While roughly half of the world's cider is still made in the UK, it turns out that the apples in British Columbia can yield a pretty kick-ass artisanal cider too. The young Left Field Cider Co., founded in 2011, started out as Kate Garthwaite's curious hobby and eventually, her enthusiasm spread to her parents and sister Theresa. Formerly in the ranching business for three generations, the Garthwaites enrolled in cider-making courses—with Kate apprenticing in England under a craft cider-maker. It was there she became dedicated to the "real" cider movement, which champions cider made in small batches from fermented apples—and without artificial sweeteners, high fructose concentrates or added flavors.
The Garthwaites transformed their barn into a ciderhouse and their hayfield into an orchard, where they grow heritage apples (typical to British Columbia) such as Kerr, North Battleford, Harcourt, Norland and Parkland, as well as sourcing more edible apples from the BC Fruit Growers Co-op. From nearby contract growers they get a diverse selection of English and French cider apple varieties (like wine grapes, most are not great for eating) including Dabinett, Somerset Redstreak, Kingston Black, Medaille D’or and more. From blending BC dessert apples with bittersweet cider apples, Left Field Cider produces top notch cider with lots of body and depth—with an ingredients list that just reads "100% BC apples" and "sulphates," which is all you need.
Left Field Cider Co. offers two staple, award-winning products: the Little Dry and Big Dry. "Both Big Dry and Little Dry are full juice ciders that are made without concentrates or flavorings," says Kate Garthwaite. "The Big Dry is drier and made with more cider apples which makes it a little bit more tannic. The Little Dry has a bit more residual sweetness that gives it a more fruit-forward taste."
A standout from the brand is the Cidermaker's Select series which allows for experimentation. "The cidermaker’s select is just a very small batch line where we can try out new blends and fermentation techniques," Kate tells CH. "The first year we did a still table cider that had undergone a malolactic fermentation; this year we fermented a batch in bourbon barrels. We have plans in the future to do some single varieties and perhaps a bottle conditioned cider." Upon sampling the bourbon barrel blend (with a pretty high 7.8% ABV), the immediate reaction is that it's not too sweet at all. While the smell is faintly reminiscent of something other than cider (strangely, perhaps a hint of Asian food), the cider is so drinkable that you'll find yourself tipsy with an empty cup before you know it.
"Cider goes well with many things but they work particularly well with roast chicken or pork," recommends Kate. "They're very nice with a cedar plank salmon and other seafood. We also like to have a cider with Indian curry and other spicy dishes." However you drink it, Theresa notes, "Make sure to get the cider nice and cold."
Left Field Cider Co. cider is available in stockists throughout BC and Alberta; those near Mamette Lake can visit the ciderhouse and tasting room, open weekends during the summer. Left Field Cider Co. is located at 8821 Hwy 97C BC, Canada.
Product photos by Nara Shin, all other images courtesy of Left Field Cider Co.