Cider Week GR

The cumulation of Grand Rapids first ever Cider Week ended with a Festival held at a location just as iconic as the Michigan apples our (many, many) ciders are made of—the Grand Rapids Blue Bridge.

The Cider Week GR Blue Bridge Festival was held on Saturday, April 22nd from 2:00 p.m.- 7:00 p.m., complete with live music, over 15 different Michigan cider makers, and a steady stream of sunshine and laughter.

The Michigan Cider Association, formed in December of 2014, exists to “provide short- and long-term significance and value to all members through the promotion and support of Michigan cider.” Michigan boasts the second highest number of US cider producers in the US, and the industry as a whole is expected to continue to grow.

With a venue just as unique as the cider companies representing Michigan Cider, the Blue Bridge was a perfect spot to mingle and enjoy the beautiful weather. Attendance was most likely higher than initially anticipated, and for good reason. For $25, attendees got to take home a commemorative glass and try ten 8oz pours of a wide variety of ciders from across our state.

Cider Week GR

There seems to be a strong trend towards actually tasting the sweetness of the apples itself, without artificially (and overly) enhancing the natural sugars present. I was pleased to be able to try a variety of dry and semi-dry ciders from companies like Acme Cider. David Winick & Lori Tauer started Acme for a simple reason—they couldn’t find any mass produced ciders they actually liked. “People who drank our ciders said they loved it, so we decided to impart on the business part of it. We recently got our license, and we will be building out production, and this is the first event we’ve distributed out of,” shared Tauer

“Our ciders are full of love,” laughed Winick, “We spent a lot of time creating a dry cider with a good balance, and some depth to it. You know, if it pleases us, we feel it’s going to please other people, and that’s the bottom line. That’s why we do it.”

Farmhaus Cider co-owner, John Behrens, made it a point to treat attendees to one-offs and unique, summer-centric beverages. “We brought a bunch of different ciders we don’t usually distribute, like our Hop Crop, (a dry hopped cider with a big, bold mouthfeel) and our Too Cuc, a cucumber rosemary cider, perfect for sitting out on a patio—or a bridge.”

The style of ciders ran the gamut, from the Tequila Sunset Cider, a tequila barrel aged w/ blood orange offering from Acme to Cellarman’s Coffee Cider, made with Ethiopian Limu Coffee and Star Thistle Honey.

As a first year event, it seemed to be a success for both the attendees and the cideries offering their beverages. If you didn’t get a chance to attend, make sure you seek out some of the Michigan made ciders distributed throughout the state.

 
Sietsema Orchards & Cider Mill, The Peoples Cider Co., Vander Mill, Pux Cider, Farmhaus Cider Co., Tandem Ciders, Blake’s Hard Cider Co.,Northville Winery and Brewing Company, St. Julian Winery, 45 North Vineyard & Winery, Starcut Ciders, Virtue Cider, Uncle John’s Cider Mill (Official Page), Suttons Bay Ciders, Corey Lake Orchards, Robinette’s, Cherry Creek Winery , Acme Cider

 

Grey skies and cooler temperatures couldn’t dampen the spirits of attendees at this year’s Vander Fest, the yearly celebration hosted by Michigan’s highest volume cidery, Vander Mill of Spring Lake.

The festival takes place in early October and was conceived as a celebration of the cidery’s success in this up-and-coming industry.

“One of our founders, Paul Vander Heide, wanted to find a way to celebrate the success of their business with their friends and fans, and that’s what Vander Fest is,” says Alexa Seychel, one of Vander Mill’s enthusiastic sales team, self-named “cider slingers.” Festival guests were treated to local food truck options The Standard Pizza Company and GBQ BBQ, as well as burgers and brats from Spring Lake’s own Top Butcher Shoppe.

As Vander Mill’s success has grown, so has the event. This year featured many of the state’s other top cideries, including Blake’s Hard Cider, Northville Winery & Brewery, Uncle John’s Cider Mill, Tandem Ciders and Sietsema Orchards & Cider Mill. Also represented were many of Michigan’s well-respected microbreweries, like Greenbush, Kuhnhenn, and Dark Horse.

The event also had a distinct local flavor, with West Michigan breweries & cideries being well-represented by the likes of New Holland Brewing Company, Odd Side Ales, Big Lake Brewing, Unruly Brewing Company, and Virtue Ciders.

“We made an effort to include all local places that we have a relationship with,” Seychel said.

Vander Mill’s growth has made them the largest craft cidery in the Midwest, and the cidery distributes to Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.

