The top 10 Ontario ciders
Ontario cider has for a long time been something like a best kept secret among those among us who, for whatever reason, can't drink beer. Lately however, word seems to be getting out that the province's cold climate helps grow highly-acidic apples perfectly-suited to cider and so there's been something of a mini-boom in local craft cider.
The result is that the secret is finally out, great craft ciders are flooding the shelves, and Ontario's cider market now has something for everyone--even those without celiac, crohn's, colitis, or a propensity for unnecessarily following fad diets.
Here are 10 excellent and local ciders to help you get started understanding this unfairly long-neglected beverage.
Waupoos Cider from the County Cider Company
Operating since 1995, The County Cider Company makes a variety of hard cider products, but their Waupoos Cider--a crisp, semi-sweet, cider--is a reliable choice that won't steer you wrong. Don't let the vaguely cheesy plastic one-litre bottles in the LCBO fool you, this is a nice, well-balanced little beverage.
West Avenue Cider Heritage Dry
The flagship offering from the brand new, husband-and wife-team of Chris Haworth and Amy Robson, Heritage Dry is crisp but fruity, acidic, but balanced--generally quite impressive. More importantly though, it's a strong first offering from a company with some lofty goals. When I met Haworth, who's trained as a chef, he talked of pitching a cider with koji, an upcoming tap-takeover at Bar Isabel, and told me about a bourbon-barrel-aged cider that is out this month. Installed on tap at beer bars like Bar Hop, Bellwoods Brewery, barVolo (and a lot more), West Avenue seems poised to be one of the companies leading Ontario's craft cider renaissance and teaching beer nerds that it's OK to like cider.
County Cider from the County Cider Company
The namesake cider from the family owned County Cider Company & Estate Winery is a fresh and crisp, dry, sparkling cider. For my money and my puckery palate this is far tastier than their perhaps more well-known Waupoos Cider. In addition to their tasting room and store, you can find this in bars, restaurants, and LCBOs.
66 Pickup from Hoity Toity Cellars
Hoity toity makes not only cider, but also wine from Bruce County cold climate grapes--but don't let their name fool you, their vibe is decidedly laid-back and and their products are wholly approachable. 66 Pickup is made from apples grown in the Bruce & Grey Counties and is an off-dry and lightly carbonated cider. It's not too sweet and, with a gold medal from the 2013 Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it's a proven crowd-pleaser. You can find it in a handful of pubs and bars or you can buy it from their onsite store or online.
Spirit Tree Cider's Draught Cider
Cellar-aged for four to six months, Spirit Tree's Draught Cider has unique straw and grass aromas on top of the apples, semi-sweet taste and a sparklingly clean, crisp finish. You can usually find it on tap in decent bars as well as in the LCBO, but with an onsite bakery, kitchen, and farm store, Spirit Tree is more than worth the visit to Caledon, Ontario to pick some cider up right from the farm.
Pommies Dry Cider
Made from Ida Red, Northern Spy, Gala, Empire, and Russets apples, this is a light, refreshing, fairly-sweet and easy to drink cider. Despite what they name says, this cider actually isn't all that dry. I'd actually recommend it to those who prefer a sweet cider or those who don't want too intense a flavour. If there were such a thing as an "entry-level cider," I think this would be it.
Sir Isaacs from Puddicombe Cider Company
There's something inherently interesting in a beverage named for a Canadian Major General who once captured Detroit (back when it was worth capturing, that is), but that's not all this pear cider has to offer. The flavours and aromas here are all subtle pear. It's a clean and somewhat muted beverage--you won't get too much sweetness here--but the pear flavour finishes with a noticeable but not unpleasant bitterness. Very nice, and available in bars and in the LCBO.
Sweet Tux from Hoity Toity Cellars
For those who like their cider a little sweeter and a little less acidic, Sweet Tux is Hoity Toity's "refreshing but bold" pear cider. This is a unique offering from a company with some equally unique ways of doing business--including employing sheep to remove the lower leaves on their grapevines to increase air circulation and light to the fruit. I know that doesn't have anything to do with this cider, but I had to find a way to work that cool fact in. Work sheep!
Thornbury Premium Apple Cider
There's something a little unromantic about Thornbury Cider given that it was launched in 2011 with the expressed purpose of gaining a foothold in the lucrative cider market in Ontario, but there's no denying it's a tasty beverage nonetheless. The product of an acquisition by alcohol distributor Beer Barons, the goal of the people behind Thornbury Cider was to create an easy-to-drink, English-style cider--and they've done that quite well. Thornbury Cider is pressed entirely from apples grown in the area of Thornbury, Ontario and is a nice, dry cider with plenty of carbonation, and a bit of tartness that's balanced by a subtle sweetness. You can buy it on tap and in the LCBO.
Spirit Tree's Apelager Cider
Potentially a little offputting to cider fans owing to its hazy, unfiltered appearance, don't pass this one up. Winner of a Silver at the 2013 Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition, this cider, made with Lager yeast, has a complex taste that belies its 3% ABV. Well-suited to a place that makes both bread and cider, the takeaway aromas and taste here are yeast and apples. An excellent rustic cider available on draught and in bottles in bars (as well as at the farm in Caledon).
Got a favourite Ontario cider? Why not share it in the comments below? There's a growing number of local cider options out there, as evidenced by the creation of the Ontario Craft Cider Association.