I met up with Tariq, the mastermind behind Revel Cider, and his accomplice Stephen earlier this year while visiting Toronto. After a quick curbside introduction, we wandered down the street to Bellwoods Brewery where we proceeded to drink excessively. In fact, our lunch time drinking session went so well we were nearly an hour late for our dinner reservations. Needless to say, I could barely stop myself from guzzling their supremely complex, textural ciders. We chatted about fermentation dynamics, the quest to find rare apple trees scattered around Ontario, and how Tariq’s Muslim parents feel about him producing alcohol professionally.
Tariq was in the Plant Sciences program at the University of Guelph when he started experimenting with Cider making. His friends were impressed enough to encourage him to turn his hobby into a business, and after earning a grant via the University’s Center for Business he rented a small space and got to work.
Their ciders are made exclusively from Ontario grown apples; they’re constantly hunting for interesting varieties and terroirs to add to their arsenal. Nearly all their products are wild fermented. They are admittedly fond of brettanomyces and the shocking range of flavour profiles it can create in cider. In addition to apples, they love working with other local products: honeycomb from Rosewood, lees and grape skins from Pearl Morisette, botanicals and cherry pits from Dillon’s Distillery.
Some of their ciders are barrel aged which they believe adds depth and complexity. This also helps with stability, as they add very little sulphur to their bottlings. They do not fine nor filter their ciders, once again, opting for complexity and flavour over clarity.
Tariq is constantly challenging my perceptions of what cider can be. Recently he made a Sauvignon Blanc aged on Crab Apple skins, a cider aged on Cabernet Franc skins previously used in a Burdock Brewing Beer, and a wine made exclusively from spontaneously fermented cherries. It’s hard to keep up with all their projects, but it’s their dynamism that has drawn me in.
This is a single variety cider made from Hyslop Crabapples. So far, they’ve only been able to find three of these trees in Ontario, so production is limited. The wild fermented cider was aged under flor (naturally occurring pellicle) for nine months before bottling. It is then bottle conditioned resulting in a modestly sparkling cider.
This wine is made from Sauvignon Blanc grown near Jordan, in Niagara. The grapes were crushed on site and then trucked over to Revel’s base in Guelph. They added Riesling, Viognier, and Crabapple skins to the must during fermentation - this resulted in tannin, color, and other phenolic components. The wine was pressed off after five months. Instead of adding Sulphur, they allowed the wine to ferment a tiny bit after bottling; CO2 the fermentation created protects the wine from oxidation and spoilage. It is unfined and unfiltered - expect some sediment.
The juice from several apple species was left outside during the winter. The water froze which led to a concentration of sugars and flavours. In the spring, temperatures rose, and wild fermentation was permitted to take place. Before the cider was fully dry, it was bottled. As fermentation continued in bottle, the cider self-carbonated (approximately four atmospheres). It was released without disgorging.