As a testament to Vander Mill’s growing regional success, a number of well-reputed out-of-state breweries were at the festival, some making a rare appearance in Michigan. Among the out-of-state guests were Perennial Artisan Ales (Missouri), Revolution (Illinois), Sun King (Indiana), Allagash (Maine), Lagunitas (Illinois), Great Lakes (Ohio), and Off-Color (Illinois).

The final months of 2015 are shaping up to be big ones for Vander Mill. The cidery’s new 42,000 square-foot facility in Grand Rapids should be near completion by the end of the year.

“It’s going to allow us to quadruple production, at the very least,” Seychel told guests of one of the facility tours at Vander Fest.

The event was, of course, a great opportunity for Vander Mill to showcase its own ciders. Along with well-known staples, such as Totally Roasted, Blue Gold and Ginger Peach, were a number of special batches. These included Yellow Brick Rhode, made from Rhode Island greening and gold rush apples and aged in American white oak barrels for a year, a cyser called Besieged, a barrel-aged mead and cider combination, and L.L. Cool Bayes, a “harvest cider” wet-hopped with Columbus hops.

“We’ve been very successful letting the brand name speak for itself,” says Seychel, “and we’re very proud of that.”

ADA – The unseasonably cooler temperatures and persistent light rain didn’t keep people away from stepping onto the grounds of Sietsema Orchards and Cider Mill on Saturday. The Hard Cider Run kicked off its second year at Sietsema to combine a love of co-owners Courtney Walker and Erik Young, hard cider, with running.

“It is a booming industry now, and a lot of people are just now getting into the scene,” said Walker. “Hosting this run on different orchards allows people to try cider they never have before and also offers a lot of exposure for the cidery.”

Sietsema hosted the inaugural Hard Cider Run in West Michigan last year.  In spring and summer of this year, the race made its way into two other states and four additional cities. Uncle John’s Cider Mill in Lansing, Mich.welcomed the Hard Cider Run onto their land this past year, as well as: Doc’s Draft Hard Ciders in Warwick Valley, N.Y., Albemarle Ciderworks in Charlottesville, Pa.and Jack’s Hard Cider in Gettysburg, Pa..

The presentation began by walking through a large red barn standing in the middle of rows and rows of apple trees. The smell of fresh donuts filled the air, along with a tangible energy and wonder of what was to be expected. The light shining from the back of the barn led participants to the rest of the group herding together sharing the same excitement.

Participants from all over came together for their own special reasons. They included people who like to run in as many races as possible, and people like Kyle Liechey, who was running it simply because he finally wanted to run a 5K. Regardless of their motivations, this race welcomed them all.

“I ran this race today because in the fleeting days of summer with the signs of the autumn harvest bountiful and amongst us, we are engaging in our community around good drinks and good people,” said race participant Chris Frederick.

“I ran it for the cider. That is it. The delicious, crisp, refreshing cider at the end made it all worth it,” said race participant Katie Grace. “Beer at the end of races sits too heavy for me, but cider—now that is a brilliant idea!”  

The trail was in muddy conditions, making some parts difficult to feel like you weren’t falling. Participants enjoyed the unique symmetry of running through the very orchards that produced the hard cider they would enjoy at the end of the race.

Post race, shuffling feet made their way to the hard cider to get their own taste in an included “The Hard Cider Run” glass.  Fresh donuts were available to accompany the cider and couldn’t stay on the shelf long enough—a delicious way to end a memorable race.  

 

If the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is true, then the people who attended the Cider Dayze fest in Armada can look forward to many, many days of good health and no doctors’ bills.

Hosted by Blake’s Orchard and Cider Mill, Cider Dayze was the first of its kind in southeast Michigan. Andrew Blake of Blake Farms said that his orchard was thrilled to host the event.

“We wanted to have a cider supportive event at our facility, and this was the perfect opportunity because we could also help out charities,” he said. All proceeds will go to local, Michigan-based charities.

“We have a great lineup of local cideries and breweries,” Blake continued. “We wanted to bring everyone together for kind of a bonding weekend and to get people excited about cider. This event allows to showcase most of the (cider) producers in Michigan.”

The list of participating vendors was impressive, and it included Blake’s Hard Cider Company, Uncle John’s Hard Cider, Vander Mill, Tandem Ciders, Sage Creek Winery, and Farmhaus Cider Company. Breweries were also represented by Perrin Brewing Company, and Roak Brewing Company.

