Posts

vander mill

Just a couple miles east of the infamous Michigan Ave hill, Vander Mill Cider has created a new home away from home. It is safe to say they have upgraded, just a tad — growing from 3,000 square feet to 43,000 square feet. Walking into Vander Mill Grand Rapids, you feel instantly connected to their home location in Spring Lake.  

You’ll notice the same vibrant deep red color they are known for, a wall constructed of boards from apple crates from their grower, and some of the familiar ciders so many people have grown to love. What sets this location apart is the huge glass windows in the taproom and restaurant overlooking the production facility below. And the best feature, I must say, is an added on mezzanine that overlooks the production facility — that wasn’t in the original plan.

The new location, the big brother to the Spring Lake location, opened April 18 and it wasn’t an overnight decision. They certainly could have achieved their space needs in a cheaper market, but they held customers as their largest priority in choosing the right location.

As Paul Vander Heide, co-owner, stated, “If we are going to build out what is going to be our long term production facility, it makes sense to put it in a space where people can see it. Grand Rapids is an area very welcoming to craft beverage and good food. The market here is smart — it just made a lot of sense.”

vander mill

In gaining 40,000 feet more of square footage, Vander Mill Cider has decided to shift their main production to Grand Rapids. The facility at 505 Ball Ave NE allows a lot of flexibility in making new products, being more efficient, experimenting, and expanding their barrel aging program. To say the very least, the production staff is very happy to not be crawling on top of one another.

The Spring Lake location will continue to press cider and host the fall activities they have been known for in the past. With its large outdoor area, they will still host their festival out in Spring Lake, as that seems the most fitting. As they develop the property and realize each locations capabilities, they expect the specific usage of each to naturally come to fruition.

If you aren’t intrigued yet, Vander Mill Grand Rapids intends on becoming a foodie destination. Justin Large, the new executive chef of the Vander Mill family, is sure to be an attraction on his own.

“He was the culinary director for One Off Hospitality Group, who started Blackbird. Justin was the first Sous Chef under Paul Kahan at Blackbird. He was seeing over 400 people at eight restaurants. He really has a pedigree that is pretty impressive for anyone in the Midwest,” says Vander Heide.

People are going to be surprised by the level of quality of the food. French Country inspired, they are presenting unique, high end food in a casual environment and striving for the best service. Simple, minimal ingredients executed at a really high level with a lot of precision and technique.

Like when making their cider — they strive to find the best ingredients possible.

“There is a reality of growing seasons and that local may not always be the best option. So we certainly are invested in local agriculture with cider being the greatest examples of those. We source locally when we can, but we are ultimately looking for the best,” stated Vander Heide.

When Vander Mill originally opened its doors in 2006, there were only a few people making cider and most of the places were wineries. Cider just makes sense in Michigan. Apples are the number one agricultural product in Michigan. Cider begins with a seed, to a tree growing from the earth, to beautiful apples picked and smashed, into your glass and then finally what is left of the apple goes back to the earth. Talk about sustainability. With this strong, natural cycle, Vander Mill has been able to create strong presences in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.

“Our approach has always been to go deep in the market instead of wide. Our (Spring Lake) facility limited us and we were growing fast. We have seen that is very important to support the markets we are in. We have feet on the ground that can tell the story about the brand and portray how we want the people to see the brand. That is harder to achieve when you start sending cider all over the country. We want to build the midwest strength first and want to be the number one craft cider in that market. We want to use Grand Rapids, Chicago, and the Midwest as an epicenter of our brand growth,” stated Vander Heide.

Vander Mill proudly announced on April 19 that they have opened into the Wisconsin market, with their first product shipped out to them already.

As of right now you can check out Vander Mill Grand Rapids, Sunday through Thursday 2 p.m. – 11 p.m. and Friday through Saturday 2 p.m. – midnight with dinner starting at 5pm every day. In the near future, a lunch service will be available beginning at 11am. Currently their libation list is filled with the usual suspects, as well as a few exclusive beers from Pigeon Hill Brewing Company and Odd Side Ales, Cysers collaborated with Greenbush Brewing and New Holland Brewing, Barrel Fermented Ciders and Nitro Cider. Yes — Nitro Cider, my personal favorite.

 

Photography: Bri Luginbill

taproot

Tap·root (ˈtapˌro͞ot,-ˌro͝ot/) noun: a straight tapering root growing vertically downward and forming the center from which subsidiary rootlets spring.

