There's a surprising lot of interesting stuff going on around here, and this space is devoted to discovering and sharing it. We'll post regular updates on merchants, activities and events. Look in often and soon you'll see why Meaford calls itself "The other Big Apple".

posted August 17th, 2015
Bighead Hops ShinDig harvest festival


Things were hopping in Meaford this past weekend. The third annual Bighead Hops ShinDig welcomed beer lovers, food lovers and music lovers to a family friendly event showcasing 14 craft breweries and cideries, most of them from nearby. From noon to five on Saturday, August 15, visitors sampled unique, sometimes limited edition ales, lagers and ciders, along with freshly made local foods, all to a live soundtrack of local musicians, including folk favourites Moonshiner’s Daughter. And Niagara College’s brewmaster program was on hand to actually begin brewing up a batch of pale ale, using freshly picked hops.

Nicholas Schaut explains the magic of hops at the Bighead Hops ShinDig.

Nicholas Schaut explains the magic of hops at the Bighead Hops ShinDig.

The event, which kicks off hop harvest season, has grown each year, and has attracted attention from even some of the bigger brewers. “This is a craft beer event so we have in fact turned away a few breweries,” Bighead Hops owner Nicholas Schaut told the Owen Sound Sun Times“It is becoming something really that has its own life.”

hop field

posted July 12th, 2014
Meaford Cider Tour 4 – Duxbury Cider Company

James McIntosh was 14 when he discovered hard cider. It was legal, he hastens to add, since he was visiting France at the time. That first taste got him wondering. Why wasn’t someone doing this in Meaford? Raised in Toronto, James spent his childhood and teenage summers at his grandmother’s Meaford farm, up the Duxbury Sideroad overlooking Georgian Bay, and he was well aware of the local apple industry.

The idea took hold. Twenty years later, he’s releasing his second batch of Duxbury Cider, which is available at a number of restaurants in Ontario, including Ted’s Range Road Diner and The Leeky Canoe in Meaford; Shorty’s Grill in Owen Sound and The Barrhead Pub and Grill in Markdale.

After moving to Meaford full-time in 2005, he read a book on cider making and started “tinkering”, using home wine equipment and a borrowed apple press. The results, he says, were “drinkable”. But over time, his experiments bore, ahem, fruit. By fermenting different varieties of apples separately, he gained an understanding of their characteristics and flavours, and his blends became more complex.

James has planted his own orchard, and makes his cider with only local apples. “It’s all about ways to support local growers,” he says.

A couple of years ago, he began working at Coffin Ridge, which produces its own cider along with its wines, and he arranged to use their larger-scale equipment as part of his employment. Last summer, he released the first batch of Duxbury Cider to rave reviews.

In November, Andy Stark, of the Salt Spring Cider Company, wrote that Duxbury “has a soft golden colour and aromas of fresh sliced apples with hints of honey. This dry, crisp cider has an intense full-flavour with bursts of apples and a touch of vanilla. It has sparkling style full of effervescence, a great structure and a smooth lingering finish that leaves the flavours of baked apples with butter on the roof of your mouth… I highly recommend you put this one on your ‘must have’ list.”

Duxbury Cider

Local restaurants, as well as locations in Toronto and Stratford, were quick to appreciate the unique new cider. “I just started really small and let the cider talk for itself,” says James.

In addition to enjoying draft Duxbury Cider where available on tap, you can also purchase bottles at Coffin Ridge and from the website (as available).

posted June 28th, 2014
Meaford Cider Tour 3 – Beaver Valley Orchard and Cidery

During a long cycle down the Beaver Valley last summer, we caught a glimpse of a rustic hand-lettered sign by the side of the road. “Hard Cider”. While we knew better, we had images of a grizzled farmer filling a gallon jug of his homemade hard apple cider while keeping an eye out for the “revenue man”. Somehow, we managed to miss the more professionally prepared sign at the lane just down the road.