Some of the standouts included:

  • Blake’s Apple Lantern: Made with roasted pumpkin and molasses, this beer reminded me of apple and pumpkin pie with a layer of alcohol
  • Fieldstone’s Ginger Peach Apple: This cider was perfectly balanced. Ginger sometimes overwhelms, but it mixed perfectly with the tart apple and sweet peach flavors
  • Short’s Brewing Company brought along several offerings from Starcut Ciders, including Erraticus, which was brewed with wild yeast. Attendee Ken Anderson said, “(The yeast) gave this dry, tasty beer a wonderful touch of sour that only wild yeast can give.”
  • Sage Creek’s Winery offered several different kinds of wine, including its Pomegranate Wildberry. A dark red, this wine was sweet enough to please a choosy sweet tooth like myself
  • New Holland’s Ichabod: For my first “fall” beer, this was perfect as usual: pumpkin spiced but not overwhelming and a perfect match to the ciders that I had

In addition to the beverages, the event featured talks given by Andrew Blake and other experts in the field.

“We wanted to show people different cider profiles that you can get from cider and also how to make it,” said Blake.

Cider Dayze also included an outstanding selection of food from local vendors. The hosting orchard had gourmet hot dogs, and attendees could also get eats from Mulefoot Gastropub and Bad Brad’s BBQ.

But the cider was the star of the show. Luckily, the forecast for scrumptious apple cider is good. Blake reported that for southeast Michigan, “the apple crop has been very good this year.” While some orchards in northern Michigan had some winter damage, his orchard “has a very nice crop this year.”

The rain could not dampen enthusiasm or attendance, as crowds swelled as the event went on and more and more people enjoyed the wide variety of fermented beverages.

“This is the perfect way to get producers together in one place and to kick off the fall right!” Blake said.

If the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is true, then the people who attended the Cider Dayze fest in Armada can look forward to many, many days of good health and no doctors’ bills.
Hosted by Blake’s Orchard and Cider Mill, Cider Dayze was the first of its kind in southeast Michigan. Andrew Blake of Blake Farms said that his orchard was thrilled to host the event.
“We wanted to have a cider supportive event at our facility, and this was the perfect opportunity because we could also help out charities,” he said. All proceeds will go to local, Michigan-based charities.
“We have a great lineup of local cideries and breweries,” Blake continued. “We wanted to bring everyone together for kind of a bonding weekend and to get people excited about cider. This event allows to showcase most of the (cider) producers in Michigan.”
The list of participating vendors was impressive, and it included Blake’s Hard Cider Company, Uncle John’s Hard Cider, Vander Mill, Tandem Ciders, Sage Creek Winery, and Farmhaus Cider Company. Breweries were also represented by Perrin Brewing Company, and Roak Brewing Company.
Some of the standouts included:

  • Blake’s Apple Lantern: Made with roasted pumpkin and molasses, this beer reminded me of apple and pumpkin pie with a layer of alcohol
  • Fieldstone’s Ginger Peach Apple: This cider was perfectly balanced. Ginger sometimes overwhelms, but it mixed perfectly with the tart apple and sweet peach flavors
  • Short’s Brewing Company brought along several offerings from Starcut Ciders, including Erraticus, which was brewed with wild yeast. Attendee Ken Anderson said, “(The yeast) gave this dry, tasty beer a wonderful touch of sour that only wild yeast can give.”
  • Sage Creek’s Winery offered several different kinds of wine, including its Pomegranate Wildberry. A dark red, this wine was sweet enough to please a choosy sweet tooth like myself
  • New Holland’s Ichabod: For my first “fall” beer, this was perfect as usual: pumpkin spiced but not overwhelming and a perfect match to the ciders that I had

In addition to the beverages, the event featured talks given by Andrew Blake and other experts in the field.
“We wanted to show people different cider profiles that you can get from cider and also how to make it,” said Blake.
Cider Dayze also included an outstanding selection of food from local vendors. The hosting orchard had gourmet hot dogs, and attendees could also get eats from Mulefoot Gastropub and Bad Brad’s BBQ.
But the cider was the star of the show. Luckily, the forecast for scrumptious apple cider is good. Blake reported that for southeast Michigan, “the apple crop has been very good this year.” While some orchards in northern Michigan had some winter damage, his orchard “has a very nice crop this year.”
The rain could not dampen enthusiasm or attendance, as crowds swelled as the event went on and more and more people enjoyed the wide variety of fermented beverages.
“This is the perfect way to get producers together in one place and to kick off the fall right!” Blake said.

GRAND RAPIDS — Cider throughout the U.S. is booming. But in Michigan?

