As I sit in my armchair sipping Archibald Orchards sparkling hard cider from a tall slender flute, I’m not surprised to read that hard cider is the fastest growing alcoholic beverage in Ontario.
It was the first alcoholic beverage enjoyed in North America – the pilgrims fermented their apples – and since then, the drink has gone in and out of fashion. During prohibition, hundreds of acres of apple cider orchards in Ontario were ripped out, ending a thriving industry. Years later when prohibition was repealed, cider was the last alcoholic beverage considered for production because it takes an apple tree five years to produce apples.
While hard cider has long roots in Canada, it actually hails from the United Kingdom where it’s simply known as cider. In Canada, we refer to cider as the non-alcoholic, unfiltered apple juice that makes its way to farmers’ markets every fall, while hard cider is the name we use for the fermented (alcoholic) variety.
Modern cider makers are adding their own unique touches for heavenly takes on the traditional blend. Take British-born cider maker Chris Haworth of West Avenue Cider for example; he crafts a delicious smokey maple cider called Smokeshow that has a bottom weight to the flavour that’s simply lip smacking, and his bourbon barrel aged Barret Fuller’s Secret Cider leaves light layers of burnt sugar on the palate.
Like wine grapes, there are many types of apples each with their own characteristics. Most hard ciders are a blend of apple varieties, while others are produced from just one kind. Methods of production vary, textures range from still to sparkling, and flavour profiles range from dry and crisp to off dry and fruity to ice cider. This makes them perfect partners for a wide range of food.
Last year I was handed a glass of dry County Cider to sip with a dish of pan seared Lake Ontario trout. The fruity, rich cider was a surprisingly delightful pairing with the light, subtle flavor of trout. In fact, hard cider is low in alcohol content (4% to 8%) and it will go with just about anything. Fred Archibald of Archibald Orchards in Bowmanville agrees. “One of my favourites with our off dry (hard) cider is barbecued pork chops. Pork and apple is a natural match that always seems to work.”
I like to pair the drink with a cheese platter of old cheddar, soft cambozola or hard pecorino; these weighty flavours will suite many ciders but I like Pommies Sparkling Dry Cider with cheese, and the taste results are divine. Sparkling hard ciders are perfect for summer sipping and the carbonation adds lightness to heavy meals.
Apples grow abundantly throughout Ontario and that makes a big difference when it comes to making hard cider. “We only use tree picked apples that are grown right here,” explains Archibald. That means the cider will be consistent. “From growing to pressing, fermenting and bottling, everything is done here,” he adds.
With consistently excellent quality, locally grown and produced ciders, innovative styles and palate complexity, no wonder there has been a surge in popularity with Ontario’s appreciative drinkers. Welcome the return of Ontario’s glamorous hard ciders!
Cider Fest, June 20 – 21
Taste all of Ontario’s Hard Ciders in one afternoon while listening to live music and enjoying the BBQ at Puddicombe Estate just off the QEW in Niagara.
By: Lynn Orgryzlo
Lynn Ogryzlo is a food, wine and travel writer, international award winning author and regular contributor to Look Local Magazine. She can be reached for questions or comments at www.lynnogryzlo.com.
Ontario’s Hard Ciders
Many of these delicious local beverages are available in retail locations onsite or at the LCBO.
Archibald Orchards and Cidery
County Cider Co
Hoity Toity Cellars
Molson Canadian Cider
Pommies Dry Cider
Puddicombe Cider Co
Spirit Tree Estate Cidery
Thornbury Village Cidery
Twin Pines Orchards & Cider House
West Avenue Cider