We know that "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," but think what liquid apples might accomplish! There might be hope there for world peace.
Two enthusiastic brothers think so. Mike and Mark Vansteenkiste (Belgian heritage) boast radiant smiles. "We love what we do," they chime in synchronized fashion. They took over the family farm. Mike formerly held a white collar job in Grimsby and Mark worked for UWO in London. Now, their rural headquarters is 8169 Kennedy Line, Thedford.
"How often do you get to work outside in your jeans?" asks Mike, his smile broadening. Their joy is infectious. Open on weekends as when I visit, their hours extend later in summer.
As I arrive they bottle a cider batch and are in high spirits about winning the "Best in Show" award for their Hammerbent Red at the 2014 Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition. Mike exclaims, "This international competition received 327 entries from commercial cideries around the world and we won!"
They produce hard cider the old fashioned way, with minimal additives and little filtering and using the fruit from this land. I taste the wonderful South-English style of cider; dry, refreshing and sparkling. Because they press what they grow, they can be called an "Estate Winery."
They also won awards for their Cracked Willow dry apple wine - Gold, Ice Cider - Silver, Hammerbent Original - Bronze and their newest cider, Tremlitt's Bitter - Bronze. They were very happy cider masters, indeed.
At Twin Pines, Mike and Mark produce various hard ciders, Hammerbent Original, Hammerbent Red, Scrumpy, and Perry as well as Crack Willow (dry white wine), Ice Cider and Cyser. They have 10,000 trees on their 36 acre farm. Mike touts cider made from the Kingston Black apple. Purchases are made on site, but the brothers have cider on tap in four Toronto bars and in Sarnia. Mark says, "Cider is the fastest growing sector in alcoholic sales." They also produce apple wine which is not carbonated and contains a higher alcohol percentage than the cider. (Cider - 5%; Wine - 10%)
Mark is bullish on the cider market. "People look to try unique brands, fine crafted drinks versus the mass produced items from a few major players." I ask about spraying. "We use IPM, Integrated Pest Management," he explains. Mike jumps in, "We spray only when needed; we hang bug traps throughout the property, and regularly check the kind and number of insects. We also use computers geared to weather reports which relate to bug population fluctuations." Mike adds, "We won't get rich, but it's a great way of living."
They are located between Hwy 7 (south), Hwy 18 (north), Hwy 9 (west) and Hwy 81 (east). They built their own main cider house building which houses a store loaded with homemade gourmet and kitchen items as well as unique gifts. The property offers a lovely circular garden, and there are inviting walking trails, one with a pleasant waterfall. You encounter trees such as Shag Bark Hickory, Tulip Trees, Butternut, Black Walnut and several Oak species. Conifers include red and white Cedars and Pines. Plant life includes wild Black Caps, Elderberries, Strawberries and Raspberries.
Hammer Bent Original: Hard Cider, Alc./Vol. : 6.3%, Size: 1 Litre, Apple Varieties: Northern Spy, Ida Red, Golden Russett, Jona Gold, Price: $9.95
Hammer Bent Red: Hard Cider, Alc./Vol. : 6.8%, Size: 1 Litre, Apple Varieties: Red Court Cortland, Northern Spy, Ida Red, Golden Russett, Price: $9.95
Hammer Bent Perry: Perry, Alc./Vol. : 6.8%, Size: 1 Litre, Pear Varieties: Bartlett, Bosc, Price: $10.95 (Perry is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented pears. Perry has been common for centuries in England, particularly in the Three Counties of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, and in parts of south Wales; and France, especially Normandy and Anjou.)
Hammer Bent Traditional Apple-Pear: Hard Cider, Alc./Vol. : 6.2%, Size: 1 Litre, Price: Sold Out
Cyser: Alc./Vol. : 11.2%, Size: 750 ml, Apple Varieties: Northern Spy, Ida Red, Golden Russett,
Crack Willow: Apple Wine, Alc./Vol. : 12.8%, Size: 750 ml, Apple Varieties: Northern Spy, Ida Red, Golden Russett, Price: $11.95
Ice Cider 2008: Ice Cider, Alc./Vol. : 10.1%, Size: 375 ml, Apple Varieties: Northern Spy, Ida Red, Golden Russett, Price: $19.95
Images courtesy Twin Pines Orchards
& Cider House Estate Winery
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review, Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Geographic Traveler, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine.
Forest City Beer Festival
is a small community in northwestern Lambton County, Ontario Canada, situated 8 km south of Kings Highway 21, along Lambton CR 79 (Former Kings Highway 79). The community began in the 1860s when farmer Nelson Southworth, a native of Vermont, agreed to donate land for the construction of a Grand Trunk Railway station, with the condition that he would be able to name it. Southworth chose the name "Thetford", as a way of honouring Thetford, Vermont, a community in his home state in the United States. A local clerk's poor hand writing was mistaken for the current spelling, which is how it first appeared on official records. The Thedford Raiders Hockey Team once held the World Record for Longest Continuous Hockey Game, which was also a fundraiser for juvenile diabetes. A plaque at the entrance of the town heralds it as the "Onion Capital of Canada".
A designated place within the municipality of Lambton Shores, Thedford had a population of 822 in the Canada 2006 Census.