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.

Just Posted

Judge questions joint submission for Chilliwack man who sexually assaulted girl

Crown, defence ordered to find case law to back up one-year sentencing for Andrew Mullaly

Flood mitigation money coming to protect Chilliwack-area communities

It’s $45M in infrastructure funding to build 6km of dikes, a flood gate, and pump station

CSOPA’s six spring productions in Chilliwack include play about boy with autism

Mix of musicals, comedy, mystery and more for Chilliwack School of Performing Arts’ May shows

Chilliwack’s hospital morgue needs an expansion

Fraser Health plans to more than double the space for ‘decedents’; upgrade antiquated elevators

Chilliwack Mounties pitch tickets to three-strike motorists

When street signage and Speedwatch didn’t work, drivers met with traffic officers

VIDEO: ‘Alarm bells’ raised by footage allegedly from B.C. pig farm, SPCA says

PETA released video Wednesday showing dead and injured piglets next to nursing piglets

SPCA investigating after newborn kittens found in Vancouver dumpster

The kittens were found suffering from hypothermia and dehydration

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

VIDEO: Surrey stabbing leaves man with ‘potentially life altering injuries’

Police believe an altercation between two people led to the incident, in the 13700-block of 97A Ave.

VIDEO: Surrey RCMP investigating after ‘sudden death’ of man found with critical injuries

Police say a man is dead after being found laying on the ground in the 13300-block of 114th Avenue

Many teens don’t know they’re vaping nicotine, Health Canada finds

Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey finds youth unaware of nicotine product risk

B.C.’s largest Vaisakhi festival target of threatening Facebook post: Surrey RCMP

Police say they are investigating the posts on Facebook, after local MLA forwarded screenshots

Defence accuses officer of ‘incompetence’ in trial for B.C. man charged with daughters’ murders

Double murder trial for the Victoria father accused of killing his two young daughters continues

Murder on B.C. property didn’t need to be disclosed before sale, court rules

Buyer had tried to break contract after learning a man with ties to crime had been murdered there

Most Read