Those who have been trundling to the farmers' market to snag a few bottles of the traditional ciders from the Annapolis Valley's Tideview Vintage Cider are now able to enjoy their favourite fermented apples on tap. Tideview Draught Cider is the latest product from this small, artisanal cidery, joining their tasty selection of bottled brands, including Heritage Dry, Golden Russet Dry and Sparkling Ice Cider.
Tideview is a joint effort of John Brett, who makes the cider, and Noggins Corner Farm, which supplies most of the apples---many of them so-called "heritage varieties."
"Noggins Corner Farm orchards still contain many older apple varieties that were, in the past, preferred for making hard ciders," explains Brett. "These include Golden Russet, Ribston Pippin, Cox Orange Pippin, Bishop's Pippin, Baldwin, King of Tomkin's County and Northern Spy."
The process of making hard cider has been around for hundreds of years in North America, so they've found by trial and error that certain varieties make better cider. "They are often very high in sugars, which means they produce high alcohol levels," says Brett. "They are also quite hard, which makes them go through the press without plugging it up. And they often clear well after fermentation." Golden Russet is a perfect example of just such an apple.
Tideview's new draught cider will be predominantly Golden Russet. But it is not uncommon to blend different types, as for grape winemaking. Cidermakers might blend a high acid Cox Orange Pippin with a Jonagold, which has high acid and tannins, then add in Stark's Splendor, which has tannin but is low in acidity. The result is a balanced cider, with alcohol from the sweet juice these heritage apples are known for, and acid and tannin to balance sweetness.
Brett has been brewing hard ciders as an amateur since 2002 and, as he says, "made a pilgrimage to Geneva, New York to take an intensive cider course with British cider guru Peter Mitchell."
He also got some help from experienced Canadian winemaker Bruce Ewert, now the owner and winemaker at Nova Scotia's newest winery, L'Acadie Vineyards in Gaspereau. "He was my consultant and mentor, and I don't know what I would have done those first two years without him," remembers Brett.
His timing for the cider release is perfect. "There has been a steady increase in the number of craft cideries across North America," notes Brett. "I would estimate that there are perhaps 80 of them at present. Fifteen years ago I doubt if there would have been half that number."
"What we see is a lot of people who aren't beer drinkers and, for whatever reason, are looking for an alternative to wine and coolers," offers Brett. "Cider is lighter in alcohol than wine but offers a similar kind of drinking experience."
One interesting aspect of Tideview Ciders is the way they evolve. "Ciders benefit from aging in the bottle, which tends to bring out complex apple flavours," explains Brett. "We're selling our bottled ciders from 2006."
Their Draught Cider, though, is being released to bars at just under six months old. And it is fairly potent, at 8.5 percent alcohol, much like the farm ciders you may remember from England, if you've ever had hard cider on tap in the pubs.
Tideview Draught Cider is on tap at Jamiesons Irish House and Grill in Cole Harbour, and Brett hopes to have it flowing soon at Halifax pubs.
Craig Pinhey is a certified beer judge, sommelier and freelance writer. Visit him at frogspad.ca