Recently, we had the chance to tour the incredibly scenic Truck 59 Ciderhouse, the only cider producer in West Kelowna. When we arrived we were greeted with a beautiful vista, with a lovely green field of apple trees in the foreground framing a gorgeous view of the lake. It would be a perfect spot for a picnic or even an outdoor wedding. In fact, Truck 59 has been selected to host the BC Cider Week’s Okanagan event in 2019, an event which has always sold out in previous years. They currently only offer tastings, but there are applications in the works to have a lounge license and an on-site food truck, turning the property into a hangout destination.
Shortly after arrival, we were greeted by the owners, Russ and Helen Johnson. They were very friendly and knowledgeable, happy to answer our many questions as they prepared and served our tastings.
Truck 59’s theme, if it wasn’t already obvious from the name and photos, is fire equipment. There is, of course, the namesake fire truck outside, acquired from the Squamish Fire Department, but also antique fire extinguishers, hoses, model trucks, and even an antique pull-down fire alarm. When asked why they chose such a unique theme, Russ revealed that he’d started collecting antique fire extinguishers shortly after moving to Kelowna after finding one for sale online, eventually building up more and more of a collection until he heard about and purchased a vintage fire engine from the Squamish Fire Department online. Starting a cidery was a perfect opportunity to move the collection out of the house and on display, he joked. Furnishing the ciderhouse has in fact invigorated the collection: he mentioned that several people had offered to donate their vintage fire extinguishers, and he is currently planning to acquire a 1938 open cab fire truck to convert into a food truck with pizza oven and/or smoker and roaster.
The idea of running a cidery at all was similarly somewhat accidental. The owners had bought farmland and a house adjacent to the current cidery with the intention of setting up a winery, but held off due to the difficulty in accessing the grounds. When the property on which the ciderhouse now sits came up for sale, they bought it immediately. Since both properties already had apples, they felt they should keep them and make cider rather than ripping them all out for wine grapes.
Each of us was offered a tasting of each of Truck 59’s ciders. They currently have 4:
- Classic Dry: A citrusy and refreshing dry cider made primarily of cider apples with a small amount of dessert apples (the sweet type you’d buy to eat) thrown in.
- Modern Semi-Dry: A slightly sweeter cider made with English and French classic cider apples, which contain more acid and tannins than modern ones, plus more dessert apples and a bit of added sugar.
- Cherry N’ Apple: This cider is made with dessert apples and infused with organic cherries. The hint of cherry adds a nice sweetness without an artificial taste.
- “Extinguisher”: A cider that is on the sweeter side, Extinguisher is made with dessert apples, and infused with B.C. raspberries.
Fans of dryer cider are in for a treat; each one we tasted was dry, fruity, and refreshing. Should any of them strike your fancy, you can purchase bottles on site. The Extinguisher cider is currently the only one in cans, and they intend to be able to fill growlers by next year.
Casey Broughton is a summer student visitor information counsellor at the Westbank Museum and Visitor Centre.