Not liking beer has always made social situations a little awkward. At the Queen’s pub years back, I clearly recall pitchers of cheap beer being poured with gusto while I and a few other female students nursed expensive, sickly sweet Singapore Slings and Harvey Wallbangers.
I later switched to wine, but a glass of chardonnay could never quite match a light, frothy beer for pure refreshment on a hot summer’s night.
Soon hard apple cider began showing up on bar menus, starting with England’s Strongbow, of international fame and a few too-sweet attempts from B.C.
On a trip to Ireland in May with friends, we drank half pints of Bulmer or Stonewell with meals in pubs, loving the fresh, tangy taste that doesn’t seem to translate well when shipped across the ocean in cans.
My first Ontario craft cider was a revelation, though I suspect the location had a lot to do with it – sitting on the sprawling patio of the Rectory Café on Wards Island, looking across the water at the TO skyline while sipping a bottle of Pommies, made in Caledon.
Ontario craft cider is now a full-fledged category at the LCBO, with a new press opening almost daily. There are so many, it’s hard to keep track. There’s even a new Toronto resto pub called At Her Father’s Cider which offers more than 100 choices.
One brand to hit my desk this summer was Ernest dry cider. You can’t miss this attractive black and cream-striped can. It’s crafted by Michelle Faris, a former craft brewery marketing executive, and her husband Steve, a fourth-generation Newmarket farmer with a Bachelor of Science degree and an MBA in agriculture from the University of Guelph.
The couple presses Ernest in small batches from seven varieties of Ontario apples, then sweetens it lightly with honey from a friend’s hives plus a little organic cane sugar. The result is rich and smooth, not too sweet or tart, with a gentle floral aroma.
Like all Ontario craft ciders, Ernest is ideal for sipping on these sizzling summer days, and it’s great with BBQ fare. It’s also the perfect drink when you’re out with your favourite beer drinkers. Look for it in GTA restaurants and bars, or buy a can at the LCBO.