Rachel Bolongaro, founder of the Fraser Valley Cider Company, greets guests at the cidery in Langley, B.C., on May 10, 2018.HO / THE CANADIAN PRESS

B.C. Cider Week puts spotlight on province’s growing cider industry

Cider is booming in popularity and B.C., home to bountiful orchards, is starting to carve out a place in the industry

Rachel Bolongaro was sitting at her desk one day in 2013 when she asked herself, “Do I want to be an engineer for another 20 years?”

The answer was “no,” and she took a week off work to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. She happened to visit a cidery on Vancouver Island, where she fell in love with the idea of life on a farm lined with apple trees.

“I thought, ‘I’d really like to spend a lot of time in a place like this,’ and the Lower Mainland didn’t have a cidery at the time,” she said. “The next year, I took a one-week cider making course and came back and said to my husband, ‘We need to buy a farm.’ “

The couple bought a property in Langley, B.C., in 2014 and opened the Fraser Valley Cider Company in 2016. Bolongaro, originally from the United Kingdom, wasn’t sure how sweet Canadians were on cider, but she sold out within months, two years in a row.

Cider is booming in popularity and British Columbia, home to bountiful orchards, is starting to carve out a special place in the industry. The annual B.C. Cider Week will soon salute the boozy beverage with tastings and festivities across the province.

The celebration is set to last a little longer than a week, with events from April 25 to May 5. Connoisseurs can attend a cider “masterclass” in Victoria, the Okanagan Cider Festival in Kelowna and the already sold-out B.C. Cider Festival in North Vancouver.

Bolongaro’s cider will be featured at the North Vancouver fest along with dozens of other local delights and a few foreign brews. The event inside North Vancouver’s historic Pipe Shop boasts tastings, live music and the chance to meet cider makers.

The Fraser Valley Cider Company has 1,800 heritage apple trees on site and also uses dessert apples from Kelowna to produce a variety of cider. Specialties include a honey cider made using the farm’s own bee hives and a sparkling bone-dry cider.

“A lot of people come in and they’re surprised by the taste,” said Bolongaro. “They’re surprised that it’s good and dry. A lot of people, I think, find cider over-sweet.”

READ MORE: Kelowna cider company launches 4th craft cider product

Shawn Pisio, who co-founded the B.C. Cider Festival three years ago, said the event sold out within hours this year. Cider is growing in popularity as people discover craft varieties that easily beat the mass-produced sugary examples, he said.

“We think of it as where craft beer was 10, 15 years ago, when you had the major macro producers and you had a couple small local producers and that was sort of it,” said Pisio, who co-owns alcohol and food importing company Txotx Imports Inc.

“With the craft beer explosion, new styles, new types, new breweries … we’re seeing cider having that renaissance as well. We thank the craft beer industry because it paved the way for people to be looking for products like this.”

The opportunity to grow more cider apples in B.C. is massive, but the province is already home to many excellent craft cideries, he said. Twin Island Cider on Pender Island, Nomad Cider in Summerland and The BX Press Cidery and Orchard in Vernon are some of the standouts featured at the festival, he said.

Pisio recommended cider newbies who are interested in picking up a good bottle to speak with store staff, look for something that is locally produced and to generally avoid those with added sugar or water.

For those who aren’t able to snag tickets to the B.C. Cider Festival, Bolongaro urged people to come visit the Fraser Valley Cider Company — also known as her “happy place” — after it opens for the season in May.

When she first opened the cidery, she continued to work her engineering job for a year. Now, she can’t imagine ever going back.

“I’ve devoted myself full-time to the cidery,” she said. “It’s all-consuming, which is great, because there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”

If you go:

— The B.C. Cider Festival is sold out, but check social media in case tickets become available: https://www.facebook.com/BCCiderFest/

— More information about events during B.C. Cider Week is also available on social media: https://www.facebook.com/bcciderweek/

— The Fraser Valley Cider Company opens for visitors in May: https://www.fraservalleycider.ca/

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sooke temporary homeless shelter packs up early

Occupants to leave facility by June 22

MISSING: High-risk woman last seen on May 25

Police are asking for the public’s help in locating Jennifer Daughinee-Mendelson

CRD to consider plan for mountain biking trails at Mount Work

SIMBS seek new trails in Hartland, Partridge Hills

More than 1,500 people expected at Victoria peace rally for Black lives

‘To speak up, all you need is a voice and the will to be heard’

Oak Bay clinic opens virtual classes to public for fundraiser

Patient activity is up for cancer-supporting clinic during COVID-19 crisis

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Vancouver Island First Nations gather to remember woman fatally shot by police

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council requests an independent investigation

Cortes Island affordable housing project hangs by a thread

Regional decision makers resort to COVID-19 concerns despite virtual meeting option and push hearing to September

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

North Island recreation camping site closed due to vandalism

Damage happens every year, forcing site manager to reallocate improvement budget to repairs

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

Most Read