Niagara cideries earn kudos at Ontario Cider Awards
As the cider industry continues to grow, so do the accomplishments for Niagara’s producers, including Ironwood Hard Cider.
Ironwood was one of three Niagara-on-the-Lake cideries to receive provincial recognition recently at the 2016 Ontario Cider Awards, held as part of the Royal Winter Fair celebrations last month.
Judges awarded Ironwood a gold in the Other Fruit category at the event, for the Perrydise 100% Pear Cider. It was humbling to be recognized among their cidery peers, said Ironwood owner Richard Liu, especially as the craft cider world continues to grow on an annual basis.
“We are certainly very proud of winning the gold in this highly contested competition. It’s a validation of the hard work we’ve put in,” said Liu. “Craft cider making is a blend of craft brewing and winemaking, and there are still so much for us to improve on.”
There was a great response for the Perrydise product, said Liu.
“We were able to create substantial mouthfeel through an innovative process and we’re very happy with the result,” he said. “This is a product that we plan to release on a yearly basis.”
He notes that there were “many talented producers” in the relatively new category, and they hope more will come.
“Sky is the limit for creativity,” he said.
Also based in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Shiny Apple Cider earned bronze in the category for its pear with Gewürztraminer blend. Shiny Apple Cider also netted a People’s Choice award at the event, winning third place for its Shiny apple cider, blended with Pinot Noir.
Niagara College earned bronze from the judges in the Traditional Apple category for its Cider 101 — the first cider it introduced by the Niagara College Teaching Winery. The cider also earned a gold at the U.S. Open Cider Championship just days later.
“These awards are a testament of the high quality of education that we provide at both the Teaching Winery and Teaching Brewery,” said Steve Gill, general manager of the college’s Learning Enterprises Corporation, which includes the College’s Teaching Winery, Teaching Brewery, as well as its Teaching Distillery scheduled to open next year. “We are so very proud of our students and staff that contribute, and hope that these awards help cultivate a passion for excellence.”
Both Liu and college officials acknowledge there is much growth ahead for Ontario’s craft cider industry. Liu said Ironwood, which was the earliest cider producer in the region when it was launched in 2005, is seeing very strong growth numbers — especially with the availability of cider on grocery store shelves in Ontario earlier this summer..
“We’re starting to see traction in the grocery channel and believe there will be more operators willing to support good locally made products that are very competitive to foreign products,” said Liu.
Gavin Robertson, Niagara College winemaker and wine programs instructor, said it’s an interesting time to be part of the industry in the province because of the growth.
“Growth in the industry had been expansive and industry players are just figuring out what defines Ontario cider,” said Robertson.
The college, he added, can play a key role in the future growth.
“The curriculum and training that is already offered in our Canadian Food and Wine Institute’s wine, brewing and culinary innovation programs uniquely positions Niagara College to work with the cider industry in this period of rapid growth, as businesses look to hire people with sensory, lab, quality control, technical production, business management, and sales and marketing skills, to help develop their operations,” said Robertson.