cider toronto

Toronto to get its first craft cider house

Cider in Ontario is currently experiencing something of a boom and, while there are plenty of Toronto bars providing ciders that are made nearby, surprisingly, there aren't yet any cider companies actually based here in the city. But that's about to change.

The Brickworks Ciderhouse is looking to be Toronto's first craft cider and, as you might have guessed, they're looking to make their home at the Evergreen Brick Works.

As CEO Chris Noll told me, the decision to bring a craft cidery to the Brick Works has as much to do with the current tenant's philosophies as it does the area's past.

"We donate 5% of our profit back to Evergreen to help keep cities in Canada green. We chose Evergreen for their vision on sustainability," he says, telling me that none of the ingredients used in the production of their ciders travel any further than 300 km to the cider house.

Additionally, the area enjoys some historical precedent for cider making.

"The Don Valley used to be an orchard that was harvested by early Torontonians for cider -- until the trees were cut down in the early 1900s because of prohibition," he says. "If you walk it you can still find some of the trees that hung around." And that historical tie is not only good for a marketing angle, but also something that Noll hopes will prove useful from a practical standpoint.

"We would actually like to use these trees to graft a [new] orchard if possible," he says, telling me of his lofty plans to start a working orchard in the Don Valley from which to harvest apples. "We're thinking right across the river from the Evergreen Brick Works," he says. "There are open fields there."

As is a common refrain when it comes to the sale of beverage alcohol in Ontario, Noll's plans don't come without some degree of red tape. Current laws, for example, state that in order to have an on-site retail store, Brickworks Ciderhouse will need five acres of fruit trees attached to the property. While that might sound crazy, he's optimistic that his Don Valley orchard will someday help him meet that requirement, but it will take a full five years before any orchard is ready for production and his plan can start to....uh...bear fruit (sorry).

"We are currently working with the city to try and make this a reality," he says. "Just Imagine, apple picking in downtown Toronto."

And so Noll is working toward a cider house in the Brickworks that he hopes will stand as a flagship for craft ciders in Canada. There will be a small menu of local food available that pairs with the different ciders, a small general store, and, of course, an onsite cidery. The plan is to get started this winter in order to open the doors for the spring of 2015.

In the meantime, Brickworks Ciderhouse is using a blend of apples from Georgian bay and Niagara region micro-climates and is crafting its cider at a commercial cidery in North Toronto. Their first release, Batch 1904, is a UK-style dry cider, and is named after the fire of 1904 that burned Toronto to the ground.

The name is intended to honour the city's ability to continue to stand tall in the 100 years since that fire (interestingly, most of the bricks that were used to rebuild Toronto after that fire were made at the cidery's future home, the Brick Works).

But you won't have to wait until the Brickworks Ciderhouse opens to try Batch 1904. Noll tells me he's on track for a product launch during the May 2-4 long weekend when you'll be able to find 473mL cans of his cider for $3.10/can in most LCBOs. He also says he expects to be available in Toronto pubs and bars, so if you like Batch 1904, you'll have plenty of places to get it while you wait for the city's first cidery to open its doors.

Ben Johnson also writes about all things alcoholic over on Ben's Beer Blog. Follow him on twitter @Ben_T_Johnson. Or else.

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