Why is cider in the US non alcoholic?

Answered by Phillip Nicastro

During the Prohibition era in the United States, which lasted from 1920 to 1933, the consumption, production, and sale of alcoholic beverages were prohibited. However, there were certain exceptions and loopholes in the law that allowed some people to continue making and consuming alcohol in limited quantities. One such exception was the production of naturally-fermenting products like cider and fruit juice.

Under the Volstead Act, which outlined the rules and regulations of Prohibition, farmers were allowed to produce a limited amount of cider and fruit juice as long as it was not intended to intoxicate. This exception was primarily made to support the agricultural industry and allow farmers to utilize excess crops of apples and other fruits.

Cider, in its purest form, is made by fermenting apple juice, which naturally contains yeast. During the fermentation process, the yeast converts the sugars present in the juice into alcohol and carbon dioxide. However, if the fermentation is halted before all the sugars are converted, the resulting cider will have a lower alcohol content or may even be non-alcoholic.

To comply with the non-intoxicating requirement of the Volstead Act, cider producers would often use methods to limit the alcohol content in their products. This could include stopping the fermentation process before all the sugars are converted, diluting the cider with water, or pasteurizing the cider to kill off any remaining yeast and prevent further fermentation.

It is important to note that the definition of “intoxicating” was not clearly defined in the Volstead Act, leaving room for interpretation and enforcement discretion. This allowed some cider producers to push the boundaries and produce cider with higher alcohol content, occasionally leading to legal disputes.

Additionally, the Volstead Act allowed for the production and sale of non-alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of 0.5% or less. This meant that some commercially-produced ciders could still be sold legally during Prohibition as long as they met this criteria. These ciders would typically undergo processes such as pasteurization or filtration to remove any remaining alcohol.

While the production and consumption of cider were technically allowed during Prohibition, it was still a challenging time for cider producers. The demand for cider significantly decreased as the overall consumption of alcoholic beverages declined, and many orchards were converted to other agricultural uses. The cider industry took several decades to recover and regain popularity in the United States.

Cider in the United States during Prohibition was non-alcoholic or had a significantly reduced alcohol content due to the restrictions imposed by the Volstead Act. The exception allowing the production of naturally-fermenting products like cider and fruit juice was primarily aimed at supporting the agricultural industry rather than providing a legal means for people to consume alcohol.