Move over wine and beer, cider is taking the beverage scene by storm and is looking to become the apple of Ontario’s eye.

“It was about four years ago that things really started changing for cider,” says Chris Palivan, Co-founder and Event Manager of the Toronto Cider Festival. “I was a bartender and noticed that instead of people asking, ‘Do you have Strongbow?’ they would ask ‘what kind of craft ciders do you have?’” Palivan attributes much of the growth in popularity of the cider industry to the hard work of provincial apple farmers and changes in government regulations.

You don’t have to look further than the Festival itself to see that Palivan is right about cider’s widening appeal. Along with his wife, Shalini Soares and his former George Brown professor, Ijaz Jamal, the Toronto Cider Festival was born in 2014. “When we started, cider was a new trend and still raised a lot of eyebrows,” Palivan recalls. “When I talked about a cider festival people would ask me ‘You mean like apple juice?’ We've grown from having 15 vendors and about 30 different taps in our first year to about 30 vendors and over a hundred taps.”

Despite being a relative newbie on the festival scene, it won the Notable Best Festival of the Year award in 2017 and was a finalist in the Canadian Special Events Awards in 2018. Part of the event's appeal is the variety of ciders offered, complimented by three different themed sessions featured during its weekend run. Friday night’s tasting is accompanied by country music and dancing, Saturday pays homage to top hits and classics with live band and a day drinking vibe, and Sunday night brings the excitement with booming party tracks. There’s something for everyone at the Toronto Cider Festival.

Palivan believes that the future is golden (and delicious) for the cider industry in Ontario. “It's looking better year after year. Cider is still the number one fastest-growing beverage in Ontario and in North America.”

As an industry insider, Palivan attributes cider’s growing celebrity to people’s increased interest in going gluten-free. “There’s a whole movement with gluten intolerance and people looking to explore a gluten-free lifestyle for different health benefits,” he says. “Coming from apples and being gluten-free, cider presented itself as an option for people that are a little bit more health-conscious.”

Grants from the Government of Ontario and enthusiastic regional support have been vital in promoting the Festival. “The Festival promotes local businesses and artists and also tries to be the voice of the cider industry as much as possible, promoting new local ciders that launch into market. We all want Ontarians to see that there are tons of amazing cideries right in their own backyard, and they can try them at the Toronto Cider Festival.”

To find out more about the Toronto Cider Festival, which runs August 24-25, visit torontociderfestival.com.