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fetch brewing

“There’s got to be more to life than this,” said Jen Hain, owner of Fetch Brewing Company alongside her husband, Dan.

They didn’t plan on opening a brewery. They had both come from different careers, but they realized after meeting, marrying, and starting a family that they did not want those jobs forever.

So, the Hains took a risk. Dan, a local from the neighboring town of Montague, knew Whitehall very well. Jen married into the community (and laughingly says after 12 years she’s still not considered a local). They both wanted to bring something that would not only support their family and dreams, but also extend that reach to their fellow neighbors and friends.

 

In 2013, they found and bought an old bank on the corner, right in the middle of Whitehall’s downtown, that had been empty for over 20 years.

“Ignorance is bliss, and we fell in love with the building right away,” said Hain. “We had no idea what we were doing and this building needed everything, and I mean everything.”

Nothing was up to code, the interior was in shambles, and odd collections of old furniture and wood were in heaps everywhere. But Jen and Dan tackled all of this with excitement—they had a vision and it was all coming true.

Luckily, they were already great at the beer-making thing.

“Dan has been a homebrewer for 20 plus years!”  “Before it was cool,” she adds. With a huge laboratory, chemistry, and natural resources background, Dan Hain had a great foundation for the Fetch beer portfolio.

fetch brewing

Jen & Dan Hain

On a fun side note, according to Dan Hain, the term “fetch” refers to “the distance that wind travels across open water to create a wave.”

This is an image that reflects the Michigan craft industry’s growth and enthusiastic followers to be sure, but it also reflects the Hain’s family, hometown on the water, and business mission statement.

Their mission from the start wasn’t to conquer the world. The belief was that Michigan caters to the craft industry big and small, no matter the growth plan or distribution reach. The Hains aimed to make small waves in their community by offering quality product and a quality destination for all.

“We’ve always been on the slow plan,” said Hain.

They mark their milestones by improving in their education, quality, promotion, and production; and sometimes that means just making enough beer to keep the taps flowing.

After putting in a lot of hours and elbow grease, they opened back in 2014 to great success and great support from their community. Since then, Fetch Brewing Company has become a community meeting spot for the towns of Whitehall & Montague, as was their goal.

Their beer portfolio has favorites in their Distracted Pale Ale, Riptide Rye, and Tree Stump Stout, and they always have a running variety of other recipes to make sure every customer is happy. Dan Hain runs everything on a Michigan-made, five barrel Psycho Brew system.

“If I had my way, there would be IPAs all day every day,” said Dan.

Alongside the beer game, Fetch plays host to a local running group, a cycling group, and local music. A City Council member and brewery regular even comes in on certain nights to spin vinyl!

Whitehall and the surrounding area have very small town, quaint vibes to those people who just pass through occasionally—“Very Norman Rockwell on the surface, but we have an artistic underbelly. Opening a brewery gave the community a platform for exposing the artistic personalities of town,” said Hain.

“Some people don’t even drink, but that’s ok, too,” said Jen. “We like being the go-to place.”

They refer to their community as their “Fetch Family,” and it very much is. When they premiered their Mug Club, the first 100 sold out in the first week, the second batch of 100 sold out in a day, and the third in less than a month; and these were all taken by locals. Since they’ve fulfilled their community mug club demands, they have expanded the club here and there for special occasions.

“We’re our own little island,” laughed Jen. “Our regulars keep us going—they’re our heart and soul.”

Going into their fourth year, the Hains have proved that a brewery can really revitalize small town pride. The brewery has opened up and strengthened collaborations with their watershed council, food pantry, local farms, charities, events, and other small businesses. Jen Hain now even sits on the City Council.

Fetch Brewing Company is a destination for new and repeat visitors and that brings further growth to the economy as well; and it was just announced that the Hains bought a new building downtown to expand their production facility. By mid to late summer, it will be a renewed space enabling the brewery to keep mainstays on tap, increase distribution and give brewer and co-owner Dan Hain more room to experiment. Stay tuned as they renovate the old site from the ground up into a vision of their future.

