Jana Crawford is a team player. When she began to see her partner Graham Smith, who was a brewer, she tried all kinds of brews, looking for one she enjoyed.
She finally identified a fruit beer from Belgium, but this did not meet his purist, four-ingredient definition of the beverage. He suggested if she like the fruity taste, why not take it one step further and try cider?
For three years they experimented with product, canning and fermenting processes and have settled on a plan that was launched last summer under the name Rice Lake Hard Cider. Both Jan and Graham have a special attachment to the area, and the name has an association with leisure and fun, more, perhaps than Baltimore, where they currently operate.
Their beverages are made from fresh pressed apple juice purchased from Algoma Orchards in Clarington. This outfit presses juice every week from apples from their own orchard, so supply is never an issue. The time of year does affect the taste of the juice: product made early in the season is more acidic, but as apples are stored more sugar is converted making their juice sweeter. This variation in input flavour requires some careful adjustments at the end of the fermenting process to maintain a consistent finished product.
Rice Lake Hard Cider produces a beverage in small batches which is low in sugar, naturally gluten-free and vegan with a 6.2% alcohol content. There are two flavours- the original dry cider made from apples and the Cranberry Dry cider which is created with fermented apples blended with Ontario cranberry juice.
Jana is also pleased with the branding she created for the product, its crisp and colourful designs capturing the spirit of fun and relaxation she hopes customers will associate with their beverages.
In addition to fermenting experience, Graham brings engineering expertise to the venture which has been critical in developing their canning process. He built the canning equipment from scratch, and the couple currently has the capacity to produce 25,000 litres of cider a year. At the moment, they expect this volume will satisfy their 25 licensed customers, which were secured during a road show Jana performed during February and March, when she took her samples to restaurants, resorts and golf courses throughout the communities surrounding Rice Lake. None of the businesses that she approached turned her down, and she fully expects them to come on board when they can open their own doors when the lockdown rules relax. The ciders are currently available at local restaurants such as the Pastry Peddler, Moody’s and Elmhirst Resort, a few golf courses and several farmers’ markets including Millbrook, Clarington and Port Hope. Retail sales are available through the company’s website. Orders made online are delivered free within our distribution area at the moment. As an essential business, their store front is also open for pick up orders. They are located in Baltimore at 4741 County Rd. 45, roughly five km north of the 401. They ferment and bottle on site and look forward to welcoming customers in for a tour to see the magic happen. For more information, visit www.ricelakehardcider.ca. KG