Following a night of celebration over some homemade cider in 2013, the idea of Revel Cider Co. was spawned. Now in its second year of production, the Ontario-based cidery has since been making some of the most talked about ciders in Canada. Quite the accomplishment for its founder, now 23-year-old, college-dropout, Tariq Ahmed.
As an intern at Manorun Organic Farms in Lynden, Ontario, Ahmed got his start with cider during his summer vacation from the University of Guelph, where he studied plant science. It was here that Ahmed was introduced to homebrewing and where he first learned how to ferment. The farm was also where he fell in love with cidermaking.
“I really gained an appreciation for local ingredients as the farm was an organic farm that grew — and raised — a little bit of everything,” Ahmed says. “By the end of the summer, I’d experimented with mulberries, raspberries, strawberries, honey, rhubarb and countless other things.”
When Ahmed returned to school at the end of summer, he did so with a newfound obsession in tow. He immediately bought an old wine press and grinder, continuing to hone his skills and developing cider recipes along the way. When he learned of a business-pitching contest for undergrads at the university, he entered a homemade perry and won, giving him the funds he needed to start Revel Cider.
“That was really what forced me to think about this seriously as a business,” Ahmed says. “I never did end up graduating and I have no plans to go back.”
At only 20-years-old, Ahmed says he founded Revel Cider as a means to express both his creativity and his love for science. He had an overwhelming desire to create and on his own entrepreneurial terms. While he says he often hears about how expensive it can be to start your own company, he retaliates noting that it is more costly to be stuck in a job doing something you’re not passionate about.
Using his age and independence to his advantage, Ahmed says he is able to experiment and take risks many makers might not be able to or want to. “Constant innovation is my goal,” he says. “Many of the ciders available today are very boring and my innovation gives customers a choice. It also encourages other cideries to step their game up, pushing forward the industry as a whole.”
That youthful ambition has led Ahmed on a quest to drive the industry forward, using Revel Cider Co. as his vehicle. Lately, he’s been focused on creating tart, funky and sour ciders, inspired by the sour craze in the craft beer scene. Next year, he will also be experimenting with Cashmere, a new hop variety created at Washington State University. He’s also currently waiting on the keys to his own production facility, but in the mean time, he currently shares space with West Avenue’s Chris Haworth, who has served as a mentor to the young business owner.
Speaking on the future of the craft cider industry, Ahmed says that he is “most excited about being able to be creative without being held back by the stagnant thinking that most established industries have.” With the current craft cider industry being a relative blank slate, comparable to the state of craft beer 15 years ago, Ahmed is looking forward to the future, especially Revel Cider Co.’s role in it.
“I see Revel Cider being a company that is first and foremost about innovation,” he says. “I want to build an enduring company with people that are first and foremost focused on providing high-quality, innovative ciders. Profits are second to that.”