“We are a family growing up around beer,” said Hain, “and beer is a small part of it—it’s business, it’s socialization, it’s community.”

 

Photography: Steph Harding

black friday

Pigeon Hill Brewing Company released three specialty canned beers to an enthusiastic group of early rising holiday  shoppers in Muskegon, Michigan on Black Friday. Grapefruit Renny, a double IPA (DIPA) featuring, as the name suggests, grapefruit juiciness. Also released was the rare Your Mom on French Toast, now officially dubbed “YMOFT,” an imperial stout featuring maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon. The final new canned beer of the day was Your Grandma on French Toast, now called “YGOFT,” which was the star of the show. A bourbon barrel aged variation of YMOFT which is highly sought after and produced one of the longest lines at the Winter Beer Festival this past February in anticipation of its pouring.

The can release was to begin at 10:00 a.m., and despite arriving an hour early a line had already formed some 50 people deep. Foregoing the madness of holiday shopping, a great crowd of warmly clad craft beer lovers stood in line on a relatively mild late November morning. Jamie, Stubby, and Cody were the first three gentlemen in line, but Cody actually arrived first. “I came right from Cap and Cork after their midnight release so I was here about 1:40 a.m.” says Cody with a hearty laugh. Deciding he didn’t want to be first in line, Cody chose to nap in his car despite a couple of interruptions from a random “passer by” who was looking for cigarettes, beer, the time, and to sleep in his car. Cody laughed it all off citing just how stoked he was to be getting one of his favorites—YGOFT.

black friday

A sunny autumn morning was made more pleasant by the brewery with a complimentary breakfast that was served to all patrons. Breakfast samples were brought out to those of us standing in line. Upon entering the taproom from the breezy Western Avenue, the smell of bacon, sausage, pancakes, and syrup grabbed you by the senses and just hugged you all over. The breakfast scent combined with the true brewery aroma created a sweet aromatic melody that made the beer and the food even more rich and satisfying.

“The name Pigeon Hill was a nod to the community. Pigeon Hill was a large sand dune that was mined out for cast iron castings” says Michael Brower, who is a co-owner of the brewery. “When you walk in the taproom it’s basically a living museum. Everything from the wallpaper which features Muskegon street scenes to the lights which are from local factories that have closed. Our tables are made from old virgin white pine that was cut here in Muskegon and sank during the 1880’s.” Michael’s dedication to family, community, and craft were clearly on display as his parents were cooking breakfast, his grandmother (pictured on the YGOFT label) and his wife were all working to serve the thirsty and excited crowd.

Asking Michael about the origins of YMOFT he replied, “‘Your mom on toast’ was actually one of my catchphrases. In fact, I have emails going back to 2008 in which I sign off with that phrase. It means nothing but I loved it and it fit in with my sense of humor. We talked about it from day one, ‘What beer will Your Mom on Toast be?’ We didn’t know if it would be something bready or not but when we tried a french toast beer and decided to make our own it clicked, ‘Your Mom on French Toast.’ I’m not even sure if it was me who came up with the name!”

When asked about the process of making YMOFT, Michael replied “We start with our imperial stout Majestic Beast as the base beer then add maple, vanilla, and cinnamon and really that is the recipe.” I then asked when the idea for grandma came up he laughed, “I think the day we brewed it. We were like, ‘I wonder what this would be like in a barrel?’ When we started we were working out of the tap room and only had 940 square feet so we didn’t have room for barrels. Once we opened our production facility it became a reality. We got our hands on a couple of Buffalo Trace Rye barrels and said ‘let’s see what happens!” Indeed!

black friday

Joel Kamp, Chad Doane, Michael Brower

We were given a small tour of the original taproom and brewhouse as well as the newer production facility located nearby led by Michael and Chad Doane, head brewer. Upon arriving at the doors, we were greeted by an unknown drummer who played very well. Joel Kamp, co-owner of Pigeon Hill Brewing, came out from behind his kit and greeted us warmly as he wiped the sweat from his brow. “I really had a nice groove going there” he said with a smile on his face. A wonderful German lager was poured and the three gentlemen showed us around the facility. There was a very tangible sense of excitement as they talked openly and freely about the obstacles they’d overcome, the work that led to the success of the day at hand, as well as the future for their company.

