Toronto's first Cider Festival cropped up this past Saturday at Yonge and Dundas Square. Despite its location at one of the busiest intersections in Canada, organizers tried to give the fest a country feel by laying out straw, hay bails and barrels throughout the fenced off section of the public square. Attendees seemed to arrive on theme wearing an abundance of plaid.
Like the Ontario Cider Week, this festival gave enthusiasts and newbies a chance to taste this country's delicious and fruity offerings. Upon entering the evening session (the second of the day-long event) I got a mini mason jar stuffed with drink tickets, each one redeemable for a sample. I took a seat at one of the tables surrounding event sponsor Angry Orchards' booth to participate in the VIP food and cider pairing led by Doris Miculan Bradley.
Afterwards, I joyfully spent my remaining tickets trying various Canadian craft ciders. A standout was the County Cider Company, known for its Waupoos Premium Cider. For the festival, the Prince Edward County-based company infused its pear cider with ginger to create a refreshing, yet satisfyingly spicy beverage.
Other participating brands included Thornbury, Forbidden, Spirit Tree, Grow A Pear, Brickworks Cider House, Shiny Apple Cider, Ironwood, Revel Cider Company, Duxbury Cider Company, Pommies Cider Company and Okanagan.
Alongside the cider, Calvados Boulard served up sample shots of its sweet, yet potent apple brandy. These definitely helped festival-goers warm-up as the sun went down.
On the food truck front, Tdot's Naansense, The Salted Pig and Mustache Burger, as well as The Mighty Cob, were on hand to ensure that there was plenty of food available to soak up all the hard cider. And, all four vendors accepted sample tickets as payment making it easy to go cash free.
DJ SoundBwoy provided the soundtrack for the night. During the earlier session, which ran from noon until 4 p.m., Fleetwood Mac cover band Fleetwood Mix entertained the day-drinking crowd. Organizers placed nostalgic games such as Jenga and Connect Four atop barrels to let all of us unleash our inner grade-schoolers as we sipped on our grown-up apple juice.
Throughout the evening I heard the occasional mechanical whirring noise. When I located the source, I foundGerald Guenkel creating chainsaw sculptures. Artist Olga Pankova did live paintings while I was there and Vera Malitskaya did the same at the earlier session.
Despite a long lineup at the door, and at some booths, it was relatively easy to get samples. For its inaugural year, the Toronto Cider Festival ran smoothly and even sold out for its evening session. It was difficult to differentiate between each of the ciders after trying a few. However, that could be remedied by adding more variations in the coming years.