SPRING LAKE TOWNSHIP — Paul Vander Heide knows the best way to profit is to get patrons walking into the door of his West Michigan cider mill.
Donuts and desserts? Check. Hard cider for adults and regular cider for the kids? Check. Beer? Check. Food? Check.
Friday evening marked the launch of that last piece with the grand opening of Vander Mill’s kitchen.
“This is the grand unveiling of our menu,” Vander Heide said. “This is the first summer we’re doing food. We really want to encourage people to come out here to have a cider.”
The menu features food that is 100 percent local and farm fresh. Take the Michigan Grilled Cheese — cheese from Coopersville, bacon thick sliced on site and bread from the nearby Village Baker.
The menu keeps it simple: Appetizers, soups, salad and sandwiches (served with donut chips). A few of the popular sandwiches served Friday were Cider Braised Pulled Pork, Smoked Turkey, Michigan Cherry Chicken Salad and VanderLoaf.
The event was celebrated with music by Organissmo. In addition, patrons had the opportunity to try Vander Mill’s new beer, which debut at the Michigan Brewers Guild’s Winter Beer Festival in February. Currently, the store has two on tap — Half Pint Lager and Chapman’s Golden Strong.
“They’re an addition to diversify,” said Joel Brower, cider maker, brewer and operations manager.
Brower, who started as a home brewer, said the Half Pint Lager is appropriately named, as it was designed to mix with the hard apple cider (half pint of each) to create a snakebite. Meanwhile, the Chapman’s Golden Strong uses Belgian yeasts and is fermented with 20 percent apple cider.
“Adding cider fits the profile of the beer,” Brower said, saying that most fruit beers add fruit flavor at the end whereas he ferments it during the brewing process.
“Joel came into this business as a brewer,” Vander Heide said. “He understands building a beer recipe. At the same time, he knows what fruit does. We’re making fruit beers, not fruity beers.”
For Vander Heide, the diversification is reason enough to stop into Vander Mill, located at 14921 Cleveland St. The store is open during the summer Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday noon to 7 p.m.
“The biggest thing for us is we’re here to come and drink a cider, drink a beer,” he said.