Social Links




Entries in Michigan Cider (3)


A proper start at The Green Well ~ West Michigan Cidermakers Tour

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.

Dick Dunn from Cider Digest with is Flight.

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.


Draught Flight @ The Green Well - Grand Rapids, MI.

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.

 The Green Well Roast Beef Sandwhich

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...


Uncle John's Fruit House Winery - Seasonal Cider 2008

In Michigan apples and cider are just as serious business as they are in the Northeast or the Northwest. The Michigan cider scene also seems to be vibrant, well organized and also showing signs of growth. Locally they organize the Michigan Cider Guild which looks to be made up of juice makers and hard cider producers. Annually the Great Lakes Cider and Perry Association puts on the Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition which will be held next in early April 2011. Thus far the "GLINT CAP" is the only exclusively International cider and perry competition in North America. This contest has become an important yearly event on the North American cider calendar and is likely considered the most prestigious contest amongst fellow cidermakers here.

Michigan cidermaking/winemaking boys Mike Beck of Uncle John's Fruit House Winery and Lee Lutes of Black Star FarmsIf you know Michigan cider, then you probably know about Mike Beck and Uncle John's Fruit House Winery. Mike is easily one of the best cider folks I've become acquainted with. From the get-go it was obvious he was very passionate about cider. He was also one of the first to reach out to me with conversation, kind words, support, and even cider. I finally had the pleasure to meet Mike in person at CiderDays in Western Massachussets. I tell you something about Mike... This guy seems to be everywhere, doing everything he can to promote cider as a whole, not just his own products. I'd be shocked if he wasn't considered one of the major forces within and behind the Michigan cider community these days.

In Michigan Uncle John's is one of the best places to go to for craft cider. Each year Mike presents a solid lineup of ciders to choose from. Regular offerings include Apple, Pear, Apple Cherry and other Seasonal cider varieties. If that weren't enough Uncle John's also have an array of wines from grapes, fruit, and yes even honey wines. I also should mention Uncle John's "dabbles" in some delectable custom distillates like Apple Vodka and Apple Brandy. If you'd like to take a peek I have a good number of the Uncle John's bottles, including the distillates, photographed and posted in my Cider Gallery.

A couple months back we tasted and discussed Uncle John's Seasonal 2008 that sent by Mike to me this early last year. Heather and I took some solid tasting notes and this is what we thought...


Uncle John's Fruit House Winery - Seasonal Cider 2008

Uncle John's 2008 Seasonal Cider is a beautiful bright, vivid, pale straw color. We found the appearance of this cider to clear, near brilliant, and it seemed to almost be glistening . It had a steady stream of good effervescence, slightly stronger than fizzy and closer to sparkling.

The cider's aroma was light, delicate and subtle with fresh floral characteristics and of a good and pleasant quality. Very clean, dry and herbaceous, with glimmers of fresh herb and spices, ripe pears, thyme, lemongrass, lemon and other zesty citrus.

The 2008 Seasonal is a somewhat dry cider with only a kiss of sweetness, a refreshing acidic bite complimented by a very light touch of briny saltiness. We found this to be a buttery cider, laced with flavors of citrus, lemon, and pear. In fact it also had an interesting slight "pickle-like" quality that I've come to associate with perry.

There was an good amount of tannic astringency and bitterness to enjoy. Cider body was balanced and near perfect for my taste. A tad past medium bodied with some respectable heft and substance to it, yet not too heavy, with good length and a pleasant finish... Right where one would hope to find a high quality craft cider.

Overall we really enjoyed this cider. It only got better once we were both able to put the pencils down and just kick back with it. A delicious balanced cider on the drier side with lots of character. It possessed a fantastic mouth watering acidity followed conversely by a near mouth drying tannin astringency inevitably leaving us wanting more.

Uncle John's Fruit House Winery Seasonal Cider 2008 has everything I like in a good craft cider. Character, tannin, acid. If you enjoy a solid dry cider this one is for you.


Michigan Ciders

 Tandem Ciders, Suttons Bay, Michigan. Courtesy of "Life is Fare"

Below you'll find an excerpt to a cider related blog post from "Life Is Fare - One woman's approach to living life to the fullest by eating happy food". I received the link for this story in my comments from the author. Needless to say I was very jealous. I've always wanted to make it out to Michigan and check out the cider scene. I'm in contact and email with a few folks out there and have found their ciders to be real good too.

Michigan is also home to the "Great Lakes Cider & Perry Association" who organizes and hosts the only International competition that is exclusively for Cider and Perry. They are also hosting the upcoming 3rd Annual Great Lakes Cider & Perry Festival to be held Sept 11-12 Uncle John's Cider Mill (one of Michigan's premier cider makers) at 8614 N US 127, St. Johns, MI. Tickets can be purchased here:

So read the excerpt and click on over to read the rest of the post as the author tours and tastes ciders from Michigan's own Tandem Ciders, Good Neighbor Organic Vineyard & Winery and Douglas Valley Organic Vineyards.

I gotta mention all three cider makers and many more Michigan cideries can be found on my North American Cider Map too... Go find and drink cider in Michigan!


On a Mission for Hard Cider

I’ve been drinking hard cider ever since I lived in London two decades ago. After that, I lived for a short time in Brattleboro, Vermont, where I was happy to find hard cider on tap at a place called Three Dollar Dewey’s. Ever since, I’ve had a taste for it, especially in the fall. Now, Michigan is my destination for hard cider. Nothing beats buying your happy hour drink from a local producer! Read more here...

Thanks for the comments and link Marcia! Much appreciated.