reputable brands using ingredients like apples, sugar, and yeast without gluten-containing grains. Carefully check the ingredients or contact the cider maker if uncertain. When dining out, choose bottled cider from gluten-free brands to limit cross-contact risks from taps. With so many great gluten-free options, anyone avoiding gluten can feel confident enjoying hard apple cider. Just remember to drink cider responsibly and in moderation as part of an overall balanced gluten-free diet.

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