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4 Craft Ciders and Where to Find them in Waterloo Region

Close up photo of two ripe apples hanging on a branch in an apple orchard in Waterloo Region. It is a sunny summer's day.
BY ANDREW COPPOLINO | JUNE 2022

Cider has been around for a long time. In fact, it’s said that Julius Caesar observed the Celts fermenting crab apples when he attempted to conquer Britain in 55 BCE.

Today there are 60 or so craft cideries in Ontario which are developing a generation of cider aficionados, including here in Waterloo Region. Inventiveness and synergies in the cider industry have resulted in flavours, textures and complexities that Caesar would never have imagined.

Janice Ruddock is Executive Director of the Ontario Craft Cider Association and says since 2016 interest in craft cider has grown. Producers in the association cannot add artificial flavours, must use 100% Ontario apples and pears, and have to stay within an annual production volume to be considered “craft.”

“Cider is rooted in the ground. This is a natural product. But it’s also a lifestyle,” Ruddock says.

Waterloo Region, while it has only a couple of cider producers, has many bars and restaurants that serve the growing interest in and demand for the refreshing drink. Here are 4 places to enjoy a craft cider in Waterloo Region.

KW Craft Cider

KW Craft Cider was launched in 2014 and produces several ciders from sparkling dry to chai ginger. Their ciders are produced using a range of freshly pressed apples such as Golden Russet, Idared, McIntosh (the “Mac”) and others selected from within 150 kilometres of the Waterloo cidery. According to KW Craft Cider, part of the craft of cider making, like making wine, is to achieve a balance of flavours, sweetness and tartness given the seasonal variations that you find in apple crops.

You’ll find KW Craft Ciders in many restaurants throughout Waterloo Region. It’s also available in most LCBO locations.

 

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Charcoal Group of Restaurants

Jen Tamse, Director of Beer and Beverage at the Charcoal Group of Restaurants, has seen 10 years of cider growth in her experience in the industry.

“There’s been massive growth in craft cider due to changes in legislation and consumer demand for drier ciders,” Tamse says. “It’s never been so experimental and exciting.”

The various restaurants in the Charcoal Group (Charcoal Steakhouse, Martini’s, del’s, Wildcraft, Bauer Kitchen, Beertown, Socialable and Moose Winookski’s) support smaller Ontario cideries, with two taps dedicated to Ontario cideries such as Revel in Guelph. They also have a number of 750 mL bottles of cider that take advantage of summertime and seasonal production.

She says an older demographic is increasingly drawn to cider as are millennials looking for experimental ciders – much like lovers of Waterloo Region’s robust craft beer scene. Tamse adds the experimentation with cider production has been remarkable with barrel aging, spontaneous fermentation and taking advantage of wild yeasts in the air. The biggest change, she notes, has been a leap toward dry ciders: gone are the days of ciders with 60 grams of added sugar, she exclaims.

“Ciders are very dry and with a higher alcohol by volume. There’s a clean expression of the apples, and Ontario is a hub for experimentation.”

 

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Arabella Park Beer Bar

At Arabella Park in Kitchener’s Belmont Village, co-owner and cellarman Ben Metcalf says that while beer is the primary driver at the bar, ciders – and their creative and inventive characteristics – have their place.

“We always keep two lines dedicated to cider,” Metcalf says. “We then have anywhere between four and eight cans available. More often than not Ontario but not limited to.”

Metcalf says their customers include die-hard cider drinkers, adding that many people looking for gluten-free beverages look toward cider. In terms of taste, originally some people enjoyed the very sweet ciders that first introduced the beverage to the market years ago. “Today, sweet ciders have fallen off the map,” says Metcalf.

“People have turned to craft beverages in general and getting acquainted with producers’ imaginations and being willing to be flexible and try a cider – and be pleasantly surprised,” adds Metcalf.

He describes a cider called “Time and Place, Farmhouse Cider” (wild ferment, no sugar added and vegan friendly) by Guelph’s Revel Cider as a beverage that captures the current trend in cider in Ontario. “There’s a lot of hybridization going on between things like apples and grapes. There’s a lot of cider-wine hybrids and a lot of producers looking for stuff that they’ve never used before and consumers haven’t heard of before.”

That includes a cider that Arabella has on draft which combines perry (from pears), orange and amburana. “That’s a Brazilian wood that gives off baking spice and vanilla notes. The cider-perry blend plays well off the orange,” Metcalf says adding that it’s one of several standout ciders that that break new and unfamiliar territory for Waterloo Region cider aficionados – and those who want to learn more about this ancient beverage.

“We look for ciders that are interesting to drink,” says Metcalf. “And if they have a story, even better.”

 

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Waterloo Brewing

While Waterloo Brewing has the distinction of being Ontario’s first craft brewery, it has expanded its offerings over the years to include coolers, and more recently, ciders.

Waterloo Brewing’s Seagram Craft Cider is made with a variety of apples grown in Ontario and is fermented with Champagne yeast. It’s also  gluten-free and preservative-free. Stop by Waterloo Brewing’s taphouse or head to their on-site store to pick some cider up and enjoy it during summer’s warm days!

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Andrew Coppolino is a writer-broadcaster, and is a food columnist with CBC Radio in Waterloo Region. Following a stint as a cook at a restaurant in Kitchener, Andrew chose to work with food from the other side of the kitchen pass. As a food writer, he is dedicated to promoting and nurturing culinary businesses and advocating for local chefs and restaurants. Andrew’s work has been published in newspapers and magazines across Canada, the United States and England. Follow him on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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