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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.

SPRING LAKE TOWNSHIP — Cider collided with beer Saturday as Vander Mill hosted its second annual beer and cider festival.

Vander Fest serves as both a beer and hard cider festival with lots of emphasis on the cider. Now in its second year, the event featured five different cider producers this year, as well as 10 breweries with special one-offs that mixed sweet cider with beer.

“We’ve really tried to reach out throughout the state,” owner Paul Vander Heide said. “Anyone that is willing to do a one-off just for the festival we’d like to invite here to make it a very fall-centric festival.”

Participating breweries — each fermented 50 gallons of Vander Mill’s sweet apple cider with beer — included Old Boys’ Brewhouse, Odd Side Ales, New Holland Brewing Company, Jamesport Brewing Company, HopCat, Brewery Vivant, Saugatuck Brewing Company, Michigan Beer Cellar, Mount Pleasant Brewing Company and Walldorff.

Vander Fest also featured four of Vander Mill’s hard ciders on tap as well as hard ciders from Robinette’s, Black Star Farms, Northville Winery and Uncle John’s.

“We wanted to do a festival that was heavy in promoting Michigan ciders,” Vander Heide said. “A lot of the festivals around Michigan, you’ve got limited access to different cider producers.”

According to the owner, Vander Fest is the most cider-driven beer festival in the state. And with around 400 in attendance, the event shows the increasing demand for hard cider and apple-based products.

“I think it’s going to continue to increase,” Vander Heide said. “We’re just trying to do our part to raise the awareness of a great Michigan agricultural product.”

In addition to creating Vander Fest, the mill has continued its growth by increasing distribution over the past five years, including the recent purchase of new fermenting and carbonation tanks. In an effort to promote more on-site consumption, Vander Mill in July opened its more than 2,000 square-foot outdoor garden where patrons can enjoy a hard cider and deli-style lunch or dinner outdoors.

Vander Mill, 14921 Cleveland St., is en route for beachgoers to Grand Haven State Park or Ottawa County’s North Beach Park. Those taking I-96 and exiting on M-104 pass the mill on the north side of the road.

Some of the festival’s highlights:

  • Old Boys’ Apple Harvest Ale — Coming in at just over 9 percent ABV, this high-gravity Belgian ale was fruity and very drinkable. The apple aroma and taste was upfront and trailed into light hoppiness and a biscuity-malt aftertaste.
  • Odd Side Ales Apple Pie — Of the two featured “pie” brews, Odd Side wins the prize with a crisp, not overpowering flavor/aroma. Smelling just a hint of apple and spice, the taste was very well-balanced with an excellent amount of carbonation that brought it all together. The other pie brew, Michigan Beer Cellar’s Granny’s Apple Pie Spice had the right aroma, but didn’t deliver as much on the taste. Still, its tartness was quite unique.
  • New Holland aged some cider in a rum barrel, but with no carbonation it had more of a wine-like taste and feel, which certainly pleased most tasters.
  • Vander Mill’s own latest cider flavor featured was its Sangria cider. A mix of apple cider, sweet and tart cherry juices, blueberry juice, peach juice and high-proof apple brandy, this cider was yet another stroke of genius from Vander Mill.
  • Brewery Vivant fermented its Farmhand Ale with sweet cider to make a delicious one-off called Apple Barrel, aged in an oak barrel. It seemed the Belgian yeasts blended well with the cider (as with Old Boys’ brew) to make one of the day’s best beer-cider combos.
  • Saugatuck Brewing Company’s Apple Ale had plenty of apple and spice to which one member of the BrewCrew responded, “It tastes like Thanksgiving.” Guess Grandma’s famous pie does come in a liquid form.