In other words, the central root of the system. Taproot Cider House opened its doors on January 28 with the intention to be the one that supports other roots within the community,

“In naming Taproot, I thought of the root system. The taproot is the strongest root in the system, providing support to the remaining roots, or our local farmers and businesses. The trunk becomes our staff, at the center of our business, and the branches become the customers that come in to support everything we’re doing,” explained owner Jennifer Mackey.

taproot

Mackey has long been a supporter of local organic agriculture and the earth-to-table concept. She has worked on organic farms, aided in the distribution of produce to local markets, and has helped conventional farms convert to organic operations. She joined Northern Natural Cider House and Winery in 2009 and began partnering with Dennis Mackey — who is also an organic farmer and CEO of Northern Natural.

In 2015, she branched out to open her own cider house.

“We know so many good people and businesses, this is a great way to support our community,” said Mackey.

The passion for local and organic products is evident throughout every element of Taproot. Both the food and drink menus were intentionally crafted to be as local, organic, free range, and GMO free as possible. Even the atmosphere reflects the earth-to-table element; taproots hang from the ceiling, wood beams can be found throughout, and local artists and agriculture are clearly supported.

“We wanted to create something that reflects our community. We have something for everyone, and aim to be family friendly,” said Mackey. Mackey cited the work she’s done with local farmers, as well as her own family, as inspiration for creating such an environment.

And in just under three months, Taproot has already begun to establish itself as such a place. Throughout the day, regulars make their way in as Mackey stops to greet them. Friends gather and families come in for a meal. The menu and environment are welcoming for everyone.

The drink menu not only features a wide array of ciders, but also craft beer, wine, spirits, soda, and cocktails. Currently Taproot is featuring ciders from Northern Natural, Vandermill, Blake’s Hard Cider, Tandem Ciders, and Starcut Ciders. Craft cocktails are prepared with fresh pressed juice, house-made syrups, and infused liquors. Sodas are made in-house as well, featuring the house-made syrups.

The food menu is equally as diverse, featuring a number of small plates, salads, pizzas, and main entrees. There truly is something for everyone.

When asked about a favorite on the menu, Mackey stated, “I don’t know if I could pick out a customer favorite. It really depends on their range of preferences. Once we know those preferences, we can guide our customers to finding something they’ll enjoy. That’s what is great about our menu.”

Taproot will have its official Grand Opening on April 23. Blake’s Hard Cider will be on-site, with a special tapping of El Chapo.

For a more detailed look at Taproot’s menu and events, visit http://www.taproottc.com.

 

beer cocktails

There are plenty of ways to drink ourselves into the new year. A great number of us have the obvious answer of, “drink craft beer!” when embarking on this endeavor, but this time around we’d like to introduce some beer cocktail options instead. Using Michigan beer and cider of course!
beer cocktailsBlood-Orange Pomegranate Beer-mosa with Cheboygan Brewing Company’s Blood Orange Honey Wheat.
Ingredients (serves 10)
3 cups of Cheboygan Brewing Company’s Blood Orange Honey Wheat
3 cups chilled pomegranate juice
1 750-ml bottle chilled sparkling wine, such as Prosecco
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (for garnish)
Process
Pour the pomegranate juice into each champagne flute. Fill ⅓ of the glass.
Fill another ⅓ of the glass w/ Cheboygan Brewing Co’s Blood Orange Honey Wheat
Top the last ⅓ off with chilled sparkling wine
If desired, garnish with pomegranate seeds
 


Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja Mulled Beer
Ingredients
1 750ml bottle of Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja
2 cinnamon sticks
5-6 whole cloves
½ tsp. ginger root, coarsely grated
½ tsp. nutmeg, coarsely grated
5 pods cardamom, cracked
zest of half an orange or lemon
½ cup of brown sugar
¼ cup brandy
Process
Place all spices and citrus zest in a cheesecloth. Tie a knot to seal the cloth and place it in your mulling beer pot. Pour in all of the beer and add yourself some brandy. Simmer this on low heat for 30 minutes and stir occasionally, but don’t let it boil! You’ll risk cooking out the flavors. Once it’s been warmed, stir in sugar (or syrup or honey if you’re using that instead). Once the beverage is steaming lightly, it’s ready to serve. We prefer ours to be ladled out into mugs! It’s good to have lemon slices or sugar around so guests can adjust the sweetness and acidity of their mulled beer as needed.
 
