Despite not having too much of a taste for craft beer, the Clockwatching Tart has visited more breweries and craft beer shows across the continent than most beer geeks, all in the name of adventure (and being good spot about one of my many obsessions). So, when I saw the chance to repay the favour by trying to win her tickets to the Toronto Craft Cider Cruise, I couldn’t resist. With a little luck and our thanks to Thornbury Village Cidery – who produce the lovely Thornbury Cider – we were off to Toronto to indulge our love for Ontario craft cider!
The Craft Cider Cruise took place aboard The River Gambler and before we delved into the wonderful array of Ontario craft ciders, we needed a bit of food and much to our surprise and delight, it was fresh, well made and delicious.
We figured we’d better stop by the Thornbury booth first to thank them for the tickets. Not only did they have their flagship Thornbury Cider, they also brought King Brewery’s King Pilsner, which was another surprise and a nice way to start the night – little did we know that 24 hours later, both the cider and beer would be newly minted award winners, with Thornbury Cider taking bronze in the New World Cider category and King Pilsner taking home the gold in the European Style Lager category at the Canadian Brewing Awards.
With the weather clearing up after some earlier rain and some award-winning drinks to start the night, we took a moment to appreciate the view...
...before getting back to the business at hand of enjoying awesome Ontario craft cider. Next up was Spirit Tree, which had interesting – and also soon-to-be-award-winning – options. We both tried the Double Pagan crabapple cider, which was ridiculously and wonderfully tart, and I enjoyed the wonderfully aromatic dry-hopped cider, which would go on to win the silver in the Cider with Herbs/Spices category.
Next, we headed over to see our old friends at Twin Pines, who we’ve been visiting at the London Food & Wine Show, the Forest City Beer Fest and their own cider house for years now. Their Hammer Bent Red has become a staple for us at the ever-hospitable Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium and I was thrilled to see their funky and wonderful Scrumpy on hand to go with the Hammer Bent Red, which is now a gold medal winner in New World Cider.
Speaking of Milos’, we’d had the chance to try Cherriousity cherry apple cider from West Avenue Cider there before and were really happy to see it on the craft cider cruise. The cider itself is as uniquely sweet and sour as you’d expect from cherry cider – and I admit as a marketing and design geek as well as a beer and cider geek, I absolutely adore their logo.
After a few rounds of things we already knew we loved, it was time to discover something new! First up was Revel Cider, whose website claims that they brew cider with the wildest ingredients they can find and after trying them, I have no reason to doubt their claim. First up was Hop X, a 6.9% cider dry-hopped (which adds a big hit of citrus aromatics) with Hop X, a new varietal of hops grown in Ontario. Even more unique was their cider made with gin botanicals sourced locally from Dillon’s Distillery. Strikingly unique, herbaceous and boasting lovely vanilla notes, this cider took full advantage of the discarded botanicals from Dillon’s Gin 22.
Finally, we discovered Shiny Apple Cider from the traditional Ontario wine region of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Light in colour but crisp, dry and deep in flavour, Shiny also boasted one of the cooler draft handles I’ve seen – an apple core equal parts 8-bit and cubist – and was just starting to arrive in London at the LCBO as we got back home.
Not all blog posts get to end with sailing off into the sunset, but after a lovely evening filled with old favourites, new discoveries and some of the best craft cider Ontario has to offer, this one certainly can.