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Canada’s Modern Cideries

At Chain Yard, Halifax’s first urban cidery, brainstorming for new products and ciders happens in an unusual locale. “This building is actually an old bank,” explains operations manager Mike Lim. “The office where we usually discuss a lot of the upcoming cider ideas is in the old vault.”

This brainstorming location has inspired the name for one of Chain Yard’s higher-end line of ciders. The Vault series features ciders that have an added degree of complexity and flavour. There’s also Chain Yard’s 100 Series—limited editions that have only been produced in a quantity of 100 bottles.

As ciders grow in popularity across the country, producers are responding with specialty products to meet the demands of adventurous, curious cider-drinkers. Cideries like Chain Yard borrow techniques, ingredients and tools from craft brewing and winemaking to develop unexpected flavours and added complexity.

Take Pippin Russet, for example, which is part of Chain Yard’s Vault Series and uses two apple varieties that are harder to find in Nova Scotia. “Compared to some of the commercial apples that have a lot of water and sugar, cox orange pippin and golden russet have a good amount of tannin and acidity,” Lim explains. So, to take full advantage of its unique flavours, Lim and the team at Chain Yard Cider gives these apples the special treatment with a long, slow fermentation. “It really brings out the characters of the apple for a more complex and balanced cider.”

Barrel-aging is also a popular technique for developing unique ciders. Chain Yard favours the use of oak barrels formerly used to make whisky. “If you’re barrel-aging, then you’re picking up notes from the barrels like oak and vanilla,” Lim explains. Brettanomyces, a yeast popular in craft brewing, has also crossed the bridge into cider making. “It actually creates some off-flavours and weird, funky notes that people are really getting into.”

These experimental ciders take longer to make—up to six months, compared to a quick three-week turnaround for their regular lineup. But the effort has paid off for Lim and the team at Chain Yard. Pippin Russet took home a gold award at the 2019 Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition. And licensees have shown a growing interest in stocking and serving Chain Yard’s specialty ciders.

Since refined ciders have a higher price point than the average offering, bar and restaurant owners should give special consideration to these menu offerings.

When working with a new licensee, Lim’s team offers a tasting for staff to become better acquainted with the flavours and characteristics of refined ciders. He suggests restaurant and bar owners request tastings from the cider producers they’d like to work with. Once staff are educated, they can also help pass that knowledge onto the customer as they may also be new to the complex flavours of higher-end ciders.

Additional description in the menu can also help customers to better understand why a particular cider may have a higher price point, if space permits.

Presentation methods can also help enhance the experience of enjoying a refined cider. “We serve our Vault series, or any bottle product, in a wine chiller and serve them with wine glasses,” Lim explains. “If you’re pouring small amounts into a wine glass, it’s opening up and you’re getting to enjoy the aromas more than in a large pint glass.” If the recent craft beer boom is anything to go by, Lim believes that interest in refined ciders is only growing. “I think we’re seeing a lot of the same trends that we saw in the craft beer development,” he says. “People started off with large commercial ciders, then they wanted to try the local ciders, and now they’re wanting something more unique—something that has more of a story behind it.”

Mike Lim’s Favourite Cideries Across Canada 

Chain Yard Cider operations manager Mike Lim shares his most memorable cider producers across the country.

Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse, British Columbia: This family-owned orchard and ciderhouse produces all-organic cider.

Left Field Cider Co., British Columbia: Another family-owned operation that blends English and French cider varieties.

Revel Cider Co., Ontario: Using spontaneous fermentation, Revel creates funky and unique ciders.

West Avenue Cider House, Ontario: This cidery’s barrel-aged and cask conditioned ciders are some of Canada’s most innovative.

Red Rover Cider, New Brunswick: International award-winning ciders from the first craft cider producer in New Brunswick.

Yip Cider, New Brunswick: This orchard and cider producer has an apple growing history dating back to 1964.

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