beer cocktailsAtwater’s Decadent Dark Chocolate Stout Hot Coffee Cocktail
Ingredients
Cinnamon
Cayenne
Nutmeg
2 oz Espresso or plain hot coffee
2 oz Atwater’s Decadent Dark Chocolate OR Cranker’s Fifth Voyage Coconut Porter
1 ½ oz aged rum
¾ oz vanilla syrup
¾ oz heavy cream
Process
Combine all the ingredients, except for the heavy cream, coffee, and cinnamon, into a mixing glass. Stir with a bar spoon. Separately, place the hot espresso into your mug. After stirring, place all the combined ingredients into the mug on top of the hot coffee. Pour in the desired amount of heavy cream and garnish with a dusting of cinnamon on top.
 
beer cocktailsHoliday Grog with Blake’s El Chavo Cider.
Ingredients
2 oz dark rum
½ oz fresh lime juice
1 tsp brown sugar
4 oz Blake’s El Chavo Cider: can be hot or cold
Optional: orange and/or cinnamon stick
Process
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice (if serving cold). Stir with a bar spoon and pour into a mug (if hot) or any desired glassware (if cold). Garnish with orange slice and cinnamon stick.
 
beer cocktailsHot Buttered Beere (Adapted from a 1588 recipe) with New Holland’s Cabin Fever Brown Ale.
Ingredients
17 oz of New Holland’s Cabin Fever Brown Ale
.5 tsp ground Cloves
.5 tsp ground Cinnamon
.25 tsp ground Ginger
5 Egg Yolks
1 cup Brown Sugar (Demerara if possible)
12 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
Process
Add the Cabin Fever Brown Ale and the spices to a saucepan. Bring it all to a boil and then immediately turn it down to the lowest setting. Beat the eggs and sugar until light and creamy. Remove the beer from heat and whisk in the egg mixture. Return it all to a low heat. Whisk continuously over low heat until the whole mixture thickens slightly. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove it all from the heat and whisk in the butter quickly until a nice foam forms. Serve warm.
Thank you all for a wonderful year of beer! Enjoy yourselves along with these lovely concoctions.
Cheers and have a happy New Year!
Photo shoot location courtesy of the Downtown Market and Beverage Manager Jenney Grant.
Photography: Steph Harding

beer cocktails

There are plenty of ways to drink ourselves into the new year. A great number of us have the obvious answer of, “drink craft beer!” when embarking on this endeavor, but this time around we’d like to introduce some beer cocktail options instead. Using Michigan beer and cider of course!

beer cocktailsBlood-Orange Pomegranate Beer-mosa with Cheboygan Brewing Company’s Blood Orange Honey Wheat.

Ingredients (serves 10)
3 cups of Cheboygan Brewing Company’s Blood Orange Honey Wheat
3 cups chilled pomegranate juice
1 750-ml bottle chilled sparkling wine, such as Prosecco
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (for garnish)
Process
Pour the pomegranate juice into each champagne flute. Fill ⅓ of the glass.
Fill another ⅓ of the glass w/ Cheboygan Brewing Co’s Blood Orange Honey Wheat
Top the last ⅓ off with chilled sparkling wine
If desired, garnish with pomegranate seeds

 

Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja Mulled Beer

Ingredients
1 750ml bottle of Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja
2 cinnamon sticks
5-6 whole cloves
½ tsp. ginger root, coarsely grated
½ tsp. nutmeg, coarsely grated
5 pods cardamom, cracked
zest of half an orange or lemon
½ cup of brown sugar
¼ cup brandy

Process
Place all spices and citrus zest in a cheesecloth. Tie a knot to seal the cloth and place it in your mulling beer pot. Pour in all of the beer and add yourself some brandy. Simmer this on low heat for 30 minutes and stir occasionally, but don’t let it boil! You’ll risk cooking out the flavors. Once it’s been warmed, stir in sugar (or syrup or honey if you’re using that instead). Once the beverage is steaming lightly, it’s ready to serve. We prefer ours to be ladled out into mugs! It’s good to have lemon slices or sugar around so guests can adjust the sweetness and acidity of their mulled beer as needed.

