It’s safe to say the craft beer and wine industries are going strong in BC. Whatever your preference you can probably find something to like that was grown and produced right here in BC. And while there are countless choices in those categories, what about those who don’t care for either? Or in some cases, can’t enjoy for dietary reasons? Will and I both enjoy grown up bevvies, but since going gluten free a few years ago, Will’s choices in beer have been limited, and even more so when it comes to local options. Even though we both enjoy wine, it’s nice to have options, and so I started looking into what else was available locally. Step in Fraser Valley Cider Company.
Living in BC it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t visited a winery or brewery, the experience makes for a fun day trip and you’re more than likely to have a good time, but have you ever visited a cidery? I first came across the Fraser Valley Cider Company last Fall as they were closing for the season and had been looking forward to checking them out when they re- opened in the Spring; I also had the chance to sample some of their ciders at the recent Fort Langley Food + Beer Festival. As someone with a British heritage, cider is something I was familiar with but can’t say I drink it all too often, defaulting back to beer and wine as my go- tos. But I was excited and intrigued to learn we had a local option for this drink that’s growing in popularity, especially for those who are looking for gluten free adult refreshments as an alternative to beer. While there are several craft cideries throughout the Okanagan and Vancouver Island, The Fraser Valley Cider Company is the first- and so far only- cidery in the Lower Mainland, opening it’s doors in May 2016 after the founder, Rachel, made the career switch from engineering to follow her passion of cider making, wanting something that was more authentic, more connected to the land. It was a hobby she already enjoyed and after taking a cider makers course in 2013 she knew it was the right move, towards something that would bring enjoyment to herself and those who enjoyed the products she produced. The company currently offers 5 varieties made from apples grown in the Okanagan as well as heritage apples grown on the property: Bone Dry, Elderflower, Honey, House, and Rosy.
I love meeting the people behind a company and learning it’s story- What gives it it’s soul? It’s personality?- and was excited to visit the cidery and tasting room located in Langley and meet Rachel in person. We talked about how she made the switch to cider making, the ciders themselves, and her plans for the growing business. From concept to opening, the turnaround was fairly quick considering a major career change took place and the cidery had to be built from the ground up with a very limited budget: the business plan was created in 2012, Rachel took a cider makers course in 2013 (‘Would I really like to do it as a job?’), the farm was bought in 2014, and the cidery opened for business in May 2016.
The 12- acre property houses an apple orchard alongside the cidery and tasting room and is close enough to keep the drive short while still leaving you feeling like you’re miles out of the city. And where better to enjoy a glass of cider than where it’s produced, where many of the apples are grown? As I said, I like cider, I just tent towards beer and wine without any excuse outside of habit. But trying the cider at the Fort Langley Beer + Food Festival and enjoying some at home following my visit to the cidery has solidified it as a new favourite on my list of grown- up refreshments. As someone who’s tried and enjoyed it, I asked Rachel to describe cider’s appeal, what she tells newcomers or those curious about it: “Simply, it’s refreshing. Cider and sunshine go together”. And it should be noted that like most craft vs mass- produced options (not unlike that seen with beer), there is a notable difference between craft cider and large- production varieties: craft cider is produced from full juice, with no additives or preservatives and has a more wine- like taste over the more pop- like taste of many large commercial varieties. The flavour of the apples is front and centre, and you couldn’t ask for something more refreshing- especially on a hot sunny day.
I couldn’t share about the cidery without also talking about location itself. Beautiful inside and out, there’s room for you to enjoy your cider at tables inside the tasting room, or outside surrounded by the scenic property (it’s also family- friendly and kids are welcome). Much of the tasting room is comprised of furniture built by Rachel’s Dad from wood repurposed from an old barn that was on the property when they bought it: “We had no budget and had lots of fun looking up ideas on Pinterest”, and the chandelier above the bar was a DIY project made by Rachel herself from light fixtures and branches. As she says, “It’s amazing how creative you get when you have no money”. The results speak for themselves and the atmosphere created from the love and passion that built the cidery is something that Rachel is proud of.
When I asked her what sets it apart from others she notes the authenticity of their practices, the culture of the business, and how visitors feel when they’re at the cidery.”It’s a chill place, there’s no attitude or pretence, it’s just fun. There’s no technique to drinking cider, you just taste it, drink it. We want people to feel like a part of the cidery family”. The cidery culture and dedication to ethical practices are also things Rachel is proud of: most of their employees are former customers who loved what they were doing, coming on board to be a part of the efforts. And there is a focus to do good, towards ethical business practices, and to treat the land they are located on with respect.
So what’s next for the cidery? When I asked Rachel she listed off a variety of things that have me wanting to return a few more times over the season, including:
- Live music nights + food trucks
- Summer Solstice Hog Roast
- Long Table Dinners featuring Chef Adrian Beatty
- Pizza nights with Al Forno Mobile Pizza Truck
There are also plans to expand the locations and farmer’s markets the cider is available (view a current list of stockists here), in addition to offering eggs and honey for purchase. You can view the list of upcoming events and purchase tickets online on the cidery’s Events page.
If you’re looking for some fun things to add to your Summer bucket list, a trip to Fraser Valley Cider Company is a worthy addition, and you’re more than likely to find some new favourite sips. Whether you make it a date or a family affair, the cidery is worth a visit and is open Fridays and Saturdays 11am- 9pm, and Sundays 11am- 6pm.
Want to add this to your Summer Bucket List? Save it for later!