Unlike the weather this spring, the drinks poured at Windfall Cider are dry.
This is the direction the beverage category is headed, with larger brands like Strongbow losing market share while innovative craft players rise through the ranks.
“If you were a cider drinker, maybe you got started with the big macro ciders,” said Windfall co-founder Nathaly Nairn. “And now as you discover true craft cider, you are drinking more of it and leaving behind the big macro sugary ones.”
With its grand opening March 26, the business is one of the newest additions to North Vancouver’s booming brewery district, alongside Copperpenny Distillery and Shaketown Brewing.
On tap is a lineup of dangerously light and refreshing hard ciders, which pair well with food and hot weather.
You could try the very sessionable Hail Mary, a rosé cider with notes of dry apple and berry – or you could cozy up with Sweater Weather, which has a bit more body and alcohol content (8 per cent) from aging in Woodinville rye barrels.
Either way, you’re sure to rethink any notions you had that craft cider will land you with a sugar-induced hangover. As a liquid, it’s not as complex as something like beer, so you’re less likely to feel bloated. And it’s naturally gluten free.
Living room to tasting room
It’s been quite the journey for Nairn and her husband and business partner Jeff, from fermenting in the living room of their East Van apartment to opening B.C.’s first urban cidery.
It was their plan from the start to have a fixed site, but when they started looking for a location a few years ago, nothing stuck.
“We looked for a place for about nine months, made five offers,” Nairn said. “None of them went through. We were getting quite discouraged.”
The advice they got was not to worry about getting a location at all. Jeff’s mentor at the time, at West Avenue Cider House in Ontario, told them to focus on getting a product out first.
At the time, popular East Van micro brewery Superflux was just coming into the mix. “But they didn't have a location and they were doing contract production,” Nairn said. “That's when our bells went off.”
So they let go of the tasting room idea, rented a production space and focused on wholesale, growing relationships with private liquor stores and restaurants. “We did that successfully.”
As restaurants took a dive when the pandemic hit, so did 40 per cent of Windfall’s accounts.
They adjusted by getting their cider directly to consumers, and worked on partnerships with other alcohol producers. One of their longest-running customers is North Van’s Beere Brewing.
“So we were [in the area] for a bike ride, just visiting them. And there was a for-lease sign in the corner,” Nairn explained.
That property got snapped up, but the landlord had another space on the block.
They signed a lease in November 2020, started construction in January and opened the doors mid-December of last year.
The reception has been warm since opening, said Nairn, noting that the North Shore consumer is both sophisticated and supportive.
“Once you're in, they kind of take ownership over you,” she said. “They want you to do well.”
“And if you lived here for a long time, you're really happy that all of a sudden you don't have to cross the bridge. All of a sudden your playground just got very, very cool.”