Thursday, 25 April 2019 13:40

Honeycombs and Honeycrisp: Mead and cider around West Michigan

Written by  Josh Veal
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Virtue Cider Co. Virtue Cider Co. Courtesy Photo

Mead, cider and wine are all cut from the same cloth. 

In fact, mead is sometimes referred to as “honey wine,” though that’s a bit misleading — there’s a big difference between white wine with honey added and true mead, made from fermented honey, with no grapes involved. 

What all three drinks do have in common is that they’re not brewed at any point like beer is. If you wanted to make your own mead or cider without regard for quality or nuance, you’d just throw some yeast and water in with honey or apple juice and let it ferment. Of course, making an interesting, balanced, unique mead or cider takes a true master, of which there are many across West Michigan.

If you’re looking for a libation that’s easy to drink, refreshing, slightly sweet and gluten-free, head out and try some cider or mead. Here’s our guide to lead the way.

Acoustic Draft Mead
119 N. Maple St., Traverse City
drinkacoustic.com, (231) 275-2041

As its name suggests, Acoustic is a little on the lighter side. Its musically themed meads come in at an average 6-percent ABV. Combine that with the light carbonation in every bottle (hence the word “Draft”), and Acoustic’s selection drinks more like a beer or cider than most meads. To live it up, try the Electric Bzzz, made with apricot and orange zest. Acoustic also now has cider and cyser, a mixture of cider and mead!

Arktos Meadery
1251 Century Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
arktosmeadery.com, (616) 406-4444

Arktos has made quite the splash in West Michigan with its eye-catching bottle design, tasteful nuance and bear-centric mythology. The mead itself has garnered multiple awards in just a few short years, offering an ever-expanding selection of flavors: coffee, blackberry, pumpkin, etc. All these can be found at the Grand Rapids tasting room, where goblets line the bartop and mead flows from nitro taps.

Bardic Wells Meadery
8844 Water St., Montague
bardicwells.com, (616) 837-8035

Coming from a long line of beekeepers, the owners of Bardic Wells know their honey from start to finish, inside and out. We strongly recommend hunting down the Traditional Mead. It’s balanced, smooth, unpretentious and very affordable. You wouldn’t expect something this reasonably priced to taste this unreasonably good, but Bardic is the first ever licensed meadery in Michigan and it shows.

Bee Well Mead & Cider
3533 S. Derenzy Rd., Bellaire
beewellmeadery.com, (734) 787-4187

Bee Well keeps growing as the four siblings work to spread their mead far and wide. The tasting room in Bellaire, right across from Short’s Brewing Co., is coming up on another anniversary, Make the trip to try out some Cherry Tonic Jr. or Antrim Apple Pie, straight from the source. The cider side of Bee Well keeps growing over the years too, now with flavors ranging from wild-fermented cider to a plum cyser.

Black Dragon Meadery 
Distribution only, New Buffalo
blackdragonmeadery.com

While it has yet to settle down into a tasting room (distribution only), Black Dragon is worth seeking out. Paul Peterson, a.k.a. Pete Wylde the MeadMaster, has won 18 awards for his meads since 2009. Bottles are available for purchase on vinoshipper.com, or find an event at facebook.com/blackdragonmeadery.

Farmhaus Cider Co.
5025 Stanton St., Hudsonville
farmhauscider.com, (616) 920-1867

Farmhaus blew up fast, opening in 2015 with a Cidergarten and beginning to distribute statewide in just two years. The couple-owned cidery aims for simplicity, with styles like the Halbbitter, which is described as fresh, bright and semi-sweet, and the Trocken, which is unfiltered, dry and tart. The taproom is open on the weekends  and look for the signature tallboys at your local store.

Great Mead Hall
215 W. Monroe, Bangor
greatmeadhall.net, (269) 427-0827

Great Mead Hall is known for locally sourcing its honey, fruit and other ingredients used in its mead and cider. Some options include Mz. Beauregarde, a blueberry mead, and King Alcinous, a pear mead aged for nine to 12 months. The tasting room in Bangor is now open, or you can find Great Mead in liquor stores near you.

Painted Turtle Hard