I arrived at Flying Canoe’s microcidery on a snowy, cold morning. I was warmly greeted by Sandy the company’s assistant. He gave me a tour of the quite literally micro set-up, showed me how the cider is canned and even gave me a little sip. Everything about this company is so cool. Their cider is delicious, the perfect blend of sweet yet crisp. Plus, their cider isn’t packed with refined sugar but is rather sweetened naturally from the apples. Sadly, it’s not sold in NS so I can’t stock up at home. For those of you in Ontario, I highly encourage you to get sipping. Flying Canoe cider is made with a lot of love and they’re going to make it big. Support local businesses and tell your friends!
Pete Rainville, Chief Imaginer of Flying Canoe was kind enough to answer some questions for me and we could not be more thrilled to share the interview with you. His drive and determination is admirable. We love his story– his family is a phenomenal example of following your passions and choosing happiness.
TWT: Where are you from? What’s your story?
Pete: Born in Montreal. Raised in Ottawa and Vankleek Hill. Family is originally descendant of Beauport in the 1650s. Part went to work on and own orchards in Rougemont and part went to work in Gatineau to work in the timber trade for which the Flying Canoe story is based on.
TWT: Why cider?
Pete: It’s in my blood. I have been experimenting with making hard cider for over 20 years. Three years ago, we decided to become Ottawa’s first with our own unique style.
TWT: How did you choose your apples?
Pete: Because our apples and fresh pressed 100% Ontario apple cider is produced at the original McIntosh orchard, we use a high percentage of these for our hard cider. The remaining is a blend of apples that gives us the consistency and variables we need to make our unique flavour profile.
TWT: What inspired you to begin?
Pete: Having worked as a Chief Operating Officer for a major healthcare service provider for 23 years, it was time to pursue my passion to make something handcrafted and special with my skills as a cider maker.
TWT: What’s unique about your brand?
Pete: Like many other Ontario craft cider makers, we try to give people what they want in their hard cider and provide them with an alternative to high sugar, artificially flavoured products often using apple concentrates.
TWT: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced since starting?
Pete: Keeping up with explosive growth and demand for our different style of hard cider. People have taken to it strongly in our area and fiercely support local. We need to find a way to keep up with demand. It’s a nice problem to have but it’s still a problem that we need a solution for. We are continually looking at expansion opportunities.
TWT: What advice would you give to someone else who’d like to start their own business?
Pete: Safety is always first. Then your customers and quality control are paramount. Follow your passion and your dreams. Our family gave up a secured career in my work to do this and we are all onboard. Even with two kids and a mortgage like many people have, we are determined to success even with the extremely high tax rates that we pay to make our product. Make it personal and give it everything you have. Then don’t stop when you have reached your milestones, make them higher.
TWT: What’s next for Flying Canoe?
Pete: Expansion and hopefully successfully entering the LCBO warehouse system and major grocery stores. Then, maybe export to another province or country.
We were also told that Pete’s wife, Melissa has a huge part in the business and has really helped it flourish. Pete
So what are you waiting for? Crack a cold one and please drink responsibly.
**Thank you to Flying Canoe for allowing us to use their photos.