Oh, we're sorry, is cider not a potent enough drink for you on St. Patrick's Day? Why don't you just step into any Irish pub in the Northeast on darts night and say how weak you think cider is?

Not so tough now that you're getting cider through a straw, are you?

The Irish have been making big batches of hard cider since the mid-1930s, when the first batches were made by William Magner. Cider now accounts for 12% of Ireland's beer market, and that original cider Magner made makes up a huge part of that percentage.

Though it's known as Bulmer's in Ireland for reasons involving former ownership by H.P. Bulmer and a lot of evolution we're not going to address, Magners found a huge following among East Coast Irish expats and pub crowds. Sales were up more than 29% last year as the sweet, mild cider set its sights on even more U.S. growth with new varieties, including a peach-and-berry concoction.

Its owners, C&C Group, recently bought E.&J. Gallo Winery's Hornsby's cider brand -- the No. 2 brand in the U.S. -- and seem fixed on expanding Magners' presence from coast to coast. That's great for West Coast rugby watchers looking for a bit of Irish authenticity in their local pub, but could get confusing for cider fans who'll wonder what all those ice cubes are doing in their drink. If you want a real pint of Irish cider, it's best enjoyed on the rocks.

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