Trees and bees: The Growler guide to cider, mead and perry

Ontario’s climate and soil are made for apple growing. And our rich cider tradition, once lost to Prohibition, is having a renaissance. There are over 40 cideries and mead makers in the province—here’s our guide to tasting the most interesting stuff out there.

Cider 101

Cider is made from apples. Cider fanatics look for heirloom or cider apples because they’re rich in tannins, acids, bitterness and sugar. Makers usually blend them together for the perfect balance. Ciders range widely from quite sweet to bone dry, and still to sparkling.

Perry is made from just pears. Pears have more unfermentable sugars than apples, so perries tend to be sweeter. Most cideries make a perry or two.

Mead is made from honey. Wildflower honey gives mead a complex range of aromas and flavours—and while some are “dessert” ready, most of them are not overly sweet.


These are your best bets for Ontario-made mead.

Rosewood Estates Winery

The story: The Roman family inherited their love of beekeeping from their Ukranian grandfather, E.W. His son, Eugene and his wife Renata, turned that honey into money when they opened Rosewood Estates in 2008 on a vineyard on the Niagara Escarpment near Beamsville.

Visit: The newly-renovated tasting room hosts fun experiences like a cocktail class, or rock up casually with friends to sip through their meads and wines over a cheeseboard.

Taste: Start with the Mead Royale—a barrel-aged beauty with notes of jasmine and orange peel. Then explore Rosewood’s thoughtful blends (like a “cyser” made by fermenting honey and apple juice), single-batch experimental meads and low-intervention wines.

Royal Canadian Mead

The story: Royal Canadian Mead began in Tulum, Mexico, where partners behind NewSkew, a food brand company, tasted a sparkling mead at the famed Noma pop-up restaurant. When they got back to Burlington, they saw an opportunity to make bubbly, canned mead—refreshing, dry and low in sugar, and RCM was born.

Visit: Not yet! RCM is buying honey from a family honey farm near Kingston and having their first four sparkling, canned, low-ABV meads brewed at a production facility. One day they plan to have a tasting room, in Burlington or Hamilton, with a bee colony, of course.

Taste: Feels Like Friday is the flagship brand, made with earthy buckwheat honey and dry-hopped with tropical-fruit-like citra hops, sparkling and just 5.5% ABV, it will shift your perception of what mead can be.

Orchard-Based Cideries

With apple trees in all directions, these are what probably comes to mind when you close your eyes and think “cidery”.

West Avenue

The story: Founded by a British chef, Chris Haworth, and his Canadian partner, Amy Robson, in 2008 West Avenue is one of the most venerated cideries in the country.

Visit: The cidery sits on picturesque Somerset Orchards, just outside of Hamilton—it’s a stunning, family-friendly spot with sheep, 16 acres of apple and pear trees, and a modern taproom serving snacks from local farmers.

Taste: Haworth never adds yeasts to his ciders: everything is spontaneously fermented and barrel-aged. Try Heritage Funk, a bone dry, earthy beauty that is a yearly take on their Heritage Dry.

Twin Pines Orchard and Cider House

The Story: Set on 50 acres this estate cidery is run by Mark and Mike Vansteenkiste, sons of Alma and Joe, who moved their four kids to this 50-acre farm in 1968. The Estate Cidery grows 1 million pounds of apples—many of them heritage and cider varieties.

Visit: The A-frame farmhouse is located between Grand Bend and Sarnia. Take a wagon ride to pick apples or pumpkins, taste their award-winning ciders with a hot cider donut most weekends, and stroll through the plentiful fruit and vegetable gardens that make for perfect ambiance.

Taste: Hammer Bent Red won Best in Show at the world’s biggest cider awards in 2014, and continues to medal in cider awards annually. Don’t miss their perry and scrumpy.

Spirit Tree

The Story: Thomas and Nicole Wilson are cider pioneers: over 10 years ago they sold Thomas’s family’s pick-your-own fruit farm in Caledon, bought a nearby orchard, and Thomas trained to be a cider master in England.

Visit: A handsome, straw-bale building houses the cidery, French brick-oven bakery, tasting room, farm store and bistro. Stop in for lunch
Wednesday to Sunday, or a pizza oven dinner on Friday and Saturday.

Taste: Spirit Tree’s ciders have a lightly funky, house character and are complex but really accessible. Try their perry that balances sweet, overripe pear with crackling, lemony acidity and whispers of earthy funk and white pepper.

Windswept Cider

The story: Mark and Courtney Skinner are on a mission to save and restore the “lost orchards” of Grey County, around Meaford. The couple started their own cidery on a 100-acre property in 2017, and have been winning awards for their heritage and single-variety ciders ever since.

Visit: Not yet! But a tasting room is scheduled to be open by the end of this year. Until then, you can order online, and find them at Toronto and Collingwood farmers’ markets or on tap—check their website for locations.

Taste: Try the single-variety Golden Russet and their gold-medal perry made with wild pears harvested from an old grove on the couple’s property. And don’t miss the Lost Orchard lineup—ciders crafted from heritage apples that the family picks from heritage orchards in the County.

Experimental & New Cideries

These cideries push boundaries—both in terms of flavour and their process that uses Ontario apples that they don’t grow themselves.


The story: Founded four years ago by Tariq Ahmed, a self-proclaimed fermentation geek, this tiny cidery has made a big name for itself thanks to its dedication to working only with indigenous yeasts and its knack for creating swoon-worthy and surprising flavours. Using Ontario apple juice as a base, Ahmed combines everything from riesling skins and red plums, to lactobacillus, sea salt and limes for tart, lightly funky, fruit-forward tipples that Revel’s fans love.

Visit: Sorry! Cideries are licensed as wineries, so in order to have a bottle shop or tasting room, they need to have five acres of trees planted in the ground. That’s not cheap—and means production facilities like Revel can only sell online or through the LCBO’s network of stores.

Taste: Revel’s ciders aren’t in the LCBO. But you can order online anytime. Select your own mixed pack of six bottles and cans—you won’t regret it.

Garage D’or

The story: This super small operation started in 2016 by beer sales rep, Brian Yeo, and head winemaker at Niagara Teaching Winery, Gavin Robertson.

Visit: Nope! The cidery uses a mix of purchased juice, and hand presses “abandoned” pome fruit from urban homes.

Taste: Culinary inspo plays a big role in flavour profiles—like a cider made with carrots, citrus and ginger. Hunt for Garage D’Or on tap at better beer and cider bars in Southern Ontario. Check their Facebook page for details.

Steel Town Cider Co.

The story: Inspired by the natural wine movement and Old World ciders, wine sommelier and avid home cidermaker Alex Hamilton went profesh in 2017, opening Steel Town Cidery with two friends.

Visit: Not yet, Alex is the sole employee, making cider from hand-picked crab apples and a blend of Ontario juice, out of a warehouse in Hamilton. Follow their Insta for a glimpse into his process.

Taste: Steel Town bottles Old World styles, like acidic, funky Basque sidras but also cans playful ciders inspired by what’s happening in craft beer or cocktails. Look for their cider on tap or in bottles at 60 restaurants in Southern Ontario. j

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