This summer season is perhaps the sweetest yet for Ryan Monkman. That’s because he’s basking in the glow of helping bring a unique cider beverage from Niagara College’s labs to licensed patios across Ontario this summer.
Available now at LCBO stores, Reinhart’s Red Apple Light Cider was part of a Research & Innovation project at the College when Monkman was a research associate there and a student of the Wine and Viticulture Technician program. Being able to now see the fruits of that work on sale to a welcoming public is nothing short of exhilarating, he said.
“A friend even asked if I’ve tried the new Reinhart’s cider!” Tried it? Monkman worked on the initial fermentation/trial in developing the first and only “light” beverage of its kind (at 3.8 percent alcohol) in the Canadian cider category.
That final product was the result of a close collaboration between the research team at the College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute Innovation Centre and Reinhart Foods Ltd., well known for its vinegars and baking ingredients.
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, explained Innovation Centre project manager Kristine Canniff.
“The NC research team handled everything from product development, competitive and sensory analysis and quality control, to knowledge transfer in providing final recipe and process” for making the cider at Reinhart’s site in Stayner, Ontario, said Canniff.
The 10-month project, which took place from January to October 2016, was funded by a College and Community Innovation Enhancement grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Reinhart decided to enter the craft market in the light cider category – and was set on providing a lower alcohol and “pure and natural” product and one made with a single ingredient: 100 percent Ontario apple cider, said Scott Singer, general manager and third-generation family member of Reinhart Foods.
“We are so proud that the quality of our product is to the highest degree we imagined: no artificial colours, flavours or additives,” he said, adding the “seasoned expertise” in the Research & Innovation division was what initially attracted Reinhart to the College.
This expertise includes the College’s Gavin Robertson, faculty research lead for the Reinhart project, and instructor with the NC Teaching Winery. Robertson is no stranger to the world of ciders: in 2015 he led a team of students at the Teaching Winery to develop the school’s first ever cider – called Cider 101 – a product currently for sale at the retail outlet.
Monkman is grateful for the opportunity to work on the development of a major product. “By engaging with a dedicated industry partner and research institution, I developed the skills and drive necessary to excel in a competitive market,” he said. “I was transformed from an average student into a world-ready professional.”
Where to find Reinhart’s Red Apple Light Cider
- Available at LCBO stores across Ontario
- The Big Feastival – Aug. 18 – 20 at Burl’s Creek, Oro-Medonte
- Toronto Cider Festival – Aug. 26 at Sherbourne Common by Sugar Beach