Long before hard sodas, wines in a can, spiked seltzers, and super hoppy beer- there was cider. One of the oldest drinks in the world and once the most popular beverage on the eastern seaboard. Historically, it was much safer to drink than water. Hard apple cider quickly made a name for itself with French settlers, who not only brought their knowledge of cider making with them, but also various apple varietals suited for cider making. As townships became bigger and people began to move to urban centres, cider was left to the small rural communities where people mostly just made it for themselves or for friends and family. Beer and spirits became the commercial drinks of choice because they were cheaper, quicker, and easier to make.
Like anything that fades away, cider eventually started to come back into the minds and mouths of folks all over North America. Throughout the 1970s , newfound interest in the cider flavour profile along with imports from Europe and growing cider brands helped cider re-establish itself as a force to be reckoned with.
Cider, much like wine, can vary greatly in terms of quality, flavour, and complexity depending on the apple varieties used. Similarly, where beer is entirely dependent on the selected ingredients and the brewer’s approach, cider is often at the whim of mother nature. Like grapes, some apple varieties are thin skinned, too tart, or too watery to create a full bodied, well rounded cider. Some apples also have tannin structure, like in wine, that adds body to the wine. Therefore, the blending of different apples to create a particular profile can be part of the craft.
Nova Scotia Cider Production
Nova Scotia has well over a dozen cideries that craft a wide array of styles. The most common are the modern ciders that feature very approachable, easy drinking qualities.
Bulwark Cider is one of the largest producers in the province, creating a wide array of easy-drinking styles, some including fresh fruit, hops, or spices to the finished product to accentuate the profile.
Some of our other favourite producers of these styles include Lake City Cider over in Dartmouth, where they make fresh, fun expressions of cider as well as fruit wine which can be blended back into a cider base to create hybrid styles. The folks at Chain Yard Urban Cidery in Halifax are creating clean, modern styles as well as barrel-fermented ciders, mixed fermentation, and single varietal offerings.
Meander River Farm produces honey, grows lavender, brews beer, and makes cider from Annapolis Valley fruit. Made without any added sugar, and bottled in season, be sure to check out their Perry we just brought in. Perry is cider made from pressed pears – usually a little more tricky to produce as pears are less juicy and the sugars can be more complex for yeast to ferment.
Speaking of yeast, that’s something the folks at Sourwood Cider know a thing or two about. Sourwood lets the natural yeast found on the apple skin take control in the fermentation. Much like Lambic beer, the naturally occurring microflora create a whole other level of flavours, from funky to sour. These ciders are usually then placed into various wood casks to ferment on the sugars from fruit, grapes, or hops to create a more evolved style.
Boars Back Cider, just outside of Kingston, NS is also no stranger to barrel fermentation. They source rare varieties of apples from all over the Annapolis Valley and ferment them using indigenous yeasts found on the skins. Ex-wine and Bourbon barrels are often used to enhance the texture and flavour profile of their ciders as well.
Just like our craft beer industry, Nova Scotia’s cider scene continues to evolve and grow into a truly world class industry. The history behind the industry and the passion to go forward will only continue to reward local cider enthusiasts. We say cheers to that!
Image description: Five wooden apple crates are filled to the brim with a variety of apples in shades of red and green.