Long known for their apples and donuts, cider mills in Michigan have recently been receiving praise for the output of hard ciders.
The strange, fluctuating temperatures during the spring of 2012 caused a great deal of damage to the annual apple crop in Michigan; the shortage of apples led to higher prices and limited availability of most Michigan apple-related products.
The moderate temperatures and plentiful rainfall of the 2013 growing season resulted in a dramatic increase in apples, which opened the door for expanding current operations and starting new ventures.
Michigan hard ciders are gaining a regional and national reputation in conjunction with the popularity of Michigan craft beer.
People looking for alternatives in the gluten-free food and beverage marketplace also appreciate the growth of the hard cider industry in Michigan.
Make sure to check out these Michigan hard cider makers before the season winds down.
Vander Mill opened in 2006 and has gained attention and popularity over the years. Owner Paul Vander Heide has purposely grown the business focusing on his core products and making his products readily available through distribution.
Vander Mill’s flagship brands Hard Apple, Totally Roasted, and Blue Gold are now available in more than 600 retail outlets and 400 bars in Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio.
Vander Mill uses high-quality Michigan apples from the Dietrich family apple farm. They never pasteurize, add preservatives, or add sugar to their cider.
Cider making demonstrations are available on Saturdays during the fall.
14921 Cleveland Street
Spring Lake, MI 49456
Almar Orchards is known for Jim Koan’s line of ciders, J.K.’s Northern Neighbor, J.K.’s Scrumpy Hard Cider (Organic), and J.K.’s Cuvée Winterruption.
The family-owned farm has been pressing cider in Flushing, Mich., since the 1850s. Although they grow a variety of produce, apples (and cider) have actually saved the farm during tough economic times and Prohibition. Taking pride in history and traditional methods of production, they have not altered their process since before the Civil War.
Organic is important at Almar Orchards. Instead of pesticides, Koan allows his hogs to wander the grounds and eat fallen apples, which helps serve as pest control.
The J.K. line of ciders are available through distribution in over thirty states.
Blake’s Orchard & Cider Mill
Blake Farms has recently released a new line of four hard ciders including: Original, Gentleman’s Dry, Semi-sweet, and Autumn Apple.
The cider varieties will be served at their new Ciderhouse and Winery, with hopes of distribution to bars and retail outlets early next year. The Ciderhouse will be open through December with plans to remain open year-round in the future.
Paul Blake (second-generation co-owner) is happy about growing their operations in the area. “We know we need to innovate to stay ahead of the industry, and we’re excited to expand right here in Armada,” he says.
Blake Farms, established in 1946, is family owned and operated. They have won awards for their apple cider and have been voted the No. 1 apple orchard in Michigan by AAA. Blake Farms also grows berries, pumpkins, and a large variety of other produce. During the fall season they provide a variety of family-oriented fun including pony rides, and a corn maze.
17985 Armada Center Road
Armada, MI 48005
Founded by brewing innovator Gregory Hall (Goose Island Beer Company Brewmaster 1991-2011), Virtue Cider in Fennville produces old world farmhouse style ciders using modern craft fermentation and aging techniques.
The mission at Virtue Cider is Good, Clean and Fair.
Good is the commitment to the community and the people of the area: locally sourced ingredients, collaborations with local artists and charitable donations.
Clean is for helping protect the environment and sustainability: no water is added, nor is heat required for making cider, refrigeration needs are very low, and trees clean the air and provide habitat for birds, small mammals, and beneficial insects. Virtue’s ciders are fertilizer-free and harvested annually using the same wooden crates; the leftover pressed apple pumice is immediately used for animal feed.
Fair is for the support of the carefully selected apple growers who receive above-market value for their harvest – many of which are multi-generational family-owned farms.