Cheerz!

 

Photography: Steph Harding

burning foot

The Saturday morning of August 27 looked dicey. There was lightning cracking and rain coming down sideways. Perhaps this was the curse of Burning Foot? After all, the festival’s inauguration last year was marked by the same dismal weather.

But perhaps not a curse—a tradition instead. Last year’s festivities were still enjoyed by many, and hey, we Michiganders never let weather get in the way of good, fun craft beverage consumption.

And maybe it was because of this optimism that the weather did a complete turnaround. Festival-goers were met with the perfect beach day by the time festival gates opened—the sun was shining high and the lake was sparkling.

And oh yes, the beer was pouring.

The festival was a crazy fun beach party—beach blankets all over, rockin’ live music, 54 craft beer tents, local BBQ food fare, and cozy bonfires. People were running around in bathing suits, building sand castles, and ultimately living the beach dream. There was even some extreme skydivers who landed next to the festival grounds! Everyone was having a blast.

Organized by the Lakeshore Brewers Guild, Burning Foot embraced Michigan breweries as well as breweries from our neighboring Lake Michigan states—Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Everyone had a chance to expand their craft beer knowledge with these new offerings, not to mention they also got to make new friends.

Une Annee from Chicago, IL brought their own unique tap list. Known for brewing recipes in the Belgian and French styles, they recently began a sour program, adding the infamous brettanomyces to their Saisons. The huge flavor profiles and extreme tartness was enjoyed by many who kept going back for more—well worth the involuntary puckered face after the first sip.

Mob Craft, a brewery and taproom out of Milwaukee, WI, had some pretty neat offerings, one being their Helles Ginger Bock, a traditional Bock made untraditionally with ginger—spicy and malty and delicious!

Lisa, a representative of Mob Craft and festival attendee for the second year, says the festival has built on itself.

“The weather has topped last year’s. It’s fun regardless, but it’s amazing on the beach in this atmosphere.”

Asked why this festival is so potentially important for breweries, she said, “We love Michigan. It’s fabulous to be over here. It’s all about collaborating—we’re next-door neighbors!”

BurningFoot (33)

The spirit of camaraderie and collaboration could be seen everywhere on the festival grounds. It was in the setup—festival-goers were surrounded by an inclusive circle of breweries that opened right into Lake Michigan. At the center was a spectacular hop art installation that saluted the burning man, a symbol that inspired the festival origins.

The true community feel of a beer festival is one of its most defining characteristics, and Muskegon made everyone feel most welcome. So although the rain may come again next summer to Pere Marquette Beach, it will be met with happy grins and great beer.

 

Photography: Steph Harding

lakeshore brewers guild

Here in Michigan, we have lakes. Lots of lakes. In fact, we are referred to as the “Great Lakes State.” We have other great stuff, too, but it’s pretty amazing to be known for lakes.

This is all common knowledge. People from all over the world come to this state just to see our lakes. They are called wonders of the world, are compared to oceans—a whole barrage of titles and phrases that try to describe just how majestic Michigan is.

Michigan also happens to be great at beer.

lakeshore brewers guildWith this winning combination of beer and lakes came the creation of the Lakeshore Brewers Guild in 2015. As with all great ideas in the craft industry, this one started over a pint of beer and a conversation between friends. They simply wanted to align the collaborative spirit of Michigan craft with the Lake Michigan communities in order to watch them grow and support each other.

Allen Serio, board member of the guild and casually referred to as the “Director of Chaos,” states that, “the idea for the guild came organically” on the foundations of collaboration and community.

“We are uniquely more collaborative than competitive in Michigan. The heart of the brewing industry is each of them loving their communities,” said Serio.

