‘Ottawa’ Ottawa (finally) Has its First Home Grown Cider Company
Ottawa-based Pete Rainville has always been a hard cider lover. He’s brewed small cider batches out of his home for about two decades, but over the past 10 months he’s turned his hobby into a full-fledged business – Flying Canoe Hard Cider. The name inspired by a French tale passed down through his grandfather and his grandfather before that.
And while craft beers have made a splash across the Canada with a cornucopia of locally produced brews available in Ottawa – craft ciders are behind the curve. Rainville wants to change that.
Now upgraded from his basement, Rainville runs his one-man shop out of 1,000 sq. ft. space in the city’s southwest end. He started selling his small handcrafted batches of semi-sweet, crisp cider to a number of local restaurants including all five Heart & Crown locations across the city and Crust & Crate Public House at Lansdowne – and sales are booming.
“The business had quite phenomenal first month sales, beyond what I expected,” said Rainville, who did a lot of research on the cider market before diving deep into his entreprenuial venture.
Like the craft beer market, which has seen an explosion in popularity and profitability over the past few years, Rainville is optimistic about his chances as a new player in the craft cider industry. Rainville said he got even got some advice from local craft brewing legend Steve Beauchesne, the CEO of Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company – a company whose model Rainville said he admires and respects.
Craft beer sales in Canada have grown by 36 per cent, according to the LCBO’s most recent annual report – and experts suggest that craft cider, already popular in the U.K. will increase in popularity along side it’s craft beer cousin. The expectation that the cider industry will skyrocket isn’t unfounded. Over the past 10 years, the cider market size within Canada has grown by 151.4 per cent, according to the latest Consumer Trends Wine, Beer and Spirits in Canada report produced by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
And the trend toward cider seems to be working in Rainville’s favour. He said the price he’s willing to sell his shares for has quadrupled since the early stages of the business’ development.
His unique flavourful product seems to be one key factor.
Rainville said he did three blind product tastings over the winter, which compared his home brewed batch with a number of ciders currently on the market, and all three times his cider came out on top.
“It was blowing me away,” said Rainville. “And that’s what told me, ‘Maybe you should do this.”
Rainville said his cider is less sweet than most ciders on the market, is slightly dry and he boasts a more authentic, natural apple flavour.
“Be prepared not to get the sourpuss face from the sugar,” said Rainville. “Be prepared to not to taste a fake apple flavour and be prepared not to have too much carbonation coming at you – be prepared to have a light fizz.
“You’re going to get a natural taste.”
The recipe that came out on top and the one he’s currently selling was approved by Rainville’s non-cider loving wife, Melissa. Rainville said he kept bringing up samples to his wife from the basement, where he was making the cider back in November and finally after multiple attempts she said, ‘That’s the one.”
“It was a eureka moment,” said Rainville.
Rainville now fills orders as they come and with new 1,000 litre brewing vats he’s expecting to produce about 2,000 cans of cider in a month – despite working 50 hours a week at his full-time, high-profile job in Ottawa and having two kids under five. And if it wasn’t enough brewing the batches, Rainville even hand delivers his craft cider to his clients.
But, in the end, working long hours and investing part of his retirement savings into the business is worth it and said he’s “completely stoked” about the future.