Five to ten years ago, those of us living in Ontario began to see a new type of beer emerge on the scene: craft beer. Instead of your standard Molson Canadian, Bud Light, and Labatt Blue, we started to see Flying Monkey, Beau’s Lugtread, and Mill Street Organic. The growth of the craft beer industry was fuelled by the customers’ desire for a better quality product, made from locally sourced ingredients, culminating in a beer they could be proud to drink and tell their friends about. Like many other beer connoisseurs, I was thrilled with all of the new options available. Now that we have it, I can’t imagine life without it.
The same thing is now happening to the cider industry. No longer are Strongbow and Somersby dominating the shelves at LCBO. We now have a plethora of new takes on this ancient drink, and more and more craft cideries are opening up every year.
In the Ottawa region, Pete Rainville and his company Flying Canoe Hard Cider is leading the charge. Pete is dedicated to creating a local, small batch, hand-crafted cider that we can all enjoy and be proud of.
Flying Canoe is Ottawa’s first ever hard cider company. Though still in its early stages, Flying Canoe is growing quickly and is already expanding into Ottawa’s restaurant and pub sector. So far it’s available at almost a dozen locations around the city, including Heart and Crown (Byward, Preston, and Barrhaven locations), The James Street Pub, Crust and Crate, South Street Burger and Zola’s House.
Pete started out brewing cider as a hobby, exclusively for his friends and family. They were so impressed that they encouraged him to start his own cidery so that he could start brewing on a larger scale in order to share his delicious creation with everyone else. I can tell you that as someone who has sampled his cider, there is definitely something special about it.
For years, I pretty much stayed away from hard cider, not knowing much about it or appreciating it, having only ever tried Strongbow, which never really did it for me. What I didn’t realize was that cider could be so much more than that, which is where Flying Canoe comes into the picture.
When I tried Pete’s brand of cider, I was more than impressed, and I’ve been smitten with the drink ever since. I now regularly drink cider and have tried nearly every variety I could get my hands on. I’m happy to say that after all the ciders I’ve now sampled, Flying Canoe remains one of my favourites.
Unlike many of the large batch ciders, which can taste too sweet or too artificial, Flying Canoe stands out as tasting natural and fresh, more like the fresh pressed apple ciders you can get from your local orchard, albeit with a satisfying hard twist. It isn’t too heavily carbonated, and I find this brings out the natural flavours of the apples more. It makes for some seriously easy drinking, perfect with a little ice on a warm summer’s evening. I’m sure as we move into winter, it will also do well as a comfort drink, reminding me of a time before the cold and snow.
Some interesting facts about the making of Flying Canoe Hard Cider: It takes approximately 8 fresh pressed Ontario apples to make one 473 millilitre can or the equivalent of 1.25 kilograms to make a litre. Pete sources his apples come from Smyth’s Apple Orchard, and includes apples from the original MacIntosh orchard located in Dundela.
Pete makes all his cider in a 1000 square foot shop and does most of the work himself. That’s on top of working a demanding 50 hour a week job in Ottawa. If you want to talk about passion and dedication, this is it.
With Flying Canoe Hard Cider, it’s obvious that Pete has worked incredibly hard turning his amazing hobby into an amazing product. This is a small company with a small budget that makes a natural, unique, flavourful, and traditional taste experience that both loyal followers and newcomers can enjoy.
The cider business is still relatively new, and so there are some puzzling regulations surrounding the industry. For example, cider still falls into the same tax bracket as wine, which makes it impossible for cideries to have a storefront unless they sit on at least 5 acres of land. This challenge, among others, present an uphill battle for brewers like Pete who are just starting out. But hopefully with time, law makers will see the light and make it easier for new businesses to break in. It’s also up to consumers to continue to try new things, and demand a higher quality standard from breweries to ensure that the best possible products appear on the LCBO shelves. I couldn’t be more happy that companies like Flying Canoe exist, leading the way and proving that better options can be made available.
If you want to support hardworking, local entrepreneurs who go out of their way to use freshest, best ingredients, look no further than Flying Canoe Hard Cider. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed, and perhaps, like me, Pete will make a cider lover out of you, too.