The Untold Truth Of Angry Orchard

Ciders are still fairly new in the U.S., in the grand scheme of things. Back in the early 1800s, John Chapman — better known to most people as Johnny Appleseed — planted countless apple trees across the U.S. They weren't the sort of apples that were good for eating, but they were very good for making alcoholic cider. Fast forward to Prohibition, and the country saw many of its orchards cut down (via Smithsonian). Cider took decades to make a comeback but when it did, it skyrocketed in popularity. 

In recent years, Angry Orchard has been sitting at the top of the pack in the U.S. market, boosted in part by the recent release of their rose cider. According to Forbes, the cider market saw around a 7 percent increase in 2018, and it's growth that just keeps accelerating. That means more and more people are opting to switch up their boozy beverage of choice and grab a cider, and many are reaching for the distinctive and fun varieties of Angry Orchard. So, what should you know before you pop the top on your next bottle?

Why is Angry Orchard so angry?

A tall glass of ice cold cider makes you anything but angry, so what's up with the weird name? 

According to Angry Orchard, the name comes from the fact that the very best apples for cider-making look, well, angry. When they started exploring orchard after orchard across the U.S., Italy, and France, they found that the best cider apples were nothing like the ones you'd find at the grocery store. While we might prize smooth, round, flawless apples for eating, good cider apples are often tart and a little bitter, and less than perfectly formed. 

These are the same types of apples that Johnny Appleseed was planting all across the country in the mid-19th century, says Smithsonian. The first bite might be with your eye, but since there's no need for them to look pretty, it's fine for cider apples to be gnarly, and, quite frankly, the sort we'd think of as ugly if we saw them on the shelf of Whole Foods. It just goes to show that it's what's on the inside that counts!

Angry Orchard is more like wine than beer... a bit

Angry Orchard's ciders might come in the perfect size bottle for cracking open and drinking on the back porch, but they're not exactly like a beer, save two important ways: the alcohol content and the calorie count. 

First things first: Alcohol By Volume notes that Angry Orchard is about 5 percent ABV, and that's pretty middle-of-the-road for beer. They also note that it's fairly high in calories, with each bottle costing you 190 calories. That adds up pretty quick if you plan on having one or two an evening, and Men's Health says that's standard for beer. Stouts have an average of 210 calories, lagers are usually around 170, and pale ales are around 180. 

But according to Angry Orchard cidermaker David Sipes (via Beervana), they look at it more like they're making wine. That's because apples pick up characteristics — like bitterness, sweetness, and acidity — based on the environment they're raised in, called terroir. It's a concept more popularly associated with grapes and wine-making, and that's no coincidence. The process is pretty much the same, and hard cider is basically fermented apple juice, in the same way wine is fermented grape juice. They even use a wine yeast in their fermentation process, and that makes hard cider practically classy.

Angry Orchard imports a lot of their apples

America has amazing apples, and there's no denying that. But when it comes to Angry Orchard, the flavors they're looking for in some of their varieties can only come from apples born and raised overseas, and that means you might be drinking a beverage that's traveled a long, long way. 

Some varieties are made with American apples. According to Angry Orchard cidermaker David Sipes (via Beervana), their seasonal varieties — like Elderflower and Cinnful Apple — are made with all-American apples, along with their Green Apple. But if you start getting other kinds, you're getting something a little more international. Iceman, Strawman, Apple Ginger, Traditional Dry, and Crisp Apple are all made from apples imported from Italy and France. That's because apples from certain areas in France are particularly bittersweet and better for more tart ciders, and blending them with apples grown in Northern Italy in the shadow of the Alps helps balance them into some of the stronger, more tart varieties. 

These apples have a long pedigree, too. Sipes told The Street that they're working with farming families who are tending orchards that have been around for hundreds of years, producing apples with deep, complex flavors.

Angry Orchard consulted with European cider makers

When it came time to really swing into high gear making Angry Orchard, cidermaker David Sipes told The Street that it was a culmination of 15 years' worth of work researching techniques and perfecting recipes. They weren't just doing it on their own, either — they were consulting with some of the best. 

