Fall is here. The nights are getting cooler, the leaves are changing, there’s a hint of woodsmoke in the air, and more importantly, the cider is flowing! Michigan is the nation’s third-largest apple producer, harvesting over a billion pounds per year. More than half of those apples are transformed into other products, including both fresh-pressed sweet cider and a wide array of alcoholic hard ciders.
Metro Detroiters don’t need to travel far for a fun cider mill outing. The Franklin Cider Mill, for example, has been operating for more than a century. Visitors can watch the cider being pressed as well as purchase cider, apples, and a range of other products including donuts, which the mill has been making from the same German spice donut recipe for 80 years. Other great destinations for sweet cider in metro Detroit include Parmenter’s Northville Cider Mill and Yates Cider Mill in Rochester Hills.
Want a destination that will delight adults and kids alike? Travel a bit farther north to Blake’s Orchard & Cider Mill in Armada, which includes a full-service restaurant, a kids’ play area, evening campfires, and an artisan market. There, you’ll find both fresh-pressed apple cider and its grown-up sibling, hard cider. Blake’s makes about a dozen ciders at any given time, including core favorites like its classic Flannel Mouth, a blend of late-season table and dessert apples, as well as spicy El Chavo, with mango and habanero.
Hard apple cider is a classic American beverage and has been with us since our earliest days. All those apples Johnny Appleseed planted? Those bitter and sour apples were for making hard cider, which at the time was safer to drink than water. Prohibition killed off the hard cider industry, and today hard ciders still make up only about 1 percent of the beverage market. It’s one of the fastest growing beverage categories, however, and metro Detroit offers many great destinations to enjoy it. Most breweries will have one or two ciders on tap to cater to gluten-intolerant customers and those who just don’t care for beer.
Most cidermaking happens alongside other beverage production. Take, for instance, Fieldstone Winery and Hard Cider Co. in downtown Rochester, which makes cider from apples grown in Macomb and Oakland counties. With cinnamon and vanilla, the Cinnilla brew could be your next fall fave.
Mead and cider also go hand in hand, and both B. Nektar Meadery in Ferndale and Bløm Meadworks in Ann Arbor offer extensive cider selections to round out their mead offerings. B. Nektar’s cherry- and honey-flavored Zombie Killer is its most popular, but The Dude’s Rug features black tea and fall-friendly chai spices. The apple ciders at Bløm Meadworks are great, but don’t overlook the pears, which are featured in both a Pear Ginger Cider and a Perry Saison.
Whether you go for fresh-pressed sweet cider from the mill or bubbly hard cider in cans or on tap — or mix them together for a Michigan mimosa — is up to you. Just don’t forget the donuts.