For what was our first full day in Grand Rapids the Great Lakes Cider & Perry Association had thoughtfully organized a day tour of West Michigan and a couple of the area cidermakers for the GLINTCAP 2011 guest judges.
After our morning espresso back at MadCap Coffee we met up with Gary Awdy at our hotel and with him was Dick Dunn. Dick is the man. He is the guy who currently runs the Cider Digest. Dick tells me Cider Digest has been arounf for nearly 20 years and he has maintained it for close to 17 years. It was an honor to be able to meet and hang out Dick Dunn. While I don't know the exact history I do know he provided one of the first places for the exchange of thoughts and theories on craft cidermaking. I'm a longtime loyal reader and Dick lived up to all the great things I've heard about him from mutual acquaintances over the years.
After a short wait we were met by Paul Vander Heide owner of Vander Mill Cider who would be our tour guide and host for the day. Our hosts I can't imagine he volunteered for the gig. He must have drawn the short straw to end up carting all of us around…
Just as soon as we all jumped into Paul's van we were off and headed to South East Grand Rapids for a quick lunch. Along the way Paul regaled us with lots of very cool local factoids and told us about Grand Rapids' creative culture, their connection to the arts and the relatively new Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts. What a cool place and I always love hearing about a town from a genuine local's perspective.
Lunch at The Green Well where we met up with the rest of our tour party. Nearly as soon as we sat down Mike Beck from Uncle John's Fruit House Winery showed up with Ben Watson author of "Cider, Hard and Sweet: History, Traditions, and Making Your Own", and Fox Barrel's Bruce Nissen. It was a great group of folks to get to have lunch with.
Coincidentally owned by the Bistro Bella Vita folks, The Green Well shares the same exact philosophies only condensed into a more approachable neighborhood pub-style format. Having ate at both I can assuredly say that they maintain all the quality, enthusiasm and dedication to the local producers and fresh food philosophy as the Bistro Bella Vita. Only accompanied by a larger selection of great draught beverages.
It was a beautiful sunny day in Grand Rapids. The atmosphere at The Green Well was friendly and casual. Of course with all the cider folks at the table, our conversation eventually drifted from the beers we were ordering and what we were going to eat to.... Cider. But I suppose that wouldn't be news to anyone.
Great food, good drink and excellent company I thought the lunch experience was a spot on start to our day tour, and a great ice breaker. The only thing that could possibly eclipse the great menu options, was the overwhelming experience of making 3 choices for a Green Well draught flight from their ALL MICHIGAN selection. Beers and ciders. Choosing my libations was far more time consuming and difficult than it should have been. Priorities... Paul's Vander Mill ciders were on the draught menu but I knew cider at Paul's place was in the forecast so I quickly narrowed it down to the beers.
So what did I drink? From left to right: New Holland Brewing Company's Dragon Milk, Dripalicious from Short's Brewing Company, and Hangin' Frank also from Short's Brewing Company. What didn't I get? Vander Mill Cider. On the average day i'd never pass up cider in a place like this but Paul's place was going to be our second stop after lunch and we would get a chance at the source.
I like to think I live in culinarily progressive region in the Northwest but this is the sort of place that I truly love... I'm sad to say that we do not have anything quite like this in Olympia where I live, and gastro pubs of this sort are far and few between in both Portland or Seattle too. I'm pretty jealous of the Grand Rapid locals. If I lived near this place, there would be a stool with my name on it. When I started I had no intention of making the lunch stop it's own post but places like The Green Well are pretty rare and deserve a few words.
I love The Green Well...