Still or sparkling, and a delight to pair with food, artisan cideries are the next big thing in Canadian cuisine.
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Canadians grow apples from coast to coast, and although we’ve long been known for our apple pies, our latest claim to fame is artisan apple cider.
Following a hot national trend that’s seen cider sales jump more than 30% since 2012, orchardists from Nova Scotia to Vancouver Island have embraced the idea of craft cider, creating artisan brews that rival the best from British, French and American makers. They’re eschewing eating apples and instead planting rare and bitter cider apples to create a range of unique craft ciders.
Take Merridale Estate Cidery, in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, BC. The cidery grows a range of European cider-specific apple trees— Dabinett, Tremlett’s Bitter and Hauxapfel— in its orchard, then ferments its crop’s pure, first-pressed juice to make a traditional cider, Scrumpy, plus a sweet Cyser, which is blended with wildflower honey.
Sea Cider is a cider house that’s sprung up in the rural region near Victoria, BC. Sea Cider starts with certified organic heritage apples—Newton Pippins and Winter Bananas—and ferments the juice with champagne yeasts to create three ciders: crisp, dry Pippins, robust Wild English (crafted in the Herefordshire style) and even an off-dry, lightly sparkly Rumrunners (aged in old rum barrels).
BC’s Okanagan Valley has long been known for apple (and now grape) production, with large cider makers creating sweet commercial products. However, new in recent years are the craft cideries—Left Field Cider Co.with its Little Dry and Big Dry brews, Summerland Heritage Cider, which makes the off-dry Tuesday’s Original, and The BX Press Cidery + Farm, third-generation Vernon apple growers who are just starting to make cider.
Further east, the new Ontario Craft Cider Association represents makers including Toronto’s West Avenue Cider (created by former Spencer’s chef Chris Haworth and who ages the cider in bourbon barrels) and Twin Pines Orchards, which crafts its Hammer Bent Original and Ice Cider in a Carolinian microclimate.
You’ll also find cideries in the Ontario wine-growing regions of Niagara and Prince Edward County, the latter home to The County Cider Company, makers of the popular Waupoos Cider, which is a blend of European cider apples. County Cider creates ice cider, too: a sweet dessert wine created, like ice wine, with the concentrated juice from frozen fruit.
Quebec cider makers, with their deep Norman roots, brought cider to Canada, with small cideries dotting the countryside from the Eastern Townships to Charlevoix. They are also the innovators who created the first ice cider, pressing apples that were naturally frozen on the trees. Domaine Pinnacle is an ice-cider pioneer.
Further east, artisan cider is gaining ground in the Maritimes, too, with award-winning products from Tideview Cider in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley tempting tastebuds. Even longtime cider maker Stutz Cider has a new dry craft-style product, ShipBuilders Cider, that’s making waves.
While big Canadian breweries such as Molson-Coors Canada are now also producing ciders, craft-cider makers are the ones to watch. Still or sparkling, and easy to pair with food, craft cider is the next big thing, made from scratch from Canadian apples.
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