Broken Spoke Cider Co. became Edmonton’s first craft cidery in July 2020. The cidery is the brainchild of husband-and-wife team James and Jenny Black and their friend (and former neighbour) Nick Ford. They opened in the middle of a global pandemic, after several months of delays due to licensing and civic bureaucracy, but the local response was immediate and welcoming: Broken Spoke Cider has found a happy home on drink menus and in liquor stores across the city.
“In a weird way, the pandemic has given us the opportunity to do this,” says Ford. “James travelled for work pre-COVID, as did I. I played a lot of soccer and had a lot of hobbies that involved collecting in groups. COVID has taken that away and redirected that time into creating Broken Spoke.”
The first seed of Broken Spoke was planted five years ago, when co-founder Ford started looking for ways to use apples from his backyard tree. As fans of cider, Ford and Black decided to take a shot at making their own.
“We wondered if we could make something good off my tree and the answer was a resounding no,” Ford says. “For a good cider, you need a vast array of apples because, if you only use one type, you only get one flavour. Strongbow uses dozens of different types of apples. Our juice blend is 16 to 18 different apple varieties.”
Broken Spoke’s signature juice blend is the base for all its ciders. Its lineup includes the original — a straightforward cider that’s just slightly off-dry and very thirst-quenching — as well as a The Hop cider (dry-hop) and a ginger cider. At the time of writing, it is also working on a limited-run seasonal offering named Winter Rider made with cranberries and rosemary.
The apple juice comes from eastern Canada, mainly Ontario, though the cidery is in the process of developing partnerships with orchards in British Columbia, too. The owners considered shipping the raw apples here and doing all the processing themselves, but they realized this would be too cost prohibitive and labour intensive. Instead, the orchards send their juice to Broken Spoke for blending, fermenting and packaging.
“It’s a lot less waste this way, because the orchards can re-purpose the leftovers from crushing and pressing the apples,” Black explains. “We are also one of the first cideries in Alberta to produce in our own facility and not just have our complete cider made elsewhere and then shipped to us and canned.”
Broken Spoke’s name came from a cider-fuelled brain-storm session. The label – which features a stylized aerial shot of a cyclist — was designed by Jenny’s friend and former colleague, Adnan Huseinovic.
All three co-founders are avid cyclists. “Jenny is casual, James is technical and I’m radical,” Ford says. James is a competitive triathlete who represented Team Canada at the World Triathlon Finals in Australia in 2018 (and was supposed to do so again in 2020 right here in Edmonton, though that was postponed to 2021). Ford is an all-season cyclist and fat bike enthusiast who pedals year-round. Jenny says she enjoys going for leisurely neighbourhood rides.
The Broken Spoke team has been blown away by the immediate support of the local community.
“Our relationships with local restaurants have been great,” Jenny says. “We formed a great community in a short amount of time; I think it would have taken a lot longer if it wasn’t during a pandemic. We’re all in the same boat trying to keep our small businesses afloat and support each other.”
This article appears in the March 2021 issue of Edify.