Where I come from, Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, we’ve heard of the name Chain Yard Urban Cidery. We Sack-villains, all twenty two thousand of us, have a few things in common. The first is that we don’t often speak so openly and with pride to be from Sackville. It could be my imagination, but it seems at times that many of my friends have some snide remark on the tips their tongues in reference to my home town. The second is that pride of origins thing we get when we learn that a couple of us have moved on up and out and built a thriving, successful business in town. And the third, is that during harvest season, as the leaves change colour, we take drives down the Evangeline Trail to a place we call “The Valley” and go apple picking.
Fine, the apple picking part may be a bit of poetic license. The last time I was apple picking I think I was about twelve years old. But for Chain Yard Urban Cidery in Halifax’s North End, they do it all the time. I stopped by there yesterday afternoon for a pint and a quick chat.
Okay… so they don’t actually PICK all their own apples at Chain Yard either but they do source their natural apple juice only ever from real Nova Scotia apples. As I understand it nearly all of their juice comes from the Annapolis Valley, from a variety of different apple growers (large and small) and they, “never ever use concentrate” to produce their cider.
We Nova Scotians like our beer. Take a drive through any rural town and you’ll find a local brewery putting a serious dent in the imported brew market in our province. But, it’s hard to imagine an adult beverage more Nova Scotian than an original Chain Yard Cider. I don’t care what Alexander Keith says.
Don’t believe me? Well let’s start here: Did you know Nova Scotia is one of the largest and best producers of apples in the country? Sure BC, Ontario and Quebec outdo us every year, by a lot, but our preferred micro climate means we pull more than our weight for sure. We planted the first apple tree in 1604 and less than a century later the valley had more than fifteen hundred apple trees on the go. Today in Canada we’re in 4th place. Nova Scotia devotes roughly seventy five hundred acres to growing apples and we produce 2.5 million bushels every year. We grow Cortland, Empire, Gravenstein, Idared, McIntosh, Red Delicious, Russet, Honey Crips, Sunrise, Northern Spy, Ambrosia, Golden Delicious, Jonagold and Spartans. Plus we have special crosses like “SweeTango” and “Grapple” (yeah.. It’s a grape flavored apple). Think thats enough apple knowledge?
Well its not. Consider for a moment what people think when they say Nova Scotia? Many people think of hiking in Cape Breton, fishing boats in narrow harbours, kilometers of beaches and Sidney Crosby. But if you leave out the agricultural mecca that we call the Annapolis Valley, with vineyard upon vineyard, farm land for weeks and apple orchards as far as the eye can see, some might say you’d be letting the best we have to offer pass you by.
There is something ironic and poetic about the idea of an Urban Cidery, especially in Nova Scotia. It’s one thing to stop by at lunch for a bite and a pint of what you will agree is a dangerously delicious cider, but it’s quite another to do so when you know a bit about their “Foundation” – which happens to be the name of their top selling cider.
The folks behind Chain Yard have been helping locals and visitors have a great time in Nova Scotia since long before their Urban Cidery opened its doors. It’s obvious they’ve converged the lessons learned across multiple tourism and hospitality disciplines from their past and distilled that education into an authentic, local, Nova Scotian experience.
Chain Yard was the name they chose for the business after noticing many of the properties in Halifax’s North End were complete with a chain link fence surrounding their yards. After musing, “I wonder when we’ll find our own chain yard,” the name stuck. If you are familiar with Halifax, you’ll recognize Chain Yard Cidery as “the old FRED.” (Which is something my Ontario friends remind me we do. We refer not to the thing but to what the thing it used to be). If that doesn’t do it for you, before it was FRED it was the Scotia Bank. There, we clear now? (Sigh) You’ll find it on the corner of North and Agricola.
If you want to be around people, a great downtown vibe, on the patio or in the tap room with a bit of energy, head down after 6:00pm. The place will stay lively until close. If you want to have a cider and a bite and write a blog post in the corner, head over for lunch and there’ll be lots of open seats.
It’s evident to me that roots are important to the people behind the Chain Yard brand, as they are to most Nova Scotians… AND apple trees for that matter. If you get the chance to talk to Mike or Susan, you’ll notice a humble passion and calm confidence to their enthusiasm for their great establishment. It’s a fun place to party too. The eclectic decor, contrasting steel chairs, warm wood bar and table tops give you the impression that it’s okay to come in, relax and enjoy yourself.
Many Nova Scotian hosts will invite their guest into their homes and remind them to leave their shoes on. We pile into the kitchen and lean on the counter tops. We put our feet up on coffee tables and we often don’t use coasters. We share food, memories, laughter and we usually do so with a beverage in one hand. Our apples are a Nova Scotian tradition that dates back four hundred, fourteen years. Our Annapolis Valley is beautiful and rural. Our provincial capital is lively and urban. On the corner of North and Agricola you’ll find a business that has taken several great parts of our heritage and created something brand new, original, concise and contemporary. If it were possible to bottle (or can) what it means to be “Nova Scotian,” combining history, tradition, culture, present, past and future, it may come out tasting a lot like Chain Yard’s “Foundation” apple cider. In their words, “easy drinking, with tropical notes, finishes clean with a hint of apple.”
Head over to Chain Yard for a pint, they’ve got Nova Scotia on tap.