Cider newbie BC Tree Fruits Broken Ladder

A new cider from the Okanagan

Cider is one of BC’s relatively undeveloped opportunities. However, that may be about to change, with the arrival of a new cider, Broken Ladder, made by BC Tree Fruits. BCTF is an Okanagan Valley co-operative of over 500 growers, established almost 80 years ago.

BCTF (and no, they’re not teachers) says Broken Ladder has been “years in the works” and is made at their in-house processing and bottling plant in Kelowna, BC.


Weaned on scrumpy

I grew up in cider country, in Somerset in the southwest of England. In fact, I experienced my first brush with drinking and ‘driving’, when a friendly policeman gently suggested that maybe my friend and I shouldn’t have been trying to cycle down the white line of the local main road.

It was a hot summer’s day and we’d ‘detoured’ out of bounds from school to grab a quick pint—of scrumpy cider. If you know about scrumpy, you’ll know that wasn’t a smart idea. But, luckily, we made it home safe; and undetected.

The first time I tasted what passed for cider in Canada (Growers) I was in shock. It was sweet and tasted very manufactured. For a while I consoled myself with Strongbow but eventually gave up on that, as it seemed to become increasingly sweet.


Cider Steps Up

Here in BC we’re blessed with a small number of excellent, smaller craft cideries. When Al Piggott opened Merridale Ciderworks, back in the 1990s, I was blown away by my very first taste: I thought I recognized something familiar. English cider apples have a distinct tartness but without being bitter.

Indeed, many of Piggott’s trees came from Long Ashton Research Station, literally about 10 miles away from where we’d lived in the UK.

More recently I’ve been excited by what others are up to, such as Saanich’s Sea Cider. Plus, now comes news that prolific fruit winery Elephant Island will soon open the Naramata Cider Co., on the may long weekend.

Overall, though, when it comes to widely available, more commercial cider there’s been a significant void in drier styles—that don’t taste like someone dropped in a bag of Aspartame.

Cider BCTF 1 2 cans and apple

Cider with a Refreshing Taste

Happily, it looks as if BC Tree Fruits Broken Ladder might just fill that void. It’s made from six different kinds of apples and has no sweeteners or other additives. Not surprisingly, apple is what you get on the nose, followed by a light, refreshing, more Gala than Granny Smith palate (although I have no idea which apples are used, as it’s not divulged). It’s crisp and clean, if not complex, which it doesn’t have to be.

At one point a simple style of Riesling crossed my mind. It’s also light and airy, nicely effervescent without being gassy. But don’t let it sit too long.

I think it’s styled right, even if, personally, I’d like something even drier. But I’ve learned enough about wine over the years that marketing eventually, almost always, wins the argument over sweetness. I hope they keep Broken Ladder just where it is. And come out with a tart, more dry option for us acid freaks.

There’s also a nice historical bent with the ‘Broken Ladder’ name—a reference to the old wooden ladders that were standard for picking. One more fun fact: aside from sacramental wines, one of BC’s earliest commercial ‘wine’ was a sparkling apple drink made from fallen fruit.

Look for BC Tree Fruits Broken Ladder Cider (5.5% ABV) at BC Liquor Stores and elsewhere as of April 1st. BCLS $11.49 per four pack.


Read an excellent history of cider in BC, at Merridale