Event Review: LCBO Cider Fair, March 2016
The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) decided to put a focus on cider with the launch of their ‘In Cider’ guide for March 2016. Accompanying the guide, was a weekend of ‘Cider Fairs’ in-store across the province, that offered select samples of ciders, cider cocktails and food pairings – recipes that can be found in the In Cider guide. For both days, March 11th and 12th, we visited the LCBO located on Rideau Street in Ottawa, near Byward Market. With a massive store location, and an onsite kitchen, it made for a perfect venue for the tasting fair.
The Friday, March 11th, event had a selection of four ciders for sampling, as well as two food creations to nibble on. The ciders featured were: Alexander Keith’s Cider, Brickworks Cider Batch 1904, Magners UK Pear Cider, and Growers Honey Crisp Apple. After the small samples, I tried the two delicious food pairings, the Indian Spice Pork and the Lemon Pastry with toasted marshmallows.
The Saturday sampling featured three different ciders, as well as the Growers Honey Crisp Apple that was featured the day before. These other ciders featured were: Molson Canadian Cider, Thornbury Cider and Strongbow Gold. The food samplings were the same, but this time they also featured a Strawberry Mojito cocktail made with crushed up strawberries, mint, simple syrup, mixed with the Molson Canadian cider.
Overall, we had mixed feelings about this event. We really do appreciate the LCBO finally giving cider a strong focus and publicity, as it has not much featured it before to our knowledge. We also like the fact that these events can be a gateway for people new to cider, to either taste it for the first time or try new flavours they haven’t before. We also like that there were food pairings and cocktails made with cider, as there are so many possibilities with cider, beyond just drinking it from a can.
However, we were quite disappointed with the selection of ciders being sampled. The majority of them were more commercial and sugary, in trying to appeal to the mass crowds. Each sampling only had one Ontario Craft Cider featured, and with so much selection available and the fact that the LCBO is Ontario owned, we had hoped for a more diverse and local selection. By serving both Alexander Keiths and Molson Canadian ciders, we think they were trying to piggy-back off the success of those beers; as well as by sampling Strongbow, one of the world’s most distributed and recognizable ciders.
We do hope that the LCBO continues to give more features to cider – including in-between potential future cider fairs – and diversify its selection available in stores; especially with the booming Ontario Craft Cider industry selections.
An online copy of the ‘In Cider’ guide, complete with the recipes and ciders mentioned here and more: LCBO Website