• By: Jane Staples

Saunders Ciders — Perfect for fall sipping

Fall at Saunders Farm is a whole lot of fun. The popular Fright Fest and Pumpkin Season events offer activities for all ages. An afternoon of exploring the mazes, hay rides, and zip-lining can really work up an appetite!  And after being scared by the witches that come out when it gets dark, you might need a comforting slice of pizza or some homemade pie to settle your nerves. The newly-renovated CiderHouse has a taproom and a brand new wood-fired oven. It’s a cozy spot to sit by the big stone fireplace and enjoy a light meal and some fresh local cider. 

I recently visited Saunders Farm and enjoyed a tasting with Certified Beer and Cider Sommelier Jeff O’Reilly. Jeff is also the creative brain behind the imaginative cider labels. I had a lot of fun as I learned about cider and toured Saunders Farm.

ABOVE: Saunders offers free cider delivery in Ottawa for online orders over $50.

The CiderHouse 

The CiderHouse is the oldest building at Saunders Farm, with a full and interesting history. Originally built in the mid-19th century, it was used as a home for livestock and feed storage. The owners lived upstairs, with the animals providing heat for the upper level. In the 1970s, when the Saunders family bought the farm, they used it to house cows and pigs. After renovations to the building, it became the first “Barn of Terror” Haunted House in 1992. The latest evolution opened in 2021 when it was re-named The CiderHouse, offering a new taproom and a store for Saunders Cider products. You can enjoy a cider tasting and discover your favourite cider style, or take a tour. There’s an outdoor patio where you can enjoy light meals with your cider on a sunny day, or in cooler weather, you can sit by the cozy stone fireplace inside. On weekends, there’s live music too.

ABOVE: The newly-renovated The CiderHouse has a taproom, a new wood-fired oven, and an outdoor patio. (Patio photo courtesy Saunders Farm)

Fun fact: Cider is one of the oldest alcoholic drinks in history.  It arrived in North America before wine and beer. Sometimes it was made to be drunk in place of water when clean drinking water was not available. The vitamins from the apples made it a healthy beverage, too.

What’s the difference between hard and soft ciders? Hard cider is alcoholic; soft cider is not.

Cider vs. beer – what’s the difference? Cider is gluten-free, because it is fruit-based and made without grain. This makes it a popular option for those with a gluten-free diet or simply a refreshing option for anybody looking for a low-alcohol drink.

Fun factIt takes 5 pounds of apples to make 1 pint of cider.

What foods go with cider? Cider is enjoyed with many of the same foods as beer, such as savoury charcuterie or pizza. It can also go with chicken and pork dishes.

Saunders makes several ciders — all delicious

Sawtooth Dry Hard Cider, “the cider that bites back,” is crisp and bone dry. 5% alcohol.

Flying Canoe Hard Cider is probably the best known of Saunders Ciders. It won silver at the All Canadian Wine Championships in 2022. Rounder and softer than Sawtooth, it shows fresh MacIntosh apple aromas and flavours with hints of baking spices. 5% alcohol.

Candy Apple Hard Cider is bright red and quite sweet. It initially shows candy flavours, but you can still taste the tartness of the apples. It has great balance between these elements. 5% alcohol.

Pie Face Hard Cider is sweet and spicy, with a bit of tartness too.  It shows distinct nutmeg and pumpkin pie aromas and flavours, with a lingering nutmeg finish. 5% alcohol.

Sixth Line Hard Cider is a nod to the heritage of the area. The original name of Bleek’s Road, where Saunders Farm is located, was Sixth Line. This is a semi-sweet, unfiltered cider with a bit more fizz to it. It is excellent with chicken or pork.

Rosy Cheeks is the newest of the Saunders Ciders. It has a slight blush colour and gives delicious strawberry and rhubarb aromas and flavours. This would be great with either savoury charcuterie or hard cheeses. 6.5% alcohol.

There’s even a non-alcoholic cider, Nana’s Hug, for kids or those driving home after a scary evening. This is a bubbly, sweet soft cider with 0% alcohol. The name is an affectionate tribute to Anne Saunders, one of the owners in the previous generation.

Vision for future fun

The Saunders family hopes the CiderHouse will become a venue for live music, weddings, corporate retreats, and other events. The patio will be an ideal spot for visitors to enjoy fresh, local cider made on-site along with farm-fresh snacks and food products. Weekends in the summer and early fall will offer live music. There’s even homemade pie and fudge available. But heads up – the fudge sells out quickly!

Saunders Ciders are available at Clocktower Brew Pub, Petit Bill’s Bistro, Elmdale Tavern, and many spots around Ottawa. You can also order them online, and Saunders will deliver for free in Ottawa for orders over $50.

For more wine and food discoveries from Jane Staples, visit www.bellovinoj.com

PHOTOS: Jane Staples, unless otherwise indicated.