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Food and Drink

Beer takes a backseat

Local craft cider takes the spotlight as Nova Scotia’s tastes shift away from beer

4 min read
caption Craft cider steps to the forefront of Nova Scotia's beverage industry.
Diana Foxall
caption Craft cider  has stepped to the forefront of Nova Scotia’s beverage industry.
Diana Foxall

Calling Nova Scotian craft beer a novelty is becoming disingenuous. According to the Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia, the province is home to more microbreweries per capita than anywhere else in Canada, and the trend is here to stay. So what’s next?

Craft cider, of course. The apple-based beverage is becoming so popular that cideries are taking spots from breweries at beer-focused events.

Local Connections Halifax hosted the Fourth Annual Craft Beer & Local Food Celebration at the Marriott on Jan. 12, but director Alex Henden said it’s not just about the hoppy stuff anymore.

“Last year we had two (cideries); this year we’re doing two because it’s really a beer-focused event,” he says. “In 2018, we’re actually changing that; we’re reducing the number of breweries and increasing the number of cideries for our fifth annual event.”

The rising popularity of craft cider prompted Henden to create another event, the East Coast Cider Festival, which will be held in late May.

“I’ve never put an event out there and had such amazing response right out of the gates,” he says. “I know it’ll be around 1,000 people, but if we decide to push it a little harder, maybe we’ll be twice that amount.”

Eleven cideries are currently listed on the event webpage and Henden is hoping for up to four more by the time May rolls around.

“We’ll invite a few more cideries from other provinces as well; I think the magic number will be fifteen,” he says. “If we can get to fifteen, we have a really great quality event with a lot of different things to try.”

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation’s (NSLC) Denise Corra agrees that the spotlight on craft cider is warranted, calling it “a steadily growing category” in the industry. The province is already recording strong numbers for cider in 2017. The 500mL bottle by Truro cidery No Boats on Sunday leads cider sales for 2017 so far, earning $605,103.38, as of press time.

New Ross-based Bulwark Cider has been an industry stalwart for years and offers a variety of flavoured ciders, with their six-pack of Original Craft taking second in NSLC’s numbers for January at $323,724.07. The cidery has participated in the Craft Beer & Local Food Celebration since the inaugural event and will be at the cider festival.

Bulwark’s Andrew Cooper isn’t surprised by the rise of craft cider and believes the sector will keep growing.

“We’ve seen a few new cideries pop up here in Nova Scotia in recent years and we expect more to join us over the next few years,” he says.

Bulwark has seen “double-digit growth year after year” while sticking to its roots as a small, local business that produces cider one batch at a time.

“Much like the craft brewing industry, there is a great deal of room for growth in the industry as a whole,” says Cooper.

The dominance of cider in Nova Scotia has been a long time coming, but despite its trendy status, Henden says it’s not going anywhere — especially given the huge number of apple orchards in the province.

“Even after (the novelty) goes, it’s a product that has permanence,” says Henden. “I think you’ll see it continue to grow in the way that craft breweries have kept popping up.”

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