Move over, beer.
Crisp, inviting and naturally gluten-free, cider is a refreshing alternative to our typical Canadian go-to, and it’s one experiencing a revival across the country.
There are basically two types of cider found in the market: mass-produced cider and “craft” cider. The difference is in the quality of their ingredients — craft ciders are produced using fresh-pressed apples, whereas commercial ciders are made largely from juice concentrate and sweetener. One is definitely not like the other.
Although better examples of commercial styles can be found and are widely popular, the craft ciders are gaining huge momentum, helped along by the rise of craft beer and the increase of boutique wines.
We taste-tested the best of both styles of cider for you, so you don’t have to feel like you’re reliving some high-school bush party. The results are below.
10 hard ciders that will make you forget all about beer
Brickworks Ciderhouse 1904A very clean, easy-drinking dry cider with wide appeal made from local heritage apples. A good starter cider for those put-off by some of the big brands. The cider is named after Toronto's great fire of 1904.
Price: $3.10/473 mL, LCBOLCBO
Forbidden Dry Cider, Coffin RidgeA surprisingly fun offering, this very tart cider has an abundance of rich flavour. Not as clean and simple as most on the shelves, with a touch of volatility that bolsters the funky apple fruit on the nose. Quite dry, pleasantly refreshing with punchy flavour and produced from good quality Ontario apples.
Price: $2.95/473 mL, LCBOLCBO
Shiny Apple CiderA new offering from Niagara's Stonechurch vineyards that combines no fewer than nine varieties of local apples, riesling and pinot noir in a rosé-style cider. Widely appealing, dry with complexity borrowed from wine -- a sure-fire patio hit.
Price: $3.25/473 mL, LCBOLCBO
Cremant St. Nicolas Sparkling CiderA low-alcohol, fresh and floral Quebec cider offering notes of pear, cherry blossom, white peach and green apple. Light and delicate but certainly not dilute, try with a sophisticated brunch.
Price: $12.00/750 mL, LCBOLCBO
Strongbow Elderflower Apple CiderIf you have a sweet tooth and a flair for the exotic (or gardening), the Strongbow Elderflower cider is a new offering that delivers a lot of impact and cool herbal refreshment. With notes of spearmint, green apple skin, rose and of course, elderflower, it would make an ideal match for spicy Thai curries.
Price: $2.85/440 mL, LCBOLCBO
Pommies Farmhouse CiderA contrast from the well-known Pommies Dry Cider label, the newer Farmhouse is clear and focused with bright acids, a dry palate with hints of earth, white pepper and hay. A pretty and complex nose makes the cider quite inviting.
Price: $3.05/473 mL, LCBOLCBO
Waupoos Premium CiderWinery ciders are beginning to surface in Ontario, but here's a longer-standing example. The apples come from the family's Prince Edward County estates which process 1,600 tonnes of apples per year. Happily not "squeaky clean," this cider offers a little more grip, richness and earthy flavours.
Price: $13.35/4-pack, LCBOLCBO
Samuel Smith's Organic CiderProduced entirely from organically grown apples, this UK cider is tart and offers a gently-flavoured palate of authentic apple and notes of peach and pear. Easy-drinking, appealing and terrific with pork chops.
Price: $13.45/4-pack, LCBOLCBO
Thornbury Apple CiderA smoky, cedary cider from the township of Collingwood that will have you thinking of barbecue in no time. Produced in a hotspot for Ontario apples, this cider is inspired from the British dry style and offers a good deal of concentration of flavour.
Price: $2.95/473 mL, LCBOLCBO
West Avenue Cherry Beach CiderAn impressive offering from one of the pioneers of the craft cider revival in Ontario, Chris Haworth has attained quite a cult following. Notes of anise, shitake mushroom, juicy cherries and red apple skin make for a complex and memorable offering enhanced by barrel aged Montmorency cherry. Although not as widely available as anything else, it is worth seeking out at your local gastropubs in Ontario.
Price: $25-$35/750 mL, West AvenueWest Avenue