Yip Cider & their groundbreaking new orchard production
Yip. Its name and the face on the cider’s colourful labels come from Yip Mackay. He bought the farm adjacent to his father’s camp and started planting apple trees in 1964. Yip always made his own cider and would share it with family and neighbouring farms. His son, Chas, took over the family orchard in 1980, and the family has continued its tradition of apple farming and cider making ever since.
Officially launched in 2017, Yip’s original bone-dry cider quickly became well respected, and the family started modernizing production methods. “Trellises are the new norm for apple orchards, so we’re trying them out in our new orchard,” explains Chas’ son Joe, head cidermaker. “Efficiency is the main reason for this planting style.”
Although this method comes with a much higher upfront cost, it yields apples in three years rather than eight. “Production is faster because the smaller rootstock trees focus their energy on growing fruit, not wood,” he explains. “Trellis rootstocks, known as dwarf rootstocks, are held up by the trellis system. Not only does it produce fruit earlier, it also requires less maintenance as the apples are easier to prune and harvest. These trees are not as big as the ones in old orchards on semi-standard rootstocks.”
“Trellis systems are not commonly used for growing only cider apples, and orchards exclusively for cider apples are not common in our region. Here, most ciders are produced from apples that get rejected on the sorting line for grocery stores.”
Yip’s high density orchard is young , which makes it difficult to envision. “We will prune the trees to promote a central leader, which will reach the top wire of the trellis,” Joe explains. “After about three years, once the tree is full height, we will let the trees produce fruit. This helps to ensure the tree puts its energy towards growing and not producing fruit right away. Once the orchard is mature it will look like long apple hedges.”
The Yip family chose apple varieties strictly for cider production. They include Golden Russet, and varieties from the United Kingdom, such as Dabinette, Kingston Black and Bulmers Norman. “Golden Russet is great for cider,” says Joe. “It has grown here for a long time. It has good sugar, tannins and flavour.” They already produce a delicious single varietal Golden Russet cider, but supply is limited.
“The UK apples will provide some different tannins. We will use them to make unique ciders that will really expand peoples’ cider palates.”
The notion of terroir is key to the wine world, and it is also important for cider. “An orchard’s terroir dictates the apple varieties that can be grown,” explains Joe. “Our region is great for growing hardy apples, which we like to use for cider. Our orchard has an even better growing environment than the rest of New Brunswick since it is located on the Saint John River — a little microclimate within the province. Our new orchard slopes southeast, which is good for capturing the morning sun to dry up the foliage early in the day.”
Like planting a new vineyard for wine, the hardest part is waiting for the plants to produce. In three to four years, we will how this new approach affects Yip’s ciders. I am sure Yip would be impressed.