To step back and look around at Michigan breweries, it can definitely be noted that each one reflects their surrounding community and lifestyle, paying tribute to the people and purpose of the area. And vice versa, each city, town, and location proudly gives that support and love back into the brewery.

Great at lakes: check. Great at beer: check. Michigan is also great at sharing.

In this instance, the purpose of the guild is simple and the reach is wide. The first ever multi-state guild, the reach includes all of our neighbors along the Lake Michigan lakeshore. And by bringing lakeshore breweries together, it unites many different identities under common goals and motivations.

lakeshore brewers guild

Allen Serio

“We want to foster the collaborative nature of the craft industry,” said Serio. “The lakeshore and the lifestyle that surrounds us is the core of the guild and has fostered a lot of ideas.”

The purity and simplicity of the lakeshore mission has opened up opportunities for Michigan to join with other lake states, which has created an amazing dynamic of further collaboration and support. Not to mention, it offers different perspectives and practices based on other communities, which promotes even more inspiration.

“The lifestyle is different across the lake. They come to Michigan—to the small beach towns to relax. And on the other hand, we in Michigan love the big cities.”

The exchange of interests and cultures is always win-win in this scenario, especially as more and more breweries pop up every year looking to make it amongst craft enthusiasts. Michigan is known for its craft breweries and diehard fans, but as the number of breweries grows, sustainability comes into question. With the membership of the guild connecting craft communities together, it plants the seeds for future relationships, especially in regards to distribution and brand growth across the lake in all directions.

“The love and relationships should be good for everyone. We can create something together.”


One of Michigan’s lakeshore neighbors and members of the guild is
3 Sheeps Brewing Co. located out of Sheboygan, WI. They have been very excited to join up and share experiences. Grant Pauly, founder and brewmaster, recognizes the mission of the guild, and is eager for the brewery to actively share, support, and promote it.

lakeshore brewers guild“It has been very nice to connect with those breweries in Michigan,” says Pauly. “Most guilds are divided by state, so having a guild that we can connect with that crosses that state line is fun.”

Like many of the breweries and members involved in the guild, Pauly grew up along the lakeshore and has a big love for the lake that has joined so many people together.

“I am extremely impressed by the guild. They are so well organized, and their focus just seems to be spot on. Their focus on promoting craft beer has been great, but I really love how they are also championing the lakeshore.”

This belief is shared by many others, such as Milwaukee Brewing Company (MKE). Their Director of Sales, Mike Christensen, represents a craft community that loves the lakeshore as much as Michigan does.

“A great source of water is always an integral part of brewing quality beer and we have that great privilege of sharing in one of our region’s greatest natural resources–Lake Michigan,” says Christensen.


Huge on sustainability, innovation, and sourcing lakeshore brewers guildtheir ingredients locally, this Wisconsin brewery has a plethora of information to offer.

Christensen notes, “Helping to promote and drive attention to all of the craft breweries in the Lake Michigan region through a common guild will, in turn, help bring all of our breweries more attention nationally; and this will help steward an effort to preserve this great natural resource.”

Officially operating for only a year so far, the passion behind this organization has caught hold enormously fast, and Serio is continually impressed and humbled by the interest.

“We feel that we haven’t done the guild justice yet because there is so much more we want to do. That passion and that drive to get to the next level—breweries see that and buy into the same goals,” said Serio.

burning footLast summer the guild hosted their first major event called The Burning Foot Beer Festival. Held on the hot sands of Lake Michigan in Muskegon, the festival boasted a coming together of beer, music, and the lakeshore lifestyle.

And the worst thing that could happen at a beach party happened: it rained.

But it turns out, that didn’t matter one bit.

Serio said, thinking back, “I remember sitting in my car and it was just pouring rain, and I thought that everything we worked so hard for was going to fail. But people didn’t care. They saw the vision we wanted for the event and had a great, fun, unique time. And that was a major affirmation for us.”

