If you’ve walked Agricola and North streets, you might have noticed “drink more apples,” written in green chalk on the walls of the former Fred salon and café. Susan Downey Lim is the hand behind it. The message is a teaser for her new business, Chain Yard Cider.
Susan Downey Lim is passionate about cider. So passionate that she’s set to open Halifax’s first cidery just months before her first child is born. For the last year and a half, she’s been wanting to open the business. When a space became available in the North End, she couldn’t resist.
The North End has been home for Downey Lim and her partner, Michael Lim, for nearly 10 years. “We really like what’s happening here,” says Downey Lim. “This is where we want to live and work.”
Both born and raised in Lower Sackville, the couple share a passion for travelling and supporting local products and businesses. In her early 20s, Downey Lim worked at a private wine store and learned about wine, beer, and cider. Later, she and Michael explored Europe, Canada, and the U.S., studying wineries and cideries along the way.
For the last five years, they’ve been running Grape Escapes Wine tours and Taste Halifax. Those tour companies drive locals and tourists around Nova Scotia sampling wine, food, and beer.
“While Nova Scotia doesn’t have a lot of cideries, cider is on the rise and we’ve always been big fans of cider,” says Downey Lim. Chain Yard Cider will focus on Old World cider, something relatively new in the Nova Scotia industry. It will use all Nova Scotian apples, offering a variety of flavours deriving from both dessert-style apples like Macintosh’s (which have an off-dry, sweet taste) and heritage-variety apples that Downey Lim says are “wicked cider-making apples.”
For Downey Lim, possibilities abound. “The great thing about cider is that it’s super versatile,” she says. “You can do so much with it. Like wine, you could never add hops to wine, people would think you’re absolutely crazy. You can do many different techniques with [cider], and it’s always seen as being cool and unique.”
Drawing inspiration from both the wine and beer industries, she’ll have a mix of ciders available on tap: a traditional, a cider with 100-per-cent northern spy apples, a blueberry flavoured cider, a hopped cider, and an oaked cider.
“We want to push Nova Scotians in the direction of more traditional ciders, but it’s baby steps,” she says. “If we just came out of the gate doing all traditional styles, not everyone is going to love it.”
Chain Yard Cider has a tasting room, a shop for merchandise plus a separate business within the cidery called Unchained Kitchen that will serve bar bites and small plates—Downey Lim says it will be “cider-friendly food.”
Patty Cuttell-Busby, executive director at the North End Business Association, says the business is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood. “As the first cidery in Halifax, it will be a popular destination,” she says. “It complements the other things that are up on Agricola Street, in terms of the focus on Nova Scotia, local food production, and foodie-type restaurant destinations.”
Agricola Street is now home to several businesses that cater towards locally sourced products, such as the Local Source grocery.
Downey Lim and Michael opened the cidery in May. They’ll continue to run their touring business through summer, incorporating Chain Yard into the tours.
With Downey Lim expecting her baby in July, don’t be surprised if you see her, and her baby girl on board, during the summer months. “We might just have to strap her in and carry her around,” she laughs. “I’m most functional when I have a million things on the go.”