ASHDALE, N.S. — Tucked along a rural road in West Hants, along the appropriately named Meander River, an unassuming farm is expanding in a big way.
Campbell Bailey, media relations with Meander River Farm and Brewery and daughter of the family that owns the property, said that the recent purchase of three large tanks will allow them to meet the growing demand of their cider products.
The expansion, located within the original brewhouse, will produce approximately 25,000 litres of craft cider per year, much more than what was produced previously.
Bailey said the family didn’t want to expand too quickly, starting off small and slowly growing from there.
“We still use a three-barrel system, which is small… about 450 litres or less per batch,” she said. “We’re just trying to be as local as possible, the whole idea is being a self-sustaining farm.”
Bailey, who grew up in West Hants, said the farm has been in her family for decades, but they only started to get into brewing beers and other alcoholic beverages in 2014.
“A few years before that we started growing hops, which is what got us into the industry,” Bailey said, noting that they were selling their crops to local brewers, including Garrison in Halifax.
“We started to get to know a lot of the people in the industry and it was starting to boom. So we thought, hey we could do this ourselves,” she said.
“We eat and drink what we produce here, including our pigs that till the land, and they’re fed the spent grain that comes out of the beer and then they’re feeding us,” she said.
All of the apples that go into the cider are from local producers in the Hants County area, including Davison Farms, in Falmouth, and Mason Apples, in Windsor.
The first cider they made was in the spring of 2015.
“That was the craziest weather we’ve ever had, snowstorm after snowstorm, so we got tired of drinking beer and wanted to use one of our small fermenters to do a cider,” Bailey said.
“Since then we haven’t been able to keep up with the demand,” she said, adding that it takes longer to brew a batch of cider than it does for beer. “We knew that if we wanted to continue with cider we would have to expand.”
They’ve also planted a small orchard of their own, of cider specific varieties, which they’re hoping to use for an estate cider.
Bailey said if they were to expand further, they would likely look into building off-site, in order to keep the farm atmosphere intact.
“Because we do live here, we don’t want what looks like a giant factory on the farm,” she said. “If we did expand further, it would be in another location, like Windsor.”
They’re hoping to have their first batch of cider from the new equipment ready by Jan. 1, 2018.
“It’s a blend of five different apples; we’re hoping it’ll be our flagship product,” she said. “We’re not adding anything to it, no sweetness, no sugars or preservatives. It should create a nice, dry, crisp cider.”
Bailey said they’ve hired an additional person at the farm to help with the increase in production.
“We’re hoping we can meet the demand that’s being requested of us. Almost every time people come in, they’re asking for cider,” she said. “We’re hoping to be able to say ‘yes, we finally have some.’”
And although Meander River continues to grow, Bailey said the family would welcome more producers to the area.
“The industry is thriving right now and every community could use a small brewery,” she said