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

City of Chilliwack hopes to re-start public consultation

A new survey asks residents if they’re ready to discuss projects not related to COVID-19

UPDATE: Missing girl in Chilliwack’s Promontory neighborhood found

A 13-year-old child was missing from early Monday morning to 4:30 in the afternoon

Missing Richmond man last seen in Chilliwack

Shawn Johnson last seen on June 30 on Main Street

Double homicide investigation leads Vancouver police to Eagle Landing

A VPD forensics unit was in Chilliwack Saturday collecting evidence connected to East Van murders

Abbotsford man wins $1 million in Lotto 6/49 draw

Kenneth Giffen wins prize after deciding to stop in Agassiz gas station after fishing trip

B.C. records 62 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths since Friday

Province has just over 200 active cases

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

B.C. government prepares for COVID-19 economic recovery efforts

New measures after July consultation, Carole James says

COVID-19 exposure on Vancouver flight

The Air Canada 8421 flight travelled from Kelowna to Vancouver on July 6

VIDEO: Former Abbotsford resident giving away $1,000

Langley native Alex Johnson creates elaborate treasure hunt to give away cash

Tree planters get help with COVID-19 protective measures

Ottawa funds extra transportation, sanitizing for crews

UPDATE: Abbotsford shooting victim was alleged ‘crime boss,’ according to court documents

Jazzy Sran, 43, was believed to have been smuggling cocaine across the border

Trudeau apologizes for not recusing himself from WE decision

He says his and his family’s longtime involvement with the WE organization should have kept him out of the discussions

Most Read