It’s easy to miss, but attentive passersby at 750 Cumberland Street in Downtown Lebanon may have spotted a small wooden keg with a green logo and the letters “UTB” in the empty storefront.
Kevin Smith of Under The Bridge Brewing confirmed in a recent telephone interview that production of hard cider is underway at the site, with 1250 gallons aging at present. Smith hopes to begin distributions to bars and restaurants in a month or two.
By next spring, Smith would like to have a small Downtown tasting room open to the public, complemented by a variety of food trucks. He has no plans for in-house food preparation.
UTB’s Facebook page says Smith began making cider, one batch at a time, in his kitchen.
According to Wine and Craft Beverage News, alcoholic cider became the fastest growing segment of the craft beverage market in 2016, with small independent cideries gaining market share against large commercial cideries that sold through grocery store chains.
A 2018 article in Ciderguide.com listed 37 Pennsylvania cider makers.
It’s hard to know when fermented cider was first made, because apples were distributed widely across the known world in ancient times, but the Greeks and Romans were cider drinkers. When they invaded England in 55 B.C., the Romans discovered that the natives were already enjoying the beverage.
In most of the world, “cider” means the alcoholic version. In the U.S., where non-alcoholic apple juice is widely consumed, the term “hard cider” is used to distinguish it from its softer relative.
Cider is naturally lower in alcohol than wine because apples contain less sugar than grapes. The yeast used in fermenting apples runs out of sugar to eat sooner, limiting most ciders’ alcohol levels to 4 to 6 percent.