It proves that as the craft industry grows, so does people’s love and dedication to it. Craft supporters come for the quality beer and to honor the quality of the community and people behind it. And on a larger scale, Michigan as a whole craft community is embracing other craft communities.

“What we’re seeing right now is amazing. The stories and relationships are amazing to watch grow. You should hear the conversation the Milwaukee brewers have with the Michigan brewers,” said Serio.

This year the guild will host Burning Foot for the second time. 50 breweries from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin will share the lakeshore space, offering a myriad of beer styles and experiences. With the goal of improving on last year’s event, the theme has taken on more supporting elements—all of it locally inspired.

“We want to create an atmosphere that incorporates art and music and structure,” said Serio. “Something that really reflects both the industrial feel of the town of Muskegon as well as the relaxed, summer setting on the beach.”

Local art will be displayed, a lineup of local music will lead the beat throughout the duration of the fest, and local food will be provided, feeding the beach-beer theme.

Also fitting the theme is the option to beach camp this year, with both rustic and RV sites available for those who want to extend their Burning Foot experience

Fest-goers will also have the opportunity to donate funds to Noah’s Project, a kill-free adoption center for dogs. “We like craft beer and puppies…and really, who doesn’t?”

In general, the whole purpose for the guild and its activities is to make their communities better by working together. The beer may be the vehicle, but Lake Michigan is the driving force behind this united front.

“Whether it’s monetary value or volunteer hours, we want to contribute our time and efforts to keeping the communities and the lakes clean and beautiful,” said Serio.

Sharing beer, community experiences, and Lake Michigan seem to reflect the next collaborative evolution of the craft industry.

 

burning foot

Muskegon, Mich – After last year’s sold out festival on August 27th 2016, the warm summer sand of Muskegon’s Pere Marquette Beach will play host to the 2nd annual Burning Foot Beer Festival. From 3pm to 9pm, festival goers can enjoy some of the finest craft beer found in the Great Lakes region, with the beautiful shoreline of Lake Michigan serving as a backdrop. With 50 craft breweries from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin gathering on the sand for the event, Burning Foot is poised to turn Muskegon’s beach into the perfect summer playground for craft beer lovers.

burning footAlthough Burning Foot is first and foremost a celebration of local craft beer, the festival also highlights the lakeshore’s stunning natural beauty (and hot summer sand)! Bordered by sand dunes to the east and Lake Michigan to the west, Pere Marquette Park provides world-class natural surroundings from every vantage point. In addition to the views and brews, Burning Foot showcases local and national music acts, a food menu that is beer and beach themed and local custom art, ensuring that festival goers experience the full flavor of life along the lakeshore.

The Lakeshore Brewers Guild will be hosting a Pre-release ticket party June 25th, 2016 at the Downtown Muskegon Beach Volleyball courts on the corner of 2nd & Western From 12:00 to 5PM. This free event will have tickets available before the online sale starts and will have food, music and craft beer onsite, partons will be able to kick back enjoy some tunes have a craft beer and sink their feet in the sand downtown. Tickets have been increased to 4000 (over 2500 last year) for $35 per and will be available for purchase online beginning on Saturday, June 25th at 5:01pm.

lakeshore brewers guildThe Lakeshore Brewers Guild promotes the local craft beer industry and the lakeshore’s natural beauty. As a supplement to the Michigan Brewers Guild, the Lakeshore Brewers Guild will focus on counties that touch Lake Michigan. States included are Michigan, Indiana, Illinois & Wisconsin. Throughout these counties, the Guild is working with its members to build the “Lakeshore Ale Trail,” a region rich in craft breweries, natural beauty, and the economic benefits that flow from successful locally-owned and oriented businesses. Joint advertising and cooperative support allows Guild members to grow while also establishing the region as a “beer tourism” hotspot. Through these collaborative efforts, the Lakeshore Brewers Guild is becoming a driving force in supporting both its members and local economies.

