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Wellington man at core of unique hard cider launch

Ryan Monkman, of Wellington, was part of a research and innovation team at Niagara College that helped Reinhart Foods create its first cider, with a single ingredient – apples.

This summer season is perhaps the sweetest yet for Wellington’s Ryan Monkman as he sees fruits of his labour on licensed patios, in LCBO stores across the province, and in a new life with his young family in Prince Edward County.

“A friend asked if I’ve tried the new Reinhart’s cider,” said Monkman. Tried it? He worked on the initial fermentation and trials that developed the first and only “light” beverage of its kind (at 3.8 per cent alcohol) in the Canadian cider category.

He was part of a research and innovation team at Niagara College that helped Reinhart Foods create its first cider, with a single ingredient – apples.

Monkman, a student of Niagara’s Wine and Viticulture Technician program, was ready to do his practicum placement when he was selected by the school’s winemaker, Gavin Robertson, to join the college’s commercial winery which produces roughly 4,000 cases of win a year, sold on-site and through the LCBO.

He took an additional position with the college’s research and innovation institute that Reinhart engaged to develop production techniques and a taste profile.

“We began with sensory and market evaluation. Next we hit the cellar,” said Monkman. “Working with different juice blends we conducted dozens of fermentation and blending trials. This process went on until everyone was satisfied that the best possible product was found.”

Reinhart has significant experience in fermentation and capital-intensive, liquid-based manufacturing; however, the company did not have the necessary experience or equipment to develop a world-class hard apple cider beverage.
The college research team handled everything from product development, competitive and sensory analysis and quality control, to knowledge transfer in providing the final recipe and process for making the cider at Reinhart’s site in Stayner, Ontario.

The experience, Monkman said, gave shape to his life after school gaining skills to make a high-quality, honest product. He’s now using those skills to work in Prince Edward County’s cider and wine industry assisting three local wineries with a focus on grape growing, wine and cider making.

“The opportunity to work with three different producers in one wine region is rare,” said Monkman. “It’s only possible through the collective approach to farming found here.”

Monkman says he’s a farmer, first.

“The only way to make premium cider or wine is to begin with exceptional fruit. This isn’t something that can be accomplished in isolation,” he said. “I’ve found a community of engaged growers working collaboratively to grow the best fruit possible. We call, text, and email daily. We grab coffee at Enid’s and beer at Midtown. We speak openly and honestly with one another, knowing that our collective imagination empowers us all to succeed.”

So he’s putting down roots here – both kinds.

“We love the County,” he said, noting they moved here last spring after spending six years – four provinces, seven towns and 10 houses – finding a place to call home and start a family.

“When we visited in the summer of 2015, we decided to move here before we got out of the car,” he said. “Now, our son Linden has spent his first four months exploring the County’s festivals, markets and beaches. His first food was a fingertip of Slicker’s ice cream. His first outing was to Hubb’s Creek Winery.”

Together the family is preparing to plant an orchard of heritage apple trees, focusing on varieties that flourished here 100 years ago.

“There’s a deeper vein. A hundred years ago the County was full of orchards. Our cider was shipped around the world – including to the front lines during the First World War. Even small farms had a tree or two they would ferment over winter to nourish visiting farm hands.

“The history of cider is woven into the County’s DNA. Ancestral trees fill our hedgerows and patiently wait. They whisper in the night, longing to be engaged once more.

“We love the County and hope to play a small role in bringing its history to life.”

Filed Under: Featured ArticlesWineries-Cider-Breweries

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