The History of Cider in Kelowna: From Past to Present

A couple picks apples at a u-pick orchard.
Kari Medig

In British Columbia's fertile lands, Kelowna has a storied past that intertwines deeply with the art of cider-making. This piece explores how this craft evolved, transforming from a humble farmstead staple into a celebrated emblem of the region’s rich agricultural heritage.

Early Beginnings of Apple Cultivation in Kelowna

A pivotal moment in Kelowna's cider chronicle occurred in 1918 when George Washington Ward, inspired by his English roots, began planting cider apples. Ward's endeavour marked the first serious foray into cider-making in the Okanagan Valley. However, this initial bloom of cider production faced challenges. With the rise of industrialization, beer production began to overshadow traditional cider-making practices. The focus shifted towards easily transportable ingredients that thrived in urban environments, leading to a gradual decline in cider apple orchards.

The construction of a massive irrigation canal in 1923, spearheaded by B.C. premier John Oliver, transformed Kelowna into a veritable fruit bowl. This development was crucial, as it provided the necessary resources to cultivate a variety of fruits, including the essential cider apples.

The Twentieth Century and Decline of Traditional Cider Making

The mid-20th century witnessed a marked reduction in farm-based cider production. The changing tastes and industrial advancements favoured beer, and as a result, many of the region's cider apple orchards were uprooted. In their place grew sweet table apples and grapevines, more aligned with the evolving market demands. This shift signalled a temporary retreat of cider-making from Kelowna's agricultural landscape.

The Modern Cider Movement in Kelowna

In recent years, there's been a renaissance in cider appreciation, fuelled by a growing interest in craft and artisanal beverages. Kelowna has been at the forefront of this revival, with local cideries like Scenic Road Cider Co. and Ward’s Hard Cider rekindling traditional methods. These modern cider makers are blending time-honoured techniques with innovative approaches, creating ciders that are complex, authentic, and distinctly Okanagan.

These cideries not only honour the legacy of the past but are also setting new standards in cider production. They utilize a mix of dessert and heritage cider apple varieties, each contributing its unique flavour profile to the ciders. This blend of old and new is a demonstration of Kelowna's adaptability and respect for its roots.

Cider Varieties and Production Techniques

Kelowna's cideries are distinguished by their diverse range of apple varieties and meticulous production techniques. From heirloom varieties that hark back to the early days of cider-making to modern dessert apples, each type brings its unique taste and texture to the final product. The process of cider-making in Kelowna is a careful blend of art and science, involving selective apple picking, precise pressing, and patient fermentation.

Cideries as Entertainment Destinations

Today, Kelowna's cideries are more than production sites but also destinations. Offering more than just tastings, these establishments provide a glimpse into the region's rich agricultural history and the craft of cider-making. Visitors can tour orchards, witness the cider-making process first-hand, and enjoy the fruits of this labour in a beautiful setting.


The journey of cider in Kelowna, from its humble beginnings to its current status as a celebrated craft, mirrors the region's own growth and adaptation. It's a tale of persistence, innovation, and respect for the land – elements that continue to define Kelowna’s cider-making tradition. As this tradition thrives, it cements cider not just as a beverage, but as a vital part of Kelowna’s cultural and agricultural narrative.