Niagara College reaps hard-core success at international cider competition

Nov 25, 2019 | News & Media

For craft cider lovers, Niagara College is proving to be the apple of their eyes.

The College’s Teaching Winery had a fruitful showing at the recent 2019 U.S. Open Cider Championship, with two gold-medal-winning ciders and a third place overall ranking.

Known as one of the largest cider competitions on the continent, the recent sixth annual championship drew more than 300 entries from the United States and Canada, as well as from Europe and the United Kingdom. The top three ciders in 24 categories were awarded gold, silver and bronze respectively; and the top three cideries overall were announced, with NC tied for third place.

NC’s popular Cider 101 captured the top spot in the Modern Cider Dry category, while the College’s single batch Brut Cider won the Brut Cider category. NC also made the competition’s list of the Top 10 Most Creative Cider Names for its ‘Peach Better Have My Honey Cider.’

Dow Scoggins, director of the U.S. Open Beer, Cider and Whiskey Championships, applauded NC’s standout achievements.

“It’s truly amazing when a college can be only one of two cideries to win two gold medals at the U.S. Open Cider Championship, the second largest cider competition in North America,” said  Scoggins. “Also, what is equally amazing is that Niagara College’s Cider 101 is the only cider to win three gold medals at the U.S. Open.”

The wins were welcome news at the College’s Teaching Winery.

“When it comes to beverage production at the NC Teaching Winery, the apple doesn’t fall far from the vine,” said Steve Gill, general manager of NC’s Learning Enterprises. “Winning two gold medals and ranking in the top three overall at an international cider competition is a testament to how Canada’s first commercial Teaching Winery has not only built a reputation as a leader in the wine industry, but in the craft cider industry as well.”

“This recognition validates the high-quality of the ciders we take pride in creating, whether it’s our consistently award-winning Cider101 or our single batch Brut Cider,” said College winemaker Gavin Robertson, who has been leading cider production at the Teaching Winery since Cider 101 was first introduced in 2015.

The Teaching Winery has been rolling out Cider 101 ever since, as well as varying seasonal ciders as part of its Single Batch Cider series, launched in 2017. Robertson noted that the Teaching Winery continues to ramp up its cider production efforts, with the recent purchase of a new apple mill and cider press which will enhance its capacity to work with small batches.

“Cider has been growing in popularity since we first introduced it to our Teaching Winery four years ago. We are now making between nine to 12 different batches per year,” noted Robertson. “With many wine students who have been showing interest in cider, we are pleased to be able to expose those working in our Teaching Winery to the production of award-winning ciders.”

This is Cider 101’s third gold medal in four years at the U.S. Open, after winning gold in 2017 and 2016. Cider 101 also won bronze (traditional apple category) at the Ontario Cider Awards in 2016. The modern, approachable cider is fresh, vibrant and fruit-forward, made from locally-grown apples, with 5.5% ABV.

For Brut Cider, this is its first award and first competition entry. The Single Batch cider was released last summer and will be available only while supplies last. Made from Russet apples, it was naturally carbonated and bottle fermented. The result: a traditional cider with complex characters and 9% ABV.

Staff from the NC Teaching Brewery as well as students and graduates from the College’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program were involved as part of the judging panel, when the final judging took place in Buffalo, New York. They were led by NC Brewmaster professor Jon Downing who is the director of judging for the U.S. Open beer, cider and whiskey championships. Since judging for this competition is blind, judges do not know which ciders they are tasting.

Downing noted that judging the cider competition was a valuable experience for students who participated.

“For Brewmaster students, it gives them experience judging a different fermented beverage that has some overlap as far as ingredients such as fruits, spices and hops,” said Downing. “I think a broader education helps any student getting into the food and beverage, and hospitality industries. Brew students who know about distilling and wine would certainly pad their resumes.”

For information and complete results from the U.S. Open Cider Championship, visit

Cider 101 and Single Batch Ciders are available for purchase at the Wine Visitor + Education Centre retail store, located at NC’s Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake (135 Taylor Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake). Visit

Niagara College’s Teaching Winery is the first and only commercial teaching winery in Canada. It is located at the College’s Daniel J. Patterson Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus, along with the NC Teaching Brewery and – the latest addition in September 2018 – the NC Teaching Distillery which were also the first of their kind in Canada.

Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit


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