Hard Way Cider: Discover the story behind Kingston’s only cider company

By Abigail Beckett

Hard Way Cider | 748 Development Drive | Facebook

In 2016, Steve and Lisa Goddard started the Hard Way Cider Company just outside the village of Bath, Ontario.

Over the years, cider has become an increasingly popular choice of drink. It is a great alternative for gluten-free consumers, or simply those who don’t reach for a beer.

While Lisa is more of a cider drinker, Steve was initially not a fan. “When I first started trying cider, I really didn’t enjoy it because it was really sweet.” At the time, Steve was already making his own wine and because “making wine and cider are more or less identical processes,” he decided to experiment with cider.

“I like to tell people the first few batches we made were really bad. We drank them because we made them but didn’t give them to anybody. As we got better at it, we started sharing with friends and they enjoyed it, and put it into a bottle from there.”

“To start up,” says Steve, “you need at least five acres of land, but when COVID hit, the government waived that requirement.” Steve and Lisa were able to move into the Kingston area about a year and a half ago. The move allowed for more production facility space and for the company to really grow. Kingston is also home to many established breweries and great community support. Why not add cider in the mix?

There are about 20 different kinds of apples that Hard Way Cider uses to create their signature blends. Steve explains that the “traditional cider apple” is the Golden Russet. This apple is great for cider because of its high sugar content. This doesn’t mean sweeter cider, rather “lots of sugar means more alcohol content because the yeast converts sugar into alcohol.”

Other apples used by Hard Way Cider are the Northern Spy and Ida Red. Portland, Spartan, and Empire apples are used primarily for flavour and juiciness.

Hard Way specializes in both dry and barrel-aged cider. The market for dry cider “is definitely getting bigger,” says Steve, “as people sort of learn more about cider and understanding that it is more than just – or can be more than just –, a sugary drink. There definitely is more of a trend going towards dryer stuff. It’s finding that balance between not being super dry but also not being super sweet…the spot that resonates with most people. It’s still a learning process.”

Their first two releases were Rogue and Renegade. Rogue is a triple barrel blend cider aged in whiskey, red wine, and bourbon barrels. Renegade is a classic English apple cider blend aged in three separate barrels with notes from red wine, whiskey, and bourbon barrels.

Their Loco Blanco, however, is a tequila-infused cider. While most of Hard Way’s barrels were wine or whiskey barrels, “our U.S. distributor sourced some tequila barrels.” Steve and Lisa decided to experiment with them, and people liked the end product. Loco Blanco is aged in Mexican Añejo tequila barrels, with notes of oak, vanilla, and caramel at 6.5% abv.

Hard Way’s new unoaked cider series is currently being released. Steve explains that the new collection “isn’t barrel aged…it’s a little lighter than our barrel program, so a little less alcohol and a little lighter flavour.”

The first one released is called Raspberry Dreams, which is currently in the tasting phase at the LCBO. This cider is low carb, low sugar, gluten-free, and vegan. It is your perfect ‘guilt-free’ drink. It is tart and dry (but not too dry) and at 5.5% abv. Look out for the second unoaked release, a peach cider.

Part of Hard Way Cider’s goal is “to innovate new ciders and try to develop new ones that will be interesting and enjoyable for people. We are coming out with four or five different non-barrel aged ciders over the next four to six months to hopefully have a broad offering for folks.”

Next on the agenda for Hard Way is a tasting room. They are currently working with the city and the AGCO to make it happen. Steve hopes to have “the ability for people to come here and have a flight of ciders or a pint…We also will be offering beer and other drinks… from other producers as guest taps.” Renovations are already in the works, so keep your eyes peeled for the opening of Hard Way’s tasting room.

While Hard Way Cider is working to get into the LCBO, you can stop by their location at 748 Development Drive to pick up some cider to go. You can also find their ciders in local bars and restaurants. Look for Hard Way next time you visit Daft Brewing, Atomica, Spearhead, The Caesar Co, Mesa Fresca, The Purple House Café (in Gananoque), Chez Piggy, Tie One On Creativity Bar, and Days on Front. You can also find them at the Memorial Farmer’s Market on Sundays.