That included Alan Tringham, a cider expert who had been in the business for more than 50 years and spent his career working with Bulmers — a cider brand known as Magners in the U.S. According to the Hereford Cathedral School, he started working with ciders right out of school; that's decades of valuable, practical experience behind every bottle of Angry Orchard, and it's impossible to downplay how big a deal his help was. The Guardian says that Britain drinks more cider than the rest of the world combined, and that's saying a lot — French cider-making traditions date back to the 12th century, and even the roots of Bulmers date back to 1887.

Sadly, Tringham passed away in 2012, but his legacy can still be seen at Bulmers and at Angry Orchard... and that's a pretty cool thing to leave behind.

Angry Orchard had a racial profiling incident

In 2019, a group of friends headed to Angry Orchard's location in Walden, New York for what should have been an awesome day: it was Clyde Jackson's 40th birthday, and he was going to ask girlfriend Cathy-Marie Hamlet to marry him. But when they got there, the Huffington Post says things started to go immediately wrong. 

According to Vice, it started when a security guard approached Jackson and accused him of stealing a T-shirt from the gift store. The guard ordered him to empty his pockets, which he did. They left, he began his proposal, and the same guard returned, now insisting that Hamlet empty her purse. She did, asking, "I know you're just doing your job, but I can't help but wonder if this is because we're black. We're the only black people here at your establishment." The security guard assured her it wasn't that at all, but Hamlet had barely had time to accept the proposal when an entire security team came over, insisted on searching everyone, and declared they were going to call the police. 

Hamlet and her friends left — escorted to the parking lot by the security team — and she later posted on Facebook that she had been in tears over the accusations. Angry Orchard responded, saying they had fired the manager on duty and replaced the security team (which was contracted through an outside firm). They also said they were treating it as "a valuable learning experience."

There was an Angry Orchard recall due to possible exploding bottles

Not all Angry Orchard bottles that have hit shelves have been enjoyed, and in 2015, they issued a voluntary recall of several batches of their Crisp Apple. The problem? The cider was beginning to referment in the bottle, and the dangers associated with that might not be what you'd expect. 

According to the AP news release (via NBC News), there was absolutely no health risk or danger associated with drinking the cider. The problems could potentially happen when the buildup of carbonization inside the bottle increased the pressure too much, and it could cause bottles to explode or overflow when opened. 

Only two batches of cider were impacted, but those cases were spread across 22 states, giving you an idea of just how big a single batch of Angry Orchard cider is. That's a ton of apples! Full refunds were offered to customers who got any of the recalled products. 

Angry Orchard is a great ingredient in cocktails

Angry Orchard is delicious right out of the bottle, especially when it's really cold and the afternoon is really hot. But if you're not using it to mix into cocktails, you're seriously missing out. 

What kind of things are we talking about? How about mixing up a cocktail using Crisp Apple, a shot of bourbon, then a dash of honey and lemon? Sounds delicious, right?

Angry Orchard is the perfect base for some delicious fall cocktails, no matter what the season actually is outside. Get a pumpkin spice fix with Crisp Apple, a shot of rum, a dash of pumpkin spice syrup, and a squeeze of lemon juice. 

You can make versions of some of your old favorites, too. Use Crisp Apple with an ounce of bourbon, a dash of sweet vermouth, a dash of honey, and a few slices of orange and a cherry or two for a new take on an Old Fashioned. Or, just keep it simple. Add a shot of Fireball, peach schnapps, or vanilla vodka for something that'll warm you up right.

You can visit Angry Orchard for a ton of fun

If you're a huge fan of Angry Orchard, there's only one place you need to go: their 60-acre orchard in Walden, New York. It's been a farm since the 1700s and an apple orchard for around 100 years, and it's way more than just a place to go and take a tour of the facility — it's much more fun. 

That fun starts with their Treehouse Tours, a regularly scheduled tour that takes visitors through the orchard and into their treehouse — built by the Treehouse Masters from Animal Planet — for guided tastings. Plan your trip right, and you'll be there when they're hosting other events, too, from live music to fundraisers for causes like Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There's trivia nights, game nights, barbecues, and there's even the occasional yoga class. They often hold things like wassailing (that's the age-old tradition of drinking lots of cider while singing and celebrating with others), a holiday market, and massive parties for the holidays. It's so much more than just drinking cider — although you can do that, too!