Beaver Valley Orchard and Cidery opened its doors last August in a beautifully renovated barn on the Beaver Valley vacation property John Mott and Judy Cornwell bought in 1997. The couple released the first batch of deliciously dry cider from the Autumn, 2012 pressing last year, even as they began pressing the second year’s batch.

beaver valley cidery barn

In 2007, John and Judy visited a small wine region in Australia and were captivated by the ambience of the small wineries they visited – where the owners would come in from the vineyards to pour wine and talk to customers, then head back out to tend the grapes. It meshed perfectly with the dreams they’d long had of finding a way to live full-time at the farm while earning a living.

“We thought what a lifestyle those guys have,” says Judy. “And we looked around and realized we have 50 acres and Beaver Valley apples, and we’ve got this old barn in good condition that we’d like to preserve and give a new lease on life. We can grow apples and we can make cider.”

Judy and John spent 2008 pulling rocks from the fields where they planned to plant the orchard, and the trees went in the next year. After a year or so of planning and design, working with Kimberley architect Peter Ferguson, they began renovating the barn as the cidery and visitors’ area, finishing in 2011. And in the meantime, they were perfecting their cider-making skills and their recipe.

Beaver Valley Cidery barn interiorThe couple travelled to the UK and to Washington state to take courses from Peter Mitchell, an internationally recognized cider guru, and experimented with different apple blends and yeasts to make batches in small 23-litre carboys. By 2011, they moved from “kitchen-table” batches to the industrial level equipment they’d installed in the barn, and began making larger batches. They were ready to create their first batch for sale in 2012.

2012 turned out to the worst apple-growing year in memory, with early warm spells and a killing frost, and the couple lost their crop. But fortunately, while the apples that did survive locally weren’t attractive enough for eating, they were just fine for cider. They bought the same varieties from local growers (a practice they’ll continue along with using apples from their own orchard), and made the first pressing of Beaver Valley Cider.

“We want to make our cider as natural as possible,” says Judy. “We basically have fermented apples, and don’t add anything back in unless we’re doing a specialty cider.” (This summer, they’re offering a ginger cider, infused with fresh, organic ginger.)

The production from press to pour takes about a year – four to six months of cold, slow fermentation, followed by four to six months of aging. “It’s very minimalist, unfiltered, unpasteurized, unsweetened,” says Judy. “But it mellows out in that time. We do the least possible intrusions and let the apples work their magic.”

The result is a very dry and refreshing cider that’s truly distinctive from other dry ciders. And while it’s not available in your local LCBO, you can order online at the cidery’s website. But better yet, enjoy a visit to the cidery for a tasting, perhaps enhanced by a tray of perfectly paired artisanal cheeses and homemade paté. Then take home a few bottles of your own.

Beaver Valley Cidery bottles   Beaver Valley Cidery platter

posted June 20th, 2014
Meaford Cider Tour Stop 2 – Coffin Ridge’s Forbidden Dry Cider

Last time we ventured 10 minutes East to Thornbury Village Cidery. For the second stop on the Meaford Cider Tour, we’re heading 10 minutes in the opposite direction. Take Highway 26 to the 2nd Concession and turn right (North). Seven kilometres along the road, you’ll discover a sweeping view of Owen Sound Bay and Griffith Island to the North. Nestled to your left is the black and red Coffin Ridge Winery, with a spacious deck overlooking the view.

While Coffin Ridge is gaining a considerable reputation for the wines made from it’s Georgian Bay vineyards, you mustn’t forbid yourself a taste of Forbidden Dry Cider. This cold-pressed cider releases the fresh, crisp flavour of the organic Grey County apples used in its crafting.

Coffin Ridge held its inaugural “Cider Release and Pig Roast” last month, with a (chilly, but sunny) outdoor performance by local favourites, The MacKenzie Blues Band. At the event, they introduced the new black, red and silver Forbidden can, which replaces the traditional “lightning-stopped” bottle the cider originally came in – and announced that for the first time, Forbidden is now available at selected LCBO stores.

Forbidden Dry Cider

Coffin Ridge is open throughout the summer, and beginning tonight, is open till 9 p.m. on Friday nights, with vinter’s plates served till 8. It’s a perfect chance to catch the sunset over the Bay while enjoying the fruits of the local harvest. No reservations necessary.

