Banjo Cider: A 2020 Success Story

Jessie Davis

Their unfiltered, gluten-free ciders feature bold, crisp flavors ranging from bone dry to medium dry. They've even become a favourite for folks like me who usually don't like cider at all...

Over the years, Patty Ewaschuk and her partner Tony Brown have farmed everything from asparagus to chicken to beef. Recently, they’ve found their flow with Banjo Cider, an all-natural cidery just a few minutes from beautiful downtown Uxbridge.

“We’ve always kind of done agricultural projects on a hobby scale,” says Patty Ewaschuk, co-founder of Banjo Cider. “We have these really old apple trees on our property, and in 2016 or 2017 Tony said, ‘We should just make cider!’”

Since their initial foray into cider-making, Patty and Tony’s hobby has blossomed into a full-fledged business. They now feature multiple ciders, a bottle shop, and a tasting room that opened in February of 2020. They have since added an online store that went live in March of 2020, and a gorgeous seasonal patio and live music venue that opened the following July. The bottle shop currently features a walk-up window to maintain social distancing measures and ensure everyone’s safety.

“The patio was not in our plans at all,” Patty says as she explains that the spot had been an overgrown area they didn’t think much about. When COVID-19 restrictions hit Durham Region, the spot became a plain old parking lot to accommodate folks picking up their orders from the online store. However, as summer progressed and the province settled into its new normal, it became apparent that a Banjo patio was a logical next step.

Boasting three fire pits and peppered with propane heaters, the patio remained open well into autumn as eager clientele filled the tables and spilled over into the grassy BYOC (Bring Your Own Chair) area alongside it.

In its short run this year, the patio played host to a myriad of talented artists playing behind a protective glass wall, like Lindy Vopnfjörð, Darrin Davis, and even CROW, Patty’s own project alongside bandmate Tamara Williamson. When Springtide Music Festival evolved into smaller pop-up shows around town in lieu of the usual weekend-long downtown festival, Banjo Cider’s patio became a perfect venue.

Last year marked an interesting first for their cider-making as well, when Patty and Tony put out a call for apples from all over Uxbridge and surrounding areas to use in their Citizens’ Cider Project. Residents were invited to bring any unsprayed, ripe apples they wouldn’t otherwise use. The founders, along with their close-knit staff, assessed the fruit for usability, weighed them, and purchased them at a fair price ($10 per bushel or approximately $0.25 per pound.) These apples were then ultimately pressed into their Citizens’ Cider. 2019’s batch yielded over 1,000 litres and is currently available for purchase from the Banjo Cider Bottle Shop.

In 2018, they started planting an orchard with true cider varieties of apples, like Kingston Black, Yarlington Mill and Dabinet. Surprisingly, cider apples are actually fairly rare thanks to mass tree destruction during the Prohibition era, and tend to be difficult to find on the market. Cider apples have ideal combinations of
tartness, bitterness, and sweetness for cidermaking.

“We use organic growing practices in the orchard,” says Patty.  She explains that they use compost as fertilizer, mulch, organic mats for weed suppression, and other natural growing methods to ensure their orchard’s health.

The trees should yield usable apples in 2021, and the first batches of the bubbly beverage should be available in 2022. For the time being, Banjo Cider obtains their organic apples from other local sources.

In keeping with traditional cider-making methods, the Banjo folks use longer fermentation and aging processes. Their unfiltered, gluten-free ciders feature bold, crisp flavours ranging from bone dry to medium dry. They don’t sweeten with refined sugar or artificial sweeteners, opting instead for all-natural local ingredients like honey, maple syrup, or dark cherry juice if they do sweeten a batch. They’ve even become a favourite for folks like me who usually don’t like cider at all, which Patty suggests might be credited to the low sugar and the traditional cidermaking methods.

Their cider might be low in sugar, but Banjo Cider’s 2020 success story has been nothing short of sweet.

To learn more about Banjo Cider, visit the links below:

NOTE: At the time of publishing, Durham Region is in a province-wide shutdown with extensive measures in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. Residents are encouraged to stay at home with exception to essential trips, wash hands frequently, wear a mask and physically distance from others.

We continue to publish these stories to encourage you to explore these businesses and communities online and through social media. When possible, please order for safe curbside pick-up if offered, and prepare to explore these areas once they are able to safely reopen.