When I spoke to co-owners John Behrens and Megan Odegaard of Farmhaus Cider Co., they were cleaning up the cidery after a long week of juggling work and play. Full-time accountants and part-time cidermakers, the partners are diligently working evenings and weekends to transform their love for apples into a lifestyle.
The two friends founded Farmhaus Cider Co. in 2014 after Behrens’ grandmother passed away, leaving her virtually untouched Michigan farm—which had been in the family for 150 years—on the market. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, but I wanted to keep it in the family,” Behrens says. Since then, the farm has witnessed exceptional progress, going from “a state of disrepair,” as Behrens puts it, to one with much character and potential.
While time-consuming, the blind maneuver to purchase the farm has proved a worthwhile risk for the duo. “We’d been [making cider] for fun for quite awhile with friends, always passionate about beer and cider in particular,” says Behrens.
So appropriately, the craft beverage fans work by a philosophy similar to that of brewers. “We’re taking it from the perspective of how a brewery does it, how the brewers let the hop farms do the growing,” Odegaard says. “We’ve planted heirloom apples, but right now we’re using local orchards that we handpick at. They grow, and then we do the craft part.”
This family-style twist has allowed Farmhaus to form valuable relationships with local growers and farmers. Rather than focusing specifically on organic fruits, the two find it just as meaningful to maintain these relationships by locally sourcing ingredients. “We’re really into finding apples that are close,” continues Odegaard. “About 10 miles away is one of Michigan’s biggest apple-growing regions.”
In an additional effort to support friends and fellow Michigan businesses via this family-style mantra, Farmhaus currently self-distributes all its ciders to places that reflect the same values. “We stick with places we like to go,” Behrens says, with the goal that patrons of those restaurants and bars will have similar interests to the cidery. “My grandfather delivers all of our product for us.”
Taking advantage of nearby resources and businesses fosters the idealistic future that Farmhaus and many other Michigan-based cideries hope to make a reality. “We want Michigan to become the Napa Valley of cider,” says Odegaard. With more than 100 cider mills, the state doesn’t seem far from this achievement.
While maintaining a local vibe, Farmhaus is definitely growing. Behrens and Odegaard are pleased to share that they just opened the tasting room two weeks ago. Only “room” may not be the proper term.
“It’s more like an outdoor cider garden,” Behrens says. “We got a bunch of tables used at Oktoberfest in Germany.” The homey outdoor garden is a place for cider lovers to gather each weekend and sip cider at historically-appropriate German tables amidst twinkling lights and changing leaves with a view of the farmhouse. On tap are the three ciders, the dry Trocken, the semi-sweet Halbbitter and Brunch, a seasonal release featuring local maple syrup, roasted walnuts and cinnamon. According to the pair, the ciders have received great feedback from the craft beer group.
The pure yet providing farmhouse-turned-cidery continues to grow and attract new patrons while remaining a place reminiscent of memories and a humble upbringing. “It’s our own little Eden,” says Odegaard. “We want to make sure we only put good things back into it.”
The dedication and labor Behrens and Odegaard have put into the cidery no doubt reflect this mission.