We all know about craft beer and spirits, but have you tried craft cider? The trend has been slow to come to Nova Scotia, even though we grow some of the best apples in Canada right here in the Annapolis Valley. (The province actually grows 10 per cent of all Canadian apples.)
I was one of the latecomers to this trend. I thought all ciders were pretty much the same, not realizing the big differences between say, Bulwark craft cider and Molson Cider.
Cider has actually been made in North America since the 17th century with apples produced from “heirloom” seeds brought over by early settlers. At this time all cider produced was “hard” (containing alcohol). Many believed it was safer to drink hard cider than some sources of water. But by the time of Prohibition, cider production was petering out. Only a few artisanal cideries remained in North America.
My first exposure to hard cider was about 20 years ago when we first started seeing Okanagan brand ciders on the shelves in various flavours. They’re not a great introduction. Although there is some apple concentrate in these types of products, they are essentially “ready to drink” products (that is to say: coolers).
About eight years ago, I was in London and discovered a new world of craft cider. Every pub, and most restaurants I visited had at least one cider on tap and many had multiple choices along with a hard pear cider (AKA “perry”). They were all delicious and refreshing—great alternatives to heavy beer styles.
In Nova Scotia, a few people have been experimenting with their own hard cider from local apples. The pioneers were Hanspeter Stutz of Stutz Cider and Grand Pré Winery, and John Brett of Tideview, who both started producing sellable quantities in the early 2000s. Soon other local producers like Bulwark followed suit.
While cider consumption in England accounts for about 15 per cent of the beer market, in North America we are closer to one per cent, but that’s rising fast. Local sales and consumption are growing at more than 50 per cent yearly. Interest in cider has piggybacked on both the success of craft beer and food trends. It also helps that most ciders are gluten free.
Some consider cider a gateway drink for people who have moved from beer, but don’t want to drink wine exclusively. In reality, many of us like variety, and having the refreshing, lower-calorie option that cider offers, just adds to the experimentation and fun.
So what type of cider should you drink? Craft cider should be made from local fruit with all natural ingredients. Macro ciders are mass produced with food additives, and made from concentrate. So check the label carefully. Pro-tip: If the label says “apple-flavoured cider,” back away.
British ciders are usually dry, and most of our local ciders follow that model. Bulwark is the most popular Nova Scotian craft cider—any of its varieties are a reliable choice. Garrison Brewing is now carrying a Bulwark cider collaboration at its waterfront store. Craft brewer Meander River (in Ashdale) also occasionally ventures into craft cider, which you can sometimes find for growler fills at RockHead on North Street.
There is also a sparkling craft cider from L’Acadie that is very tasty. Stutz (which also makes the Shipbuilders brand) and Tideview are both quality producers. Halifax’s private liquor stores often feature craft ciders from other parts of Canada, Ireland and the U.K., as well. Increasingly, you’ll find many of these ciders on drinks menus in the city’s bars and restaurants, too.
Why not have a fun gathering of friends and everyone sample a different cider, so you can taste the wide range of styles and flavours?
The under-$25 wine review
Domaine du Haut Perron Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Loire, France, Bishop’s Cellar, $20.00
Affordable and tasty Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley of France is uncommon in Halifax. This one has ripe grapefruit and pear notes, with a touch of clove. There is a softness here not found in Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Nice grip of acidity, but a note of sulfur shortens the finish. More Pinot Gris than Sauvignon Blanc, but a good-value white. Pair with grilled chicken and rice. 89/100
Domaine du Haut Perron Pinot Noir 2013
Loire, France, Bishop’s Cellar, $23.00
Lovely aromas of bright cherries with strawberries and spice add promise on the palate, and this wine delivers in spades. There is a mouthful of fresh berries and a long finish with complex dark notes of anise, spice, and ripe cherries. This wine is soft, approachable, and delicious. Chill it for 15 minutes and enjoy with a margherita pizza. 92/100