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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

 

cider weekGrand Rapids, MI (April 3, 2017) – The Michigan Cider Association (MCA), with support from Experience Grand Rapids, announces the inaugural Cider Week GR, April 17-22, 2017.

The week-long celebration brings hard cider makers from around the world to Michigan, the second largest producer of apples in the U.S., for industry events, an international cider competition, local tap takeovers, and a festival on the Blue Bridge in downtown Grand Rapids.

Cider Week GR coincides with the world’s largest cider judging competition, the 12th annual Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (GLINTCAP). GLINTCAP features professional and amateur cider makers from more than three countries, competing for awards in 18 categories. The competition is closed to the public and runs April 19- 22 at the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Grand Rapids.

The inaugural Cider Week GR culminates with the first-ever hard cider festival on the Blue Bridge in downtown Grand Rapids, Saturday, April 22 from 2-7 p.m.

The festival features cider makers from around Michigan. Attendees will also enjoy a line-up of local music and food. The festival is open to the public and tickets are available for purchase at Eventbrite.

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.

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.

SPRING LAKE TOWNSHIP — Knowing the quality of Michigan apples, Paul Vander Heide is investing in the superiority of Michigan fruit.

It’s not just buying apples from local farmers that has the owner of Vander Mill Cider and Winery investing — now he is investing in the farmers who produce the fruit.

Along with three other hard cider makers, Vander Heide has recently formed the Michigan Cider Association, a non-profit association with a two-fold purpose. MCA is a registered non-profit in the state and waiting federal processing.

“We’re going to be doing work within the Michigan agricultural industry, reaching out the different growers and trying to explain to Michigan apple growers what kind of things we are looking for as cider producers,” Vander Heide said. “(What we are looking for) may be different than what they’re used to producing for, which is largely the fresh market.”

The second purpose of MCA is to pool the resources of hard cider producers in an effort to educate consumers, according to Vander Heide who acts as president of the Association. He is joined by Nikki Rothwell of Tandem Ciders in Suttons Bay, Andrew Blake of Blake Farms and Andy Sietsema of Sietsema Orchards and Cider Mill in Ada. But MCA is open to more members, especially on the Mitten’s east side.

“We’re really looking for folks that are energized to use time and resources making this collective effort worthwhile,” Vander Heide said. “So many times in business, you’ll see an association or guild with not a lot coming out of it. We want to make it worthwhile. We think the opportunity is there.”

The opportunity MCA hopes to capitalize requires building relationships with farmers.

“We’ve noticed that the farming community is kind of old school in the way it does business — establishing those relationships is very meaningful,” Vander Heide said. “We may be asking them to change the type of crop that they’re planting.

“It takes a good amount of trust because it takes a good amount of investment for them, both in time and in capital to start changing over to crops that may be more cider specific and less interesting, or less marketable in the fresh market.”

Step one to firming this relationship with apple growers will be an event MCA is hosting during the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo in downtown Grand Rapids on Dec. 9-11.

“We’re going to reach out to all of our growers,” Vander Heide said. “We’re going to bring cider makers and apple growers into one room. And just start to network with each other — talk about needs and how they differ for cider.”

The idea, Vander Heide explained, is to educate small orchards in a way that optimizes crop growing for both the apple producers and cider makers. Hard cider usually requires sweeter apples than typically sold in a grocery store. The right level of acid and tannins also help produce better cider.

Overall, MCA hopes to create a team approach with farmers.

“Apple farming in Michigan has become very much commodity-based,” he said. “That really puts a strain on the smaller orchards.

“This is a real opportunity for some diversification for things apple farmers know how to do — grow fruit.  If they have another outlet in a growing industry like cider, then that’s good for everybody.”

Nationally, Michigan ranks third in apple production and the state is a national leader in the growing hard cider market.

“We have a lot of producers coming up, we’ve got a thriving wine industry, which really helps encourage people to get into cider,” Vander Heide said. “There’s no doubt Michigan has some of the best fruit in the world.

“We’ve got very rich soil, we’ve got a lot of natural irrigation. Some of these other apple-growing states, they might produce a lot of apples, but it’s heavily irrigated. We’ve noticed, in having some history with out-of-state apples, Michigan really has the ability to a supply a superior quality product. “

For now, MCA is focused on the upcoming Fruit Expo. The Association will follow up with Michigan Cider Week, April 6-11, 2015, which culminates with the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition, April 10-13. The Michigan Cider Association hopes to engage the competition event in a way that includes more consumers and increases public appeal — not merely relegating it to just a competition in small room.

Supporters of the Michigan Cider Association can like the organization on its Facebook Page.