If you haven’t heard, it’s Cider Week in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The six-day citywide revelry of cider, particularly those from Michigan, kicked off Monday and coincides with the 12th annual Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition, the world’s largest cider judging this weekend. About 10 miles east of Grand Rapids is the township of Ada, home to the trees of Sietsema Orchards and Cider Mill.
Any given harvest at Eastman’s Forgotten Ciders in Wheeler, Michigan, is a rare one. The small, family-operated cidery exclusively produces its ciders from the apples on its estate orchard, Eastman’s Antique Apples, which plays host to more than 1,200 varieties of rare, elusive and heritage apples. Hailing from Russia, Turkey, Germany, France and England, many of the apples have found a new home in this orchard, and hardly anywhere else.
Inspired by “proper farmhouse ciders” of Spain, England and France, Virtue Cider launched in 2011 with Michigan apples at the center of the fruit-driven philosophy. A secondary, yet still major, component to Virtue’s cider school of thought is the use of barrels — each cider produced by the Fennville cidery is aged in some sort of oak vessel, from bourbon to French oak barrels.
Boy brews beer. Girl drinks cider. Boy meets girl, makes her cider and eventually wins her over. Now boy and girl make cider as Chicago’s first licensed cidery, Right Bee Cider. Tenured brewer Charlie Davis and cider enthusiast Katie Morgan launched their urban cidery in late 2014, providing the cider-happy city with its own apple tipple.
First things first: ^5 is pronounced “high five.” The nano cidery — based in Portland, Oregon — keeps it weird like its city is known for, with each limited production cider it makes donning an equally exclusive name. Such is the case with Your Princess is in Another Castle, a barrel-aged sour peach cider. In a proud feminist nod to the male dominant beverage industry (and also a Super Mario Bros.
Another seasonal makes the rounds for Bock Rock Hard Cider, just in time to blow the winter blues away. The Citrus Cider was released in the end of January, promising a sunny glow in its packaging, color and overall flavor.
Burgeoning from its rural roots to the United States’ largest independently owned craft cidery, this four-year-old maker brings Blue Ridge Mountains apples home to the Nellysford, Virginia, production facility for each of its ciders.
A fruit basket in the already agriculturally abundant Pacific Northwest, wild and domesticated trees dot the highways that saunter through Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. It’s from these trees — the fruit trees of neighbors, forgotten orchards of owners past, feral arboreal along the lazy turnpikes — that Eaglemount Wine & Cider got its start.
Cider has been in the Beck family for generations. Whether its production was legal or not is another story, but the current generation, with Mike Beck at the helm, is playing by all the rules and bringing Michigan cider to the forefront of the industry. The original 1918 packing house was converted into a cider mill in the 1970s by Beck’s parents, and when the time came to pass the fifth-generation, 240-acre farm down, Beck decided to turn those apples into Uncle John’s Hard Cider.
Maine is home to over 15 makers of cider and all fall into the southern portion of the state. In the physical middle of the pack, Norumbega Cidery sits on a family farmstead — complete with pigs and crops — in New Gloucester, about 35 minutes north of Portland. The Fralich family got their first apple trees in the ground in 2014, following the growing orchard with a farm-style ciderhouse and the resulting ciders.