SPRING LAKE TOWNSHIP — Call it clever or call it cliché, but a look at the fruits of their labor was appropriate Monday for Vander Mill Cider and Winery owners Amanda and Paul Vander Heide.

The cider mill is producing 200 times more hard cider than cider-maker/brewer Joel Brower’s first year of producing hard cider. What was 500 gallons then has doubled every year with the cider mill expected to produce 100,000 gallons this year.

“The growth is obviously very exciting for us and for other people to see,” Amanda Vander Heide said. “We have definitely put in a lot of our personal money, time.

“It’s been a lot of ups and downs, so it’s become very personal to us. It’s exciting that it has gone where it’s gone.”

Vander Mill opened in September 2006 and began producing hard cider in 2008. The cider makers essentially own the Chicago cider scene (and Chicago loves its cider) and are one of the most well known and highest producing cider mills in the Great Beer State.

This year, Vander Mill invested $600,000 in an expansion that included 3,000 square feet off the backside of its building, adding four fermenters (130-barrels each), three brite tanks (900 gallons each), a lab and two offices. The business also added a canning line.

“This year with this level of investment, we will be close to three times the volume of last year,” Paul Vander Heide said. “I’ve always said my primary goal on this business is first and foremost to support my family and, second, to try to realize all the opportunity that is reasonably in front of me.

“We see that there is more opportunity. We are taking some near term steps to create opportunity for future investment.”

Vander Mill’s latest expansion wrapped up in March in time to begin use of its canning line in early April. Three mainstay ciders — Blue Gold, Apple and Totally Roasted — were the first to hit retail shelves in late April. Sales have proven to be more than favorable.

“The cans have been a great success,” Amanda Vander Heide said.

“So far it’s gone really well,” her husband added. “The can packaging allowed us to get our price point down. Canning is a very unique thing to do in the cider world.”

Vander Mill cider sells in four-packs of 16-ounce cans. The Vander Heides said they plan to add a fourth option in cans by spring, starting with its mainstay Ginger Peach. Other mainstays like Apple Cherry and Apple Raspberry will be put in rotation before some specialties are added to the canning line. In the meantime, Chapman’s Blend and various cysers will be released in large bottles.

A number of other specialties will be rolling out in the next few months at the mill.

This month, Cyser VanDoom, a cyser aged in imperial IPA barrels is being released. Another barrel-aged product will be mass released. The cider maker is currently aging 70 barrels of a cider aged with Michigan wild flower honey in New Holland Dragon’s Milk barrels, to be distributed throughout Michigan and Illinois.

An additional collaboration with New Holland will use Vander Mill’s sweet cider with a beer to be distributed in four pack, 12-ounce bottles in 18 states.

“It will start to tickle the markets where we aren’t at yet with our brand name,” Paul Vander Heide said. “I feel like it’s good for both of us (New Holland and Vander Mill). To do a collaboration to this size with a cidery has not been done with a microbrewery to my knowledge.”

As Vander Mill expands in its existing market and gets its name out into multiple other markets, the greatest hurdle is waiting for the overall cider market to grow. According to Paul Vander Heide, cider comprises just .3 percent of the beverage market with analysts seeing it grow almost 100 times to around two percent in the next decade.

“It’s a very young, young category — we were fortunate to be in it when there weren’t many in it,” he said. “We’re ahead of the curve.

“There are definitely a lot of markets out there. Cider still has a long way to go before it’s mainstream.”

As the cider market grows, Vander Mill is poised to grow with it. The combination of the husband-wife duo and cider-maker/brewer Brower has already shown there are fruits of their labors.

“Limitation is always time, capital and having the physically manage growth,” Paul Vander Heide said. “For us it’s not so much limited by sales, it’s how fast can you grow a healthy organization.”

Vander Mill is located at 14921 Cleveland Street in Spring Lake Township.

SPRING LAKE — One of the Midwest’s largest craft cider producers, Vander Mill Cider & Winery, has introduced a new line of canned ciders, following a $600,000 facility expansion.

As a part of the expansion, the company has introduced its Hard Apple, Totally Roasted and Blue Gold ciders in cans. Cans are expected to be available throughout the state starting next week.

“We are going to continue our focus on innovation and creativity with our ciders,” says owner Paul Vander Heide. “But we wanted to take a few of our core products and make them more accessible to the consumer. Our cans should now be available in more independent stores as well as traditional grocery.”

In addition to the expansion in the production area, Vander Mill has renovated its tasting room and cafe, with the introduction of an expanded menu led by Chef Stephanie Luke. The cidery will now provide lunch and dinner, offering entrees such as Pork Belly & Polenta, Marinated Noodle Salad, Housemade Dumplings, Duck Confit Sandwich, Pulled Pork Sandwich and a selection of pretzels, cheeses, salads and more.

Specialty ciders will continue to be available in 750ml bottles and on draft.

With growing popularity in hard cider, a Spring Lake cider mill and winery continues to expand its distribution to meet demands.

Vander Mill, 14921 Cleveland St., is already self-distributing its ciders to 28 bars/restaurants and 40 store retailers across the state, mostly in West Michigan — with additional distribution to two Chicago establishments. And with two establishments on the state’s east side, Vander Mill is now furthering distribution to the Detroit area as well as Chicago.

“We’ve seen quite a bit of interest in hard cider,” owner Paul Vander Heide said. “We are continuing to bring it to the people.”

Vander Mill opened in September 2006 and first began distribution in June 2008 at Rosebud Bar & Grill in neighboring Grand Haven. Shortly after, its hard cider was on tap at HopCat in Grand Rapids.

Besides growing distribution, Vander Mill is also expanding its mill. By mid-June, the owner is set to open a 2,500-square foot serving area where pints of cider and glasses of wine will be served. Vander Heide said the mill may also serve lunch and dinner.

“We’ve got some exciting stuff going on,” he said, adding that Vander Mill was recently state-approved for a microbrewing license and is working on federal approval. The owner says Vander Mill will brew various fruit beers, “things that are kind of in our vein.”

Vander Mill today began operating with its summer hours, which are Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Sunday noon to 7 p.m. To lure customers, the store is offering 25 percent off everything in its store today through Thursday.

Along with the new hours, the mill also began pressing its summer stock of ciders which will continue during the next few weeks, according to Vander Heide.

“We’re building up inventory for the next few months,” he said. “Since we use only Michigan apples, we work with a local grower to make sure we have access to enough apples for what we need.”

This week, Vander Mill introduces its latest concoction, Michigan Wit, a semi-dry apple cider spiced in the traditional Belgian wit style.  The cider was special-released at HopCat last week, with release on store shelves and bar taps this week.

To help keep cider enthusiasts aware of Vander Mill’s ever-expanding distribution,  the cider mill announced the launch of its Cider Finder, which uses Google Map technology to show retailers and restaurants/bars where its ciders are sold. The map shows green  icons indicating retailers and red icons where pints are sold. You can click here to see the map.


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