“It’s been pretty fast [growing] for a good three years running now,” said Paul Vander Heide, president of the Michigan Cider Association (MCA) and owner of Vander Mill in Spring Lake.

The Michigan cider industry is growing so fast that Vander Heide teamed up with several other cider producers from across the state, to produce the first-ever Michigan Cider Week, which ran through Sunday.

The week culminated with the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition, April 10-12.

“A lot of Michigan producers that are here are experiencing growth rates beyond what national producers are,” said Vander Heide, pointing to the fact that national producers are receiving average growth rates of 60-70 percent, while Michigan producers are often far exceeding that number.

The week-long event, held in Grand Rapids, highlighted the MCA’s 12 producer members, as part of in-store tastings, education seminars and cider dinners, all of which introduced new and interesting ciders to the public.

According to Vander Heide, creativity is blossoming and helping to form new cider drinkers state-wide.

“Dry hopping is becoming really popular; we’re seeing a lot of producers start to use hops and we’re seeing a lot more creativity,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of success in the consumer really enjoying that — people are seeking something a little different.”

While sweet ciders are still very much prevalent in the industry, producers are starting to make ciders that incorporate new flavors.

Blake’s Hard Cider Co., which entered the market roughly a year and a half ago, has already started to feature ciders towards this new group of cider drinkers, featuring Wakefire (Michigan cherries / orange peel) and El Chavo (habanero / mango) ciders throughout the week.

“Right now, people are really up for experimenting and trying new things — whatever’s new and exciting,” said Dave Blake, Manager at Blake’s Hard Cider Co. in Armada. “I think it’s fun that we can experiment with a lot of those new flavors.”

Other cider producers highlighted during the week included Tandem Ciders (Suttons Bay), Uncle John’s Hard Cider Cider (St. John’s), Sietsema’s Hard Cider (Ada), The Peoples Cider Co. (Grand Rapids) and FarmHause Cider Co. (Hudsonville).

For more information on the Michigan Cider Association and its upcoming events, visit michiganciders.com.

gabf

Three days of glorified beer drinking and before you know it the winners have been announced.

Yes, the Great American Beer Festival is a haven for beverage enthusiasts and producers alike, all clamoring to the city of Denver to not only imbibe, but to put their beers to the test under the scrutiny of some of the best beer judges in the United States. All this in the hopes of scoring a medal, or several.

This festival is the beer festival and party for American enthusiasts, and you might begin by asking, how do you navigate a festival of this magnitude?

It’s true — the ‘bros’ are out and about, folks are drinking themselves past their prime and the amount of crop dusting inflicted upon the poor patrons is staggering. However, here we are, thousands of us, gathered to this beer mecca in order to test out the rarest, strangest and the best these breweries of America have to offer.

I personally had never been to GABF before and was blown away by the sheer magnitude of the thing. As a fellow Michigander, I did keep an eye out for our fellow brewers and was pleased to see a few on the list who won medals.

Besides testing out the vast array of beers that were being poured before me, I took note of the overall demeanor of the event.

Before taking off, I had heard from countless beer geek friends and brewers that GABF is ‘a total shit show’ and that it wasn’t worth the time and the money to come out anymore. Naturally these words stuck in my head before I even took a step onto a plane, and I came into the event with the preconceived notion that I would no doubt be vomited on and wouldn’t be able to try anything worthwhile or network with prospective business contacts or intellects in the industry.

Was I wrong? Well I wouldn’t say that for sure, because yes, the Great American Beer Festival is indeed a ‘shit show’. Having hundreds of people in various costumes looking bleary eyed and stumbling in front of you every few seconds will make you think that.

However, hadn’t I indeed gained some insight? Hadn’t I had a delightful time shuffling my way through the throngs of people, on a hunt (in my particular case) for rare and delicious sour ale? Wasn’t I the lucky woman who met a couple Master Cicerones and shook hands with some of the best brewers in the country?

For someone like me, this type of event was thrilling and humbling all at the same time. I don’t regret it. I seek these experiences out. What then, is the value in a beer festival of this nature? The possibility for something grand I suppose.

If you come and seek out the pure but empty thrill of inebriation, what experience are you gaining besides putting your body through yet another drunken struggle even though you are surrounded by the greats of the industry and have the opportunity to schmooze? Are you missing the core goal of the event by using a vehicle towards inebriation or is it simply just liberating to drink great beer to excess among fellow imbibers?

Besides my sense of pride for the Michigan breweries that won awards and the feeling of numerous business cards touching my hand as I shoved them into my coat pocket, I feel honored to have attended the Great American Beer Festival. It gave me a reason to question the purpose behind an event of this calibre and to ask my fellow beer geeks, what are we doing to elevate the beer industry when we host events such as this?

