And not only for the fall. Over the last year or so cider drinking has been happening throughout the year, and not just once people start going apple picking. Woodchuck. Angry Orchard. Crispin. Strongbow. Original Sin. If you consider these household names, you’re among the growing (and growing fast) group of hard cider drinkers in this country. In 2011, U.S. sales were up 20% over the previous year.

What’s up with that?

The Wall Street Journal calls it a “renaissance.” And those closer to the customer, like Chris Morton, owner of Bearden Beer Market in Knoxville, Tennessee, say: “Part of the reason for the growth in hard cider is due to the switch from beers because a growing segment of the population is looking for gluten-free products.” Since the population of the U.S. with celiac disease is less than 1% it is clear that the growing need for gluten-free products isn’t solely responsible for the 20% increase in hard cider sales. A slew of new products and brands coming out with ciders make it tempting to consumers, and cider provides an interesting alternative to beer for consumers looking for a different flavor or more variety.

Morton predicts that producers will move to make hard ciders with a lesser alcohol content. Less alcohol = fewer calories, and that makes selling cider, well, cake.

Move over, craft brew. Hard cider is the new trend in town. Tell us if you’re jumping on this one.