SPRING LAKE TOWNSHIP — Envision the best fall party you have ever attended.
Then add high-quality ciders and apple-infused brews from across the Midwest, local handcrafted food, a loud rock band, and, of course, lasers.
VanderFest 2013 offered that type of party to about 600 attendees who invaded Vander Mill’s grounds in Spring Lake on Saturday evening.
Despite an early rain delay, the festival went on, attracting guests of all ages, so many, in fact, organizers were worried the slick complimentary VanderFest glasses might run out.
Celebrating its fourth year, VanderFest has developed into the go-to festival for the emerging hard cider market, a market Vander Mill is sitting atop of. Organizers say VanderFest is a perfect balance of showcasing the company’s work and introducing people to newcomers in the industry.
“It’s awesome. I am loving it,” Organizer Christina Strange said as she took in the flurry of activity around her — a bonfire to her left, the laser-dominated rock show down the hill behind her and the circus tent of hard cider tasting in front of her. “We want to make people aware of who we are and where we are. We are a local company that loves to promote and work with other local companies.”
She said Vander Mill has found a sustainable niche in the market: Not too sweet like some national hard cider brands, yet not so dry that the fruit taste is sacrificed.
“You can have more than one without being overwhelmed by sweetness,” Strange said.
Her assessment was spot-on. A taste of Chapman’s Blend (6.8% ABV), a semi dry cider with mild carbonation, was pleasing but not too sweet.
Another notable cider at the festival was Ida Gold (4.8% ABV) from Tandem Ciders in Suttons Bay. The cider was very refreshing and sweet with a golden complexion.
Old Boys’ Brewhouse in Spring Lake and the new Big Lake Brewing Company in Holland also featured special brews incorporating an apple ingredient.
Ondrea Kamp and her husband, Matt, visited VanderFest for the first time and were impressed by the atmosphere the event offered. Her group agreed they would come back next year.
“A lot of people were quite friendly,” Ondrea said. “It’s a good couples event.”
Vander Mill Owner Paul Vander Heide and his wife, Amanda, enjoyed VanderFest with the rest of the crowd. Like Strange, Vander Heide said collaborating with breweries, wineries and cideries makes VanderFest one of the best events along the lakeshore.
“We want to get as many of those people as we can,” he said.