And beginning Saturday, July 12 through September 13, the Saturday Summer Music series will entertain you from 2 to 4 p.m.

Check the website for more information and hours – and sign up for the mailing list to stay in the loop.

mation and hours – and sign up for the mailing list to stay in the loop.

posted June 14th, 2014
Meaford Cider Tour – First stop, Thornbury Village Cidery

Meaford has long been known for its apples, and if you’ve purchased non-alcoholic cider before, you may have enjoyed the taste of them in a refreshing form. But hard cider has a long tradition in Ontario, and many pioneer farms used the windfall from their orchards to ferment their own batches. Today, hard cider’s experiencing a resurgence. It has become the fastest growing alcoholic beverage in the province, and in recent years, new cideries producing hard cider have cropped up throughout the nearby area.

In the next few weeks, we’ll visit our local craft cideries so you can plan a cider tour of Meaford and area.

Cider Stop 1- Thornbury Village Cidery

Ten minutes from Meaford Haven, you’ll find Thornbury Village Cidery, in the large, old poured-concrete building that housed handling facilities for Mitchell’s Apple Juice a generation ago. There, Cider Master Doug Johnson and his team produce Thornbury Premium Cider, a dry, crisp beverage made from 100 percent fresh-pressed local apples.

Thornbury Village Cidery

The company launched in 2008 as Ontario’s second cidery, and one of the pioneers in the Ontario cider boom. Started by Andre Corbeil and group of (mainly British) investors, the company’s flagship cider was such an immediate hit, that the company was recently bought by Beer Barons (now King Brewery).

Thornbury Premium Apple Cider

Thornbury Premium Cider is a “light, easy to drink, champagne-style cider with just a very slight hint of apple,” says the company’s website. Unfortunately, you can’t tour the cidery or taste samples there, but you can easily find yourself a pint at many of the restaurants within walking distance of the cidery (or at the LCBO).

Stay tuned for our next stop.

posted September 26th, 2011
Local Ontario cider just down the road

Local apple cider comes in a variety of delicious forms. There’s the thick, smooth cider that does double duty. It tastes great cool on a sunny autumn day, and it can warm away the winter when it’s mulled with cinnamon, allspice and cloves and served hot – preferably by a crackling fire.

And then there’s hard cider. You can enjoy this refreshing, sparkling alcoholic beverage any time during the year, but it somehow seems to taste even better as the days grow shorter and the afternoon shadows grow longer

Our area has its own homegrown hard cider, made just down the road in Thornbury. Thornbury Premium Cider has quickly become both a local favourite and a popular choice throughout the province.

A few years back, in 2007, Andre Corbeil was looking to come out of his early retirement, and he happened upon a group of mainly British investors interested in the market for cider in Ontario. Before long Thornbury Village Cidery had been established as only the second cidery in Ontario. (It has since been followed by other cider startups.) Corbeil decided to craft something different from the traditional British ciders, and he turned to Doug Johnson to create it.

The result was Peeler Premium Light Cider, a refreshingly light, champagne-style apple cider that made for perfect refreshment on a summer’s day. It quickly appeared at local restaurants, bars and ski resorts, followed by other restaurants and LCBO outlets throughout Ontario, putting Thornbury Village Cidery on the map. The success caught the attention of Beer Barons, a Toronto-based craft beer importer looking to get into brewing, and this past summer the company bought the cidery.

Doug Johnson remains on board as cider master (and director of operations), and he has tweaked the original recipe. The new Thornbury Premium Cider is now a more traditional 5.3 percent, dry cider, which the cidery describes as: “Fresh apple aroma and flavour. A light body with a refreshing balance of sweetness and slight acidity. The flavour remains bright and distinct throughout a long sparkling finish.”

Mmmmm, think it’s time to take a refreshment break.

Thornbury Premium Apple Cider

The company has indicated it would like to export our homegrown cider to other countries. “We’re very excited that we’ll be using local apples,” Troy Taylor, Beer Baron’s national director of sales and marketing, told the Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin. “That’s a strong selling point.”