Today is the three year anniversary of when we started our YEGCIDER social media accounts!
For those of you that don’t know, we originally started as a homebrew cidermaking account called YEGCIDER with many of the same goals we still hold – encourage people to use local fruit, reduce food waste, build cidermaking capacity, raise the profile of cider across the prairies.
But what many people don’t know is that before we started our social media accounts we spent months planning and envisioning both YEGCIDER and Prairie North Cider Co.
I have always had a love of local food and gardening. Growing up in a rural community on the prairies, growing food was always an important part of my childhood. I have fond memories of tasting crab apples in our yard and harvesting sun warmed raspberries out on my family farm. When I moved to Edmonton, I continued to expand this love with urban gardening, volunteering in inner city schools teaching about local food and how to grow it, and traveling the world to visit and live on local food and sustainable living projects.
Nathan has strong Ukrainian roots; he inherited some fermentation equipment that had been family heirlooms. The giant ancient cabbage shredder and fermentation crock are quite a sight to behold. He is also an excellent cook and an expert cocktail maker. All of these worlds combined into a love of fermenting local fruit into alcohol.
In the spring of 2016, Nathan was biking home from work, looking at all the fruit trees. When he got home, he declared that we should start using local fruit to make cider and also plant our own orchard of the best varieties we discover locally. Soon, this declaration turned into a dream.
That fall, we took a trip to visit cidermakers in British Columbia. At that time, there weren’t as many as there are now, so we were able to visit almost all of them! We spent time in a retreat like setting in Summerland, right on the lake, and came up with a plan.
We knew that the time wasn’t right in Alberta to start a cidery. There were none and craft beer was just starting to emerge. We also knew that the legislation and taxation systems in place made it infeasible for a cidery to open in Alberta.
Our vision was to launch a digital presence while we learned everything we could about cider, the industry, and local prairie fruit. We had the vision to launch a business if the timing was ever right, but also were happy just to have a hobby to pursue.
We decided to call ourselves YEGCIDER, but we also came up with the Prairie North Cider Co. brand at that time too! On our way home, we stopped in Jasper for the Dark Sky Festival and during that stop, I drew the first version of our logo. (You’ll notice that in the final version of both logos, we used the same font for “yegcider” as we did for “Prairie”.)
Finally in 2018, the legislation and taxation in Alberta was changed. We decided we were ready to move forward with our business and started looking for a space. While we were very excited to get going, we also wanted to find a space that aligned perfectly with our brand and our vision, even if that meant moving slowly. We looked at a ton of different options until we connected with the perfect opportunity! We can’t tell you exactly what that is yet, but we are so excited with how well it fits with our brand and for where we want to see Prairie North Cider Co grow to.
As we look back on our journey to where we are now, there are a few moments that really stand out to each of us. We decided to each highlight three things in our YEGCIDER/Prairie North Cider Co. history that were important to us.
I devoted a lot of time over the past three years to cider travel and that’s been an amazing learning opportunity. While Nathan was at cider school, I traveled all over Washington visiting other cidermakers and orchards. After that I expanded to all over Oregon, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to attend cider events & industry training, tour cideries, breweries, distilleries & orchards and meet with both professional and hobbyist cidermakers.
Spending time outdoors, in the woods and climbing trees picking fruit has been so important to me. I’ve had amazing conversations with friends and family while picking for hours. I’ve processed huge emotions and worked through life troubles while picking alone with my dogs. I’ve hunted for blueberries in the forest with my uncle and philosophized with Baba about gardening as therapy for managing health problems. The time spent picking fruit has formed a part of who I am.
I have had the pleasure to meet so many amazing people! I truly believe that local food and craft liquor can bring people together – I’ve seen it a thousand times! We’ve hosted events for neighbours and people we’ve met online who became friends. I’ve heard stories about how fruit trees, cider and people’s lives have been intertwined. I made new friends across Canada and the US and even far away places! There have even been several times where I’ve been recognized in public – one time at the Fringe when someone asked me if I was “that apple lady”, a title I now wear proudly.
At the start of this journey, I thought I knew a lot about local fruit, but the more we delved into it, the more I realized this would be a lifelong journey of knowledge. I have loved getting to know a lot of fruit growers, both locally and across Canada and abroad. In Edmonton, there is a group lovingly nicknamed “the Fruit Mafia” that has been an exceptional privilege to get to know. There are some amazingly skilled growers in our community, along with some exceptional and diverse varieties of fruit!
In 2018, we planted a nursery orchard to add to the urban orchard that we had been developing in the city for years. Grafting to these trees has been a challenging skill development process, but a huge win when the grafts start taking more often than not! I am so excited about the diversity and potential of the varieties we have collected.
I have learned so much from being exposed to the wide range of flavours and styles possible in cider. This journey started with some of our first trips and was deepened greatly while I was at cider school. My cider tasting exploration was furthered substantially by events like the Cider Summit in Seattle where we were able to try over 100 ciders over the weekend. On top of that, learning about prairie heritage apples and talking to other cidermakers across the prairies has helped us develop a style that we feel represents our region on this same level.
Thanks for being part of our cider journey!
We would love for you to continue following our journey as cidermakers; it’s a journey that we hope will never end. Until our dying days, we hope to be continuously improving our skills, gaining new knowledge, and learning from the best.
Thank you for being great supporters of us, our vision, and of cider on the prairies!