This slow-fermented, semi-dry cider from H. Weston & Sons Ltd in Herefordshire, England has a dark straw coloured, golden amber tone and yields an uncommonly large and loose white head, along with a persistent collar. Caple Rd Cider Blend No. 3 is partially aged on oak, which is apparent in the smell, as well as a strong honey note, funky wild yeast and, of course, freshly-pressed English apples.
By North American standards, Caple Rd Cider Blend No. 3 is starkly dry from front to back, though it’s hardly one-noted. The blend of apples comes through as earthy, farmy and thoroughly funky. There’s also a Riesling-like vinous flavour that come through as a tartness and almost wince-inducing sourness wash over the tongue. Oak reappears in the finish of this full-bodied and highly effervescent cider, along with a faint rawhide or leather quality.
Primarily known for their vinegars, Reinhart Foods in Stayner, Ontario recently entered the hard cider market with a sweet and light entry made from provincially grown Gala, Mcintosh and Cortland apples. Reinhart’s Red Apple Light Cider is a pale golden colour reminiscent of an American lager and yields a loose head that has surprising retention as a yarn-like collar.
This cider has a markedly sweet smell; like store bought juice and baked apple flesh. There really isn’t much subtlety here aside from faint impressions of earth and apple skin. Cortland & Macintosh are some of the sweeter cultivars of apple and that’s evident in the taste of Reinhart’s Red Apple Light Cider, with the more grounded tartness of Gala providing some balance and keeping it from the cloying side. Mild carbonation keeps sweetness at the fore and there’s a tangible stickiness to the cider.
The first entry in Ontario’s growing craft cider market to come from Ottawa is produced by Revolution Investments Limited. Flying Canoe Hard Cider pours with a noticeable chill haze and a light orange or pencil yellow hue to it. It looks like some of the ciders I’ve made in my basement (non-clear) and frankly I appreciate that. Though there’s a soda-like head, it’s gone within a few seconds and leaves behind a persistent and fine stream of carbonation that often gathers as a tiny collar; like a string of beach sand.
Flying Canoe Hard Cider has a very familiar and traditional smell reminiscent of a classic English cider. Baked McIntosh and freshly picked green apple are complemented by notes of white grape and sweet raisin. The apple blend, sourced from Smyth’s Apple Orchard in Dundela has a semi-sweet taste to start, then shows its tartness and even has a hint of sourness to it that lends a vinous quality to this uncommonly full-bodied and viscose cider.
Local Press from Collective Arts Brewing’s Cider offshoot in Hamilton is produced with a blend of Northern Spy, Ida Red and Spartan Apples grown here in Ontario. It has a light, ever so slightly hazy golden tone that brings a Chardonnay to mind. Plenty of fine carbonation contributes to an uncommonly persistent collar and vibrant smell. Spartan seems to be the dominant variety here, giving off aromas of sweet cider and unbaked pie filling, along with a punchy vinous note.
The flavour of Local Press is in the semi-dry range, with it’s honey-like sweetness at the fore and transitioning quickly to tart on the palate and I tend to get a hint of vinegar in the finish that, while not overpowering unpleasant, creates a somewhat sour finish. There is an overall vinous quality to this light and crisp-textured cider, though I’m left with a bit of a funky tingle on my tongue that keeps it from feeling too thin.
This slightly hazy, golden-hued Helles lager from Collingwood, Ontario’s Side Launch Brewing Company has pencil yellow highlights and pours with a large and frothy head that has excellent retention and tends to leave some light spots of lace near the top of my glass. Mountain Lager has floral and perfume-like noble hop aromas, an almost steely mineral character and hints of stone fruit and red berry over a light base of German malts that give off an air of honey and light caramel.
The taste of Mountain Lager is crisp and finds supreme balance. Earthy, yet soft and honey-tinged malts and contrasted by a dry black pepper note, a citrus peel flavour and a moderate 27 IBU bitterness. I find that the fruity esters really come forward in the taste before transitioning to a dry finish that has lingering mineral, pepper and soapy tones. This lager is full-bodied for the substyle, with a pleasantly understated carbonation level and slight viscosity.