 

beer cocktailsAtwater’s Decadent Dark Chocolate Stout Hot Coffee Cocktail

Ingredients
Cinnamon
Cayenne
Nutmeg
2 oz Espresso or plain hot coffee
2 oz Atwater’s Decadent Dark Chocolate OR Cranker’s Fifth Voyage Coconut Porter
1 ½ oz aged rum
¾ oz vanilla syrup
¾ oz heavy cream

Process
Combine all the ingredients, except for the heavy cream, coffee, and cinnamon, into a mixing glass. Stir with a bar spoon. Separately, place the hot espresso into your mug. After stirring, place all the combined ingredients into the mug on top of the hot coffee. Pour in the desired amount of heavy cream and garnish with a dusting of cinnamon on top.

 

beer cocktailsHoliday Grog with Blake’s El Chavo Cider.

Ingredients
2 oz dark rum
½ oz fresh lime juice
1 tsp brown sugar
4 oz Blake’s El Chavo Cider: can be hot or cold
Optional: orange and/or cinnamon stick

Process
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice (if serving cold). Stir with a bar spoon and pour into a mug (if hot) or any desired glassware (if cold). Garnish with orange slice and cinnamon stick.

 

beer cocktailsHot Buttered Beere (Adapted from a 1588 recipe) with New Holland’s Cabin Fever Brown Ale.

Ingredients
17 oz of New Holland’s Cabin Fever Brown Ale
.5 tsp ground Cloves
.5 tsp ground Cinnamon
.25 tsp ground Ginger
5 Egg Yolks
1 cup Brown Sugar (Demerara if possible)
12 Tbsp Unsalted Butter

Process
Add the Cabin Fever Brown Ale and the spices to a saucepan. Bring it all to a boil and then immediately turn it down to the lowest setting. Beat the eggs and sugar until light and creamy. Remove the beer from heat and whisk in the egg mixture. Return it all to a low heat. Whisk continuously over low heat until the whole mixture thickens slightly. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove it all from the heat and whisk in the butter quickly until a nice foam forms. Serve warm.
Thank you all for a wonderful year of beer! Enjoy yourselves along with these lovely concoctions.
Cheers and have a happy New Year!

Photo shoot location courtesy of the Downtown Market and Beverage Manager Jenney Grant.

Photography: Steph Harding

WEST OLIVE – As he relaxed in an adirondack chair, sipping a cold Michigan beer, taking in the aroma of the nearby Lake Michigan and the crackling campfire in front of him, Bill Rogers made an important decision about next fall: he was returning to the Lakeshore Brew Fest at Camp Blodgett.

“I like the environment. I am thrilled. I will be back next year,” the Marysville resident said, noting he’d never been to a West Michigan beer festival before. “You’re out in the open. Fresh air. It’s comfortable. Very comfortable.”

His friend, Chris Graw, said he hadn’t poured out a beer yet, something he couldn’t say about every festival he’s attended.

“This is sweet,” he said, holding up a half-filled pint glass, listening to a live opening band playing chill music that echoed off the tall pines and historic buildings at the 94-year-old camp located in West Olive. “This is sweet.”

Hundreds flooded the camp, which features stunning views of Lake Michigan, on a sunny Saturday afternoon for the third annual event. The Lakeshore Brew Fest featured beers and ciders from well-known locals such as New Holland Brewing and Vander Mill Ciders in addition to notable newcomers such as Dutch Girl Brewery in Spring Lake, Trail Point Brewing Company in Allendale, and Farmhaus Cider Co. in Hudsonville.

Event organizers focused on keeping the event lakeshore-specific to make it more unique, said Tim Duflo, a Camp Blodgett board member serving Odd Side Ales beer.

The Lakeshore Brew Fest is an important fundraiser for the camp, which serves disadvantaged youth in Ottawa and Kent counties with summer camps and year-round, after-school programming.

Josh Beard of Holland, an avid Michigan beer festival fan, said he thought the vibe and fundraising component of the festival were appealing.

“It’s good. It’s chill,” he said. “And you’re supporting a good cause.”

As acoustic alternative and Americana band Leonum took the stage, festival attendees continued to enjoy the backyard cookout feel, playing with a huge wooden Jenga set and competing in cornhole, with beers in hand of course.

One cider on tap was Brunch (6.9% ABV) from Farmhaus Cider Co. The smooth, dry cider had a distinct maple syrup aftertaste that would make it ideal for drinking earlier in the day.

