First Draught: West Avenue Ciders are some of Ontario’s best
Image: Suresh Doss
My rough, and somewhat hazy, count of the ciders I've tried this week is approximately 25. We are at the halfway point for the first (and hopefully annual) Ontario Cider Week, and there has never been a better time for cider in Toronto.
I can dimly remember when we only had two or three hard ciders at the LCBO. All of them were sickly sweet and at least one came in trashy 2 L plastic bottles. Obviously, we have come a long way to get to the point where several local cideries are making dozens of compelling takes on alcoholic apple juice.
West Avenue Cider is one of the leaders in the current wave of newcomers. The company was started by husband-and-wife team Chris Haworth and Amy Robson after Haworth decided he needed a change from his career as a chef. His resume ranges from London's Quo Vadis to Burlington's Spencer's at the Waterfront.
Their Heritage Dry is an excellent introduction to the new class of ciders — it won Best Cider in Ontario at Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention’s first annual Hard Cider Competition. It pours a clear pale yellow with almost no foam. Dessert apples and floral aromas lead into a crisp, slightly acidic flavour. Moderate carbonation and a cleansing, dry finish make this a cider that won't fatigue your palate.
West Avenue has you covered once you've mastered the Heritage Dry and decide you want to move on to more advanced ciders. Their Cherry Beach is packed with bright but sour flavors from the Niagara Montmorency cherries. It's one of the best fruit-flavoured beers or ciders in Ontario right now.
Even more advanced, the Schoolyard Crab features complex apple flavours supported by a huge depth of lactic funkiness. Both are less widely available than the Heritage Dry (although Haworth plans to have them in bottles by the end of the year), so it's best to call ahead.
The West Avenue website has a full list of bars that carry their Heritage Dry cider. If you're searching for Cherry Beach and Schoolyard Crab, barVolo, Bar Hop, Wvrst, The Only, Bellwoods Brewery, and Tequila Bookworm are the most likely bars to have them on tap.
West Avenue Cider's Heritage Dry, various prices for a pint on tap.
In addition to covering beer, new restaurants and food trucks for Post City, David Ort writes about food and drink for several Toronto publications including his own site, Food With Legs. He is the author of The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook; now in stores and available for ordering online. For more of his thoughts on food, beer and life in general, follow him on Twitter or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.