From surplus fruit to future sips: Alberta brewery to craft a cider from excess backyard bounties

When Michael Forgie started wondering what to do with the bumper crop of apples in his own backyard, he turned to some Alberta businesses to find a delicious solution to a problem many were experiencing.

Edmonton fruit drive was a sweet solution for an excess of apples, pears and cherries

Michael Forgie had a problem — too many apples and nothing to do with them. Then he had an idea. 1:10

A couple of months ago, Michael Forgie noticed all the apples growing in his backyard, then he took another look and realized he didn't know what he'd do with all of them.

His bounty far exceeded what he needed for himself and letting them rot seemed like a waste. So Forgie got to thinking and realized there had to be plenty of other homes around Edmonton with the exact same problem. 

"I'm one person in a huge city that has so many apple trees in backyards. Whether it's crab-apples or bigger apples, I'm not alone," Forgie said. "What is everybody going to do with these apples?"

Forgie soon got the idea to collect backyard fruit from around the city to turn into a reclaimed apple cider.

Apples, pears and cherries from backyards around Edmonton were collected and donated to Highland Liquor and Blindman Brewing, which will turn the excess fruit into cider. (Supplied by Michael Forgie)

Being the operations director at Black Box Hospitality Group and Highlands Liquor, Forgie immediately thought of Blindman Brewing to help make this happen. The Lacombe-based brewery got on board with the plan, organizing a drop-off for people to bring their fruit.

"It feels like my heart, and a lot of our business's heart, is about the local economy and local food and the value chain and creating, not wasting," said Hans Doef, a co-founder of Blindman Brewing.

"With all these bumper-crop apple situations, we just wanted to help out with that and make this fruit go a longer way."

The idea isn't new. In Edmonton, the non-profit society Fruits of Sherbrooke has been turning "rescued" fruit into jams, jellies and condiments for the last decade.

Blindman Brewing and Highlands Liquor partnered to collect apples, pears and cherries from the public to turn into cider. (Supplied by Michael Forgie)

Last weekend, Blindman invited people to bring their extra backyard apples, pears and sour cherries to the parking lot at Fox Burger to collected for cider. A few days later, the fruit was taken to Steve and Dan's Fresh B.C. Fruit, an Edmonton company with an industrial-grade juicing machine.

People came from around the Edmonton area, including Beaumont and Fort Saskatchewan, to drop off their fruit. Doef said they even heard from people in Central Alberta and Calgary who wanted to donate, too.

Forgie was overwhelmed by the response.

"The majority of people are just super-excited to be making use of that fruit. They already use some of it for pies or jams or whatever, but there's just too much," Forgie said.

Now, the fruit will be pressed, turned into juice and then transported back to Blindman to be fermented, aged and conditioned.

Doef said there's still paperwork to go through to finalize this partnership and sell the final product, which will take about a year or more to produce. 

Forgie added that those who donated their surplus backyard fruit will be first in line once it's ready.

Hear how an over supply of backyard fruit is being used for a delicious community driven project. 5:30