Whatever it is we are doing, it seems to be working in an undetectable way because I am quite inspired after my trip to Denver. I encourage and implore you all to seek out something more during beer events, either when attending or when coordinating. The quality of your experience is, as always, up to you.

Would I attend the Great American Beer Festival again? You bet. All I encourage is that for every beer festival or craft beverage event, we find a way to strike that balance between the opportunity for learning from someone new and for the spirit of relaxing via the vehicle of inebriation. Our best path to finding this balance is to change our personal attitudes about alcohol culture as a whole.

Without both, stagnancy develops and we do not advance what it is we have worked so hard to defend and build: the expectation for quality craft beer and the kind community with which to share that passion.

This festival has been the perfect spark to an excellent conversation about the status of our beer culture. Who’s ready to sit down, have a brew, and elevate the discussion? I’d love some company. The first round’s on me.

gabf

Three days of glorified beer drinking and before you know it the winners have been announced.
Yes, the Great American Beer Festival is a haven for beverage enthusiasts and producers alike, all clamoring to the city of Denver to not only imbibe, but to put their beers to the test under the scrutiny of some of the best beer judges in the United States. All this in the hopes of scoring a medal, or several.
This festival is the beer festival and party for American enthusiasts, and you might begin by asking, how do you navigate a festival of this magnitude?
It’s true — the ‘bros’ are out and about, folks are drinking themselves past their prime and the amount of crop dusting inflicted upon the poor patrons is staggering. However, here we are, thousands of us, gathered to this beer mecca in order to test out the rarest, strangest and the best these breweries of America have to offer.
I personally had never been to GABF before and was blown away by the sheer magnitude of the thing. As a fellow Michigander, I did keep an eye out for our fellow brewers and was pleased to see a few on the list who won medals.
Besides testing out the vast array of beers that were being poured before me, I took note of the overall demeanor of the event.
Before taking off, I had heard from countless beer geek friends and brewers that GABF is ‘a total shit show’ and that it wasn’t worth the time and the money to come out anymore. Naturally these words stuck in my head before I even took a step onto a plane, and I came into the event with the preconceived notion that I would no doubt be vomited on and wouldn’t be able to try anything worthwhile or network with prospective business contacts or intellects in the industry.
Was I wrong? Well I wouldn’t say that for sure, because yes, the Great American Beer Festival is indeed a ‘shit show’. Having hundreds of people in various costumes looking bleary eyed and stumbling in front of you every few seconds will make you think that.
However, hadn’t I indeed gained some insight? Hadn’t I had a delightful time shuffling my way through the throngs of people, on a hunt (in my particular case) for rare and delicious sour ale? Wasn’t I the lucky woman who met a couple Master Cicerones and shook hands with some of the best brewers in the country?
For someone like me, this type of event was thrilling and humbling all at the same time. I don’t regret it. I seek these experiences out. What then, is the value in a beer festival of this nature? The possibility for something grand I suppose.
If you come and seek out the pure but empty thrill of inebriation, what experience are you gaining besides putting your body through yet another drunken struggle even though you are surrounded by the greats of the industry and have the opportunity to schmooze? Are you missing the core goal of the event by using a vehicle towards inebriation or is it simply just liberating to drink great beer to excess among fellow imbibers?
Besides my sense of pride for the Michigan breweries that won awards and the feeling of numerous business cards touching my hand as I shoved them into my coat pocket, I feel honored to have attended the Great American Beer Festival. It gave me a reason to question the purpose behind an event of this calibre and to ask my fellow beer geeks, what are we doing to elevate the beer industry when we host events such as this?
Whatever it is we are doing, it seems to be working in an undetectable way because I am quite inspired after my trip to Denver. I encourage and implore you all to seek out something more during beer events, either when attending or when coordinating. The quality of your experience is, as always, up to you.
Would I attend the Great American Beer Festival again? You bet. All I encourage is that for every beer festival or craft beverage event, we find a way to strike that balance between the opportunity for learning from someone new and for the spirit of relaxing via the vehicle of inebriation. Our best path to finding this balance is to change our personal attitudes about alcohol culture as a whole.
Without both, stagnancy develops and we do not advance what it is we have worked so hard to defend and build: the expectation for quality craft beer and the kind community with which to share that passion.
This festival has been the perfect spark to an excellent conversation about the status of our beer culture. Who’s ready to sit down, have a brew, and elevate the discussion? I’d love some company. The first round’s on me.


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