Breweries Attending Burning Foot 2016:

MICHIGAN
Arcadia Ales
Beards Brewing
Big Lake Brewing Company
Big Hart Brewing
Boatyard Brewing
Brewery Vivant
Cedar Springs Brewing
Constantine Brewery
Crankers Brewing
Draught Horse Brewing
Dutch Girl Brewery
Elk Brewing
Fetch Brewing Company
Final Gravity Brewing
Founders Brewing
Grand Armory Brewing
Gravel Bottom Brewing
Greenbush Brewing
Jolly Pumpkin
Kuhnnenn Brewing
Liberty Street Brewing
New Holland Brewing Company
North Peak Brewing Company
Newaygo Brewing Company
Odd Side Ales
Old Nation Brewing
Our Brewing Company
Pigeon Hill Brewing
Rail Town Brewing
Right Brain Brewery
Rockford Brewing Company
Saugatuck Brewing
Schmohz Brewing
Shorts Brewing
Stormcloud Brewing
Tapistry Brewing
Trail Point Brewing
Tri Cities
Unruly Brewing
Vander Mill Cider
White Flame Brewing

ILLINOIS
Lagunitas Brewing
Une Annee Brewery

WISCONSIN
3 Sheeps Brewing
Milwaukee Brewing Company
Mob Craft Brewing

 

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.”

SPRING LAKE TOWNSHIP — In hopes of promoting more on-site consumption of its hard cider, Vander Mill celebrated the grand opening of its outdoor cider garden Friday.

Hard cider’s increasing popularity has created fairly rapid growth for Paul Vander Heide’s cider mill. Friday’s opening of its more than 2,000 square-foot outdoor garden was another benchmark for Vander Mill.

“It’s a relaxing, family-friendly place to have a drink,” Vander Heide said. “We’re trying to maintain a balance of family-friendly and craft-alcohol drinking.”

Among the “family-friendly” options, youngsters were carted around on a train powered by a tractor and took full advantage of an adjacent playground area surrounded by five acres of woods to the east of the mill.

In the past three years the cider mill has seen increased traffic, which the owner attributes to familiarity of its products now served at 28 bars/restaurants and 40 store retailers across the state, mostly in West Michigan.

“There’s a lot of traffic coming from Grand Rapids and they recognize the logo, they recognize the name,” Vander Heide said. “And then there’s other people seeking it out.”

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 their right heading into town (on the left as heading out of town). The store is open during the summer Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday noon to 7 p.m.

During the event, two specialty ciders were on tap in addition to eight others — the mill usually has 10 ciders on tap. The specialties, Luscious Lutes, hard cider fortified with apple brandy, and Doubled Over, a dry-hopped, bourbon-barrel aged cyser, are both available until the batches run out.

At the grand opening, patrons were treated to pizza from Old Boys Brewhouse and cheese samples from Grassfields of Coopersville. While the cider mill store sells ice cream and fresh-made donuts along with an assortment of Michigan-made local products, there are no substantial food offerings.

“We’re hoping to have a food element,” Vander Heide said. “The concept is going to be that we do 100 percent Michigan product. We would hope the additional food we offer would feature the products sold in the store.”

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.”

“We are a cider mill first,” he said. “We’re going to make a beer that has cider in it, you can bet on that.”

The brews — perhaps two or three offered on-site with occasional one-offs at local bars — will be made “on a really micro scale,” according to Vander Heide.

At Friday’s event, tours were offered, including the showcase of the mill’s new tanks. The mill is transitioning from poly totes to tanks, which should help produce a higher volume of cider. In total, three tanks will be used — a 2,000-gallon fermenter and two 850-gallon brite tanks for carbonation.

“It’s really going to help us improve consistency batch to batch,” Vander Heide said, adding the tanks will give a more consistent carbonation and help manage the company’s overall distribution growth.

As the cider mill continues to meet the needs of growing distribution demands, Friday marked one day to celebrate the site where the mill began in 2006.

“It’s certainly not a lack of demand,” Vander Heide said. “It’s not how much we can sell, it’s who we can sell it to. We want to be able to sell it as a craft cider, not just a cider.”

 

 


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