On the beer side, Henry Lee (8.9% ABV) from Trail Point Brewing Company received such positive reviews that some craft beer fans were recommending it to people passing by. The dark, old Strong Ale  features highlights of caramel, toffee, and dried fruit.

Self-proclaimed beer snobs, Diane Covault and Sharon Brown of Allegan, brought Brittany Covault along to the event. Brittany Covault said Totally Roasted (6.9% ABV) of Vander Mill Ciders was her favorite drink, while Diane Covault and Brown were pleased to try Trail Point Brewing Company for the first time.

The women said the Lakeshore Brew Fest glass they received with admission made the experience much more enjoyable than festivals with just a plastic cup.

“We really do appreciate having a glass,” Diane Covault said. “Beer is better out of a glass.”

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.”

HUDSONVILLE – Farmhaus Cider Co. Co-Owner John Behrens had one thing in mind when he bought his late grandmother’s abandoned farmhouse and the surrounding property: preservation.

“There’s not a lot of people who have farms in their family that are 150 years old,” said Megan Odegaard, co-owner of Farmhaus Cider Co. “We just didn’t want that to go to waste.”

The property, located in Hudsonville, was in ruins. The barn was holding on by a prayer to stay standing. A collapsed grainery created a waist-deep pile of rotting wood and broken glass. The farmhouse was left in disrepair, and the surrounding forest and orchard were a bona fide treasure trove of antique artifacts.

And Behrens acquired it with no real plan what to do with it.

Behrens and Odegaard had been longtime homebrewers and friends had told them on a number of occasions that they should sell the cider they were making. They stewed on the idea for a while before things started coming together.

“We were just trying to figure out what to do with it,” said Odegaard, “and that’s when people had already been asking us [to sell cider], and we had a kind of lightbulb moment.”

They’ve been working non-stop ever since.

For the first two years, the Farmhaus team set to restoring the property on nights and weekends, starting with the leaning barn which now houses their cider-making equipment. When Behrens reflects on all the work they did, he thinks it would have been easier to tear the whole thing down and start from scratch.

That they didn’t shows Farmhaus’s dedication to history and authenticity.

That steadfast dedication bleeds into their cider making as well. The farm has been in Behrens’s family since his ancestors came to the United States from Germany around 150 years ago. With that in mind, Farmhaus seeks to make cider the way it was made in Germany.

“We’ve actually done a fair amount of research, both on the family side and understanding the types of cider that were made [in Germany],” said Behrens.

German styles are traditionally dryer and lower in alcohol content, Odegaard said. This informs Farmhaus’s style, but Behrens and Odegaard don’t allow authenticity to take precedent over their own tastes and what they think American cider drinkers prefer.

“We’re balancing authenticity and innovation,” said Behrens. “First and foremost we’re making things we like.”

“We like dry ciders, so we want to make dry ciders,” said Odegaard. Farmhaus also has a semi-sweet cider, Halbbitter, that they think will appeal to palates less accustomed to dryer styles.

Behrens and Odegaard are also including the old orchard in their rejuvenations. A few descendent trees remain on the property, and the two aren’t sure what varieties they produce. Behrens’s father thinks they may be the coveted Northern Spy variety, but the ancient trees are so tall and old they hardly produce enough apples to sustain a cider business.

Behrens and Odegaard have planted some new trees, but they don’t plan to use the orchard as the sole source for their cider.

“We’ve planted only heirloom varieties that are really hard to get a hold of,” said Odegaard. “That way we can try our hand at bringing the orchard back to what it originally was on the property.”

“That’s the ‘why’ behind it initially: ‘Let’s restore this to what it was,’” said Behrens. “Just like we’re restoring the barn to what it was, and we’d love to restore the house to what it was.”

They’ll continue to source apples from local farmers that they’ve researched and trust.

“It’s a matter of focusing on what we’re good at, and then supporting the local community with what they’re good at,” said Odegaard.

Now, Farmhaus is gearing up for the opening of its outdoor cider garden. The area is outfitted with German furniture, table settings made from found objects around the farm, romantic lights strung throughout, and a view of the historic farmhouse. Though it’s less than a mile off of the heavily trafficked 48th Avenue, the space is enshrouded in forest and invokes the feeling of having traveled miles out of town.

The only thing that’s missing is the permit to start serving there, which Behrens and Odegaard hope will arrive soon. In the meantime, you can catch Farmhaus at a slew of events in the next few weeks. Follow them on Facebook for more information.