Beer still holds the title of America’s most beloved alcoholic beverage.Saad L. (2019). Liquor ties wine as second-favorite adult beverage in U.S. But for an increasing number of Americans, hard apple cider is becoming the drink of choice.

What’s so special about cider’s sweet composition and potential health benefits? And how do they compare to the benefits of beer? We dove into the bottles to find out.

A staple in Britain before the Norman invasion, hard cider is now enjoyed around the globe. Still, the Brits consume more than any other country, collectively chugging nearly 40 percent of the cider produced worldwide.UK cider market. (n.d.).

Cider’s popularity in the United States waned after German lagers were introduced in the 19th century. It declined even more after Prohibition. But recently, cider has made a comeback stateside.

Thanks to festivals like Pour the Core and New York Cider Week and the growth in popularity of domestic brands like Angry Orchard, the U.S. cider market grew by more than 8 percent in recent years.Newhart B. (2019). Cider succeeds with men, women and millennials; but faces challenge in retaining customers.

The resurgence has prompted some to wonder how this fruity beverage stacks up against beer. Each is, of course, different from bottle to bottle. But in general, here’s how the two drinks are similar and different.

Hard cider and beer differ in their composition. Cider is made by fermenting fruit with sugar and yeast. Often the fruit used is apples, which provide antioxidants like vitamin C.

Because it’s fruit-based, cider also has the advantage of being gluten-free. That makes it a great option for beer lovers who, well, can’t drink beer.

Beer is no nutritional slouch, either. It’s made with yeast, hops, water, and cereals. Those ingredients imbue it with a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Even calcium is in there, bro.

Apple cider is packed with vitamin C plus antioxidants like polyphenols and flavonoids, which give it its distinctive color. Some research has found that these antioxidants may also protect against certain types of cancer.Budak NH, et al. (2015). Antioxidant activity and phenolic content of apple cider.

Cider also has anti-inflammatory agents, like anthocyanins, and properties that could act as a buffer against conditions like heart disease and diabetes.Cassidy A, et al. (2015). Higher dietary anthocyanin and flavonol intakes are associated with anti-inflammatory effects in a population of US adults. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.115.108555

The amount of protection you get could depend on which cider you choose. Polyphenol levels can vary significantly depending on the apple variety used.

Compared to cider, beer falls behind in polyphenol concentration. During the beer-making process, brewers often remove naturally occurring polyphenols (usually found in hops and malt) to prevent them from turning the beer cloudy.

This usually decreases the total polyphenol content, and it’s why astringency — that puckering feeling you get from ciders and red wines — is noticeably absent from beer.

However, hops often contain flavonoids (a type of polyphenol compound), which provide antioxidant protection to cells.

A 2016 study found that moderate beer drinking reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease similarly to wine. It may also have the same benefits as other types of alcoholic drinks — including cider — when it comes to cancer Gaetano G, et al. (2016). Effects of moderate beer consumption on health and disease: A consensus document. DOI: 10.1016/j.numecd.2016.03.007

One major difference between beer and hard cider is the amount of sugar in each bottle. Beer is sugar-free. Brewers typically add sugar in small quantities to balance sourness.

Cider, however, can be quite high in sugar because the fruit it contains is naturally full of it. The most popular brands of hard cider have a wide range of sugar contents, from Crispin Rose’s 10 grams (2 teaspoons) per serving to Angry Orchard Crisp Apple’s 20 grams (5 teaspoons).

The varying sugar content of hard cider is a result of the fermentation process. Sweeter ciders are slowly fermented. Then they’re repeatedly racked (moved to new containers) to strain the yeast that feeds on the cider’s natural sugars.

Dryer ciders (meaning they contain less sugar) allow the yeast to consume the majority of cider’s natural sugars. That results in a less sweet drink with a higher alcohol content (now we’re talkin’).

A bottle of beer and one of hard cider have a similar number of calories — around 200.

Ciders are typically higher in carbohydrates due to the greater amounts of sugar. Because few cider varieties have “light” options. On average, they’ll be slightly higher in calories and carbs than beer.

As we’ve shown, both beer and cider contain nutrients and have some benefits. What matters most is how much of them you drink.

Some research has found that spiked beverages, whether beer, wine, or cider, may actually help lower your risk of heart disease,Roerecke M, et al. (2014). Alcohol consumption, drinking patterns, and ischemic heart disease: A narrative review of meta-analyses of the impact of heavy drinking occasions on risk for moderate drinkers. DOI: 10.1186/s12916-014-0182-6 cognitive decline, and dementiaSabia S, et al. (2018). Alcohol consumption and risk of dementia: 23 year follow-up of Whitehall II cohort study. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.k2927 — provided that they’re consumed in moderation.

Having too many drinks could have the opposite of the intended health effect. For one of many examples, a recent study found that more than a few drinks per week might put your heart at risk and shorten your lifespan.Wood AM, et al. (2018). Risk thresholds for alcohol consumption: Combined analysis of individual-participant data for 599,912 current drinkers in 83 prospective studies. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)30134-X

When weighing your healthier happy hour options, it’s really a toss-up between beer and hard cider. Both are good sources of antioxidants. The main difference in healthfulness lies in the sugar and carb content.

The antioxidant content of cider varies by apple type. If the manufacturer used a polyphenol-poor variety, you’ll need to drink more to reap its potential health benefits (but the extra calories and inevitable hangover are not worth the dose of antioxidants).

Although beer is low in polyphenols, its nutritional value is bolstered by high levels of nutrients like vitamin B, potassium, and folate.

Both beer and cider are calorie-rich drinks with high levels of carbs. With any alcoholic drink, moderation is the name of the game.

One bottle of a healthier beer, a low-sugar cider, or a glass of wine can still provide a good dose of antioxidants, so learn to savor just one drink.

If beer and wine aren’t your thing, consider a lower-calorie cocktail or consult our Greatist guide How to Choose the Healthiest Beer, Wine, and Cocktails. Cheers!