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Hittin' the Mitten: Michigan Cider Tours Day 1 (West Michigan)

I recently travelled to back to Grand Rapids Michigan to judge in my third consecutive Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition. The 2013 "GLINTCAP" prove to be bigger and better than ever. Great Lakes Cider &Perry Association's Treasurer Mike Beck had arranged quite a line up of distinguished international and domestic cider dignitaries and guests. There were a few of the same ole' same ole' like myself, Dick Dunn of Cider Digest, Cider book editor/author Ben Watson, and Nicole Leibon from Farnum Hill Ciders. This year Mike and crew turned it up to 11 and invited a handful of international cider experts to help judge GLINTCAP's increasing catalog of International styles. Nick Bradstock (UK), Eduardo Coto (Asturias, Spain/Germany), and Norman Groh of Weidmann & Groh GbR. Read a bit more about them in my previous Hittin' the Mitten post.

The Cider Bus... Cider'd up and ready to roll.

First things first... Tap that Virtue Lapinette keg! We picked up bottles as we drove too. Equal opportunity cider quaffing.

 Friday March 22nd marked the day before our judges workshop, and the first of 3 days of Michigan state cider tours organized by Mike and the Great Lakes Cider & Perry Association. Our first day would see about 15 of us all in small bus complete with designated driver and lots of local cider to quench our thirst. At 11:30 we all gathered at the Courtyard Marriott, jumped in the bus, poured ourselves a cider off the keg and headed down Michigan's bumpy highways off to our first stop of the day, Robinette's Apple Haus & Winery.




Our cider tour group arriving at Robinette's Apple Haus & Winery

Robinette's Apple Haus & Winery

3142 4 Mile Rd NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49525
(800) 400-8100


Robinette's like so many of Michigan's cideries is a family owned operation. The farm and orchard was bought back in 1911 by the Robinette family and has been owned and operated by the family since. In the early 1970's in response to the increasingly difficult wholesale apple and fruit market patriarch Jim Robinette diversified and expanded the farm operation by adding a cider mill and press and a bakery to supply fresh cider doughnuts and more.. Since then visiting Robinette's has been a family tradition countless Michigan residents. In 2005 Bill Robinette further diversified the family business by making and selling  their first ciders. Now-a-days you can buy cider, meads, wines, and fortified wines.


Gigantic snow covered steel apple sculpture. Do Not Climb!

Robinette's cidermaker Bill Robinette.

Robinette's press room, custom built for their space over 40 years ago and still going strong

Virtue Cidermaker Ryan Burk joking around with International cider author/blogger Eduardo Coto a.k.a Cider Guerrilla.

Sampling the ciders in the original property barn. The Robinette's have turned this into a gorgeous tasting room.

Bill's Special Hard Cider from Robinette Cellars


Sietsema Orchards & Cider Mill

8540 2 Mile Rd NE‎
Ada, MI 49301
(616) 676-5584


Second stop, Sietsema Orchards a relatively short drive away in in Ada Michigan. Sietsema Orchards in one form or another is also a multi generational Michigan apple family. Since the 1930's Sietsema's have been farming and orcharding just outside of Grand Rapids. As of 2012 Sietsema's became one of Michigan's newest craft cidermakers, and were recently named one of the 4 Up-and-Coming Cider Makers To Watch in 2013 by Chris Lehault of Serious Eats. If that weren't enough these guys also host a successful Farm to Table Dinner Series.

Now Sietsema's was also where all the Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition entries were being amassed, stored, and checked in. It was a busy place for a handful of folks that day and fairly "photo sensitive" with piles of contest ciders all over. We tried to stay out of the way and not shoot the ciders as tempting as it was.


Sietsema's Cider Yellow Label bottles

Tapping the ciders and checking out the space at Sietsema's

Seitsema's Goodnature vertical press and Oesco fruit washing and grinding equipment.

This is where the apples go so the good stuff can come out!

Just a few bottles chillin' out in the cooler.

Al Yelvington (center), and Eric West of (right), taking a break from a grueling day of competition bottle organizing/numbering/tagging to chat with us.

Hunter Wade from Apple Sauced Cider.




McIntosh Orchards and Wine Cellar

6431 107th Avenue
South Haven, MI 49090
(708) 878-3734

You might think you know what kind of apples grow at McIntosh Orchards but you'd be only part right. McIntosh Orchards is a 76 acre farm with 26 different varities of apples, 14 grown specifically their craft cider and winery operation. While their cider and ice cider is their specialty owner Bruce McIntosh makes an astounding number of other fresh fruit wines for tasting and purchase in their tasting room. Stop by and you'll also find local maple syrup, honey, homemade fudge and an assortment of pickles, preserves, jams and other canned goods.

Norman Groh from Germany, and Eduardo Coto of Asturia/Spain/Germany checking out the orchard at McIntosh Orchards & Wine Cellar

McIntosh Cellars Fine Traditional Draught Apple Cider from South Haven Michigan.

A fruit wine rainbow in effect.

Jealous of this license plate, still trying to decide if it was real. Looked real enough to me in person.

Eduardo Coto and Norman Groh in the McIntosh Cellars tasting room.

Michigan Cider Maker's Guild seemed to be a requirement at nearly all of our stops.




Welcome to Virtue Farms. I have it from a good source that the Virtue Cider bottle shop opens soon.

Virtue Cider

Fennville, Michigan


Visiting Virtue Cider has been high on my cider to-do list since I heard about their project, and even more so once I caught a glimpse of the first building Greg Hall and crew constructed on their new Fennville Michigan farmland. If that weren't tempting enough about a week before I headed out to Michigan Virtue was promoting a stellar promotional video starring aforementioned building and cidermaking crew made by a friend of theirs. Check it out here.

If you don't know about Greg Hall and Virtue Cider we don't have enough room in the post to enlighten you. A simple search will reveal many articles and stories about Greg and company. We can get into a bit more about them down the road at some point too. For now enjoy the photos of their iconic space (and Virtue swag) and the captions.

The Virtue building. Only in Europe could you find something with more European flavor. It's gorgeous!

The place is really decked out and styled already but they are just moving into these digs. I can't wait to visit again and see what it's like.

Same goes here on the inside too. They haven't even begun to setlling in. Cidermaker Ryan Burk was expecting an order of fresh stainless tanks days after our visit.

Virtue's cidermaker Ryan Burk. Uh... These are barrels imparting woody goodness on their cidery contents.

Uh oh... Swag and cider?Free cider and promotional materials... If there are 2 things I really have a weakness for, these things are at the top of the list.

This is it for the swag pics I promise.This wooden apple is hiding a very cool Virtue Lapinette poster. I have to admit that they are lucky that poster was there when we left.My good buddy "Cider Brian" @ChicagoCider hold the previously mentioned cool Virtue Lapinette Poster.

Virtue Cider pint glass.

Busted! Eduardo, Norman, and Ryan sampling direct from the tanks.

I'd be totally lying if I didn't say that "Yes, it was as fun as it looks.". Cider folks are the greatest and these guys are some of the best I've met.

This is what a craft cidery loading dock should look like.Back to the bus and towards Vander Mill Cider our last stop of the evening.


Vander Mill Cider

14921 Cleveland St
Spring Lake, MI 49456
(616) 842-4337


The Cider Bus' last stop of the evening was Vander Mill Cider for dinner, a cidery tour, and more cider. Vander Mill Cider is the brainchild of Paul Vander Heide and they have really blown up since the first time I visited. In fact this is my third trip to Paul's and he's had to add on an addition to his building and it looks as though he has more than doubled the size of it. Vander Mill is a pretty big deal in Chicago and rightly so. Paul and crew aren't shy and often exhibit quite a bit of creative flair when cidermaking. They produce a number of classic fruit ciders including Raspberry, Blueberry, and Cherry, they also make cinnamon roasted pecan cider called Totally Roasted, and although I didn't see it bottle I tasted a bit of dry hopped cider from a Vander Mill growler. Vander Mill has a serious side too with a semi-sweet Traditional Hard Cider and my favorite the Vander Mill Chapman's Blend a cider made from American Heirloom apples. Plus since I've returned I read that Vander Mill will be one of the next craft cidermakers to find it's way into a can.

And dinner. We were presented with plenty of eats throughout the day but I was ready for dinner after a long day of cider tasting. Homemade Michigan pretzels are front and center.

Vander Mill Chapman's Blend - An American Heirloom Cider

 There is always plenty of cold cider on tap and in the bottle at Vander Mill.

Enjoying some food and apple brandy too. Mike Beck of Uncle John's Cider Mill (back left), Eduardo Coto (front left) writer/blogger Blog de Sidra Internacional and Apfelwein Blog, Dick Dunn (back right) of Cider Digest, and Norman Groh (front right) cidermaker/distiller Weidmann & Groh GbR.

Champman's blend again... As traditional as I am about my cider it's no surprise a cider like Chapman's Blend was my Vander Mill Cider favorite.

Checking out Vander Mill's Good Nature cider press and pressing set up.

Paul Vander Heide has got himself a bunch of shiny new equipment. Here we all are gawking at his new canning line while you can see his giant new stainless steel fermenters looming in the background.


Thanks again to the Great Lakes Cider & Perry Association and Friday's (Day 1) host/guide Paul Vander Heide for organizing an awesome Cider Bus tour for us. It was an epic day, and we'd see a couple more days just like before we return home.

Saturday will see the Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition judge training workshops all day, and Sunday we spend what is always a rearding yet exhausting day of cider judging...

More on all of that later.

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    Response: Andrew Ting md
    Hittin' the Mitten: Michigan Cider Tours Day 1 (West Michigan) - Cider Blog -
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    Cider & Perry Competition is the oldest in United States as a whole. Every year I visit the competition. My self is a brewer and we make french wine. We follow strict standards laid by French Board of Breweries. Before last year I won best wine award also. Thanks for posting ...
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    Response: more on rebelmouse
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    Here we all are staring at his new canning line while you can see his goliath new stainless steel fermenters approaching out of sight.
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    Response: kiwi experience
    Most of peoples using this best process making site, really impressive I am getting more points and tips really best forever. I know it can help us with best kiwi experience, keep doing in the same way.
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    I am getting a lot of points about hittin the mitten the cider tours, really nice to watch the tourit is allowed to pickup. This is good completion of best traveling, great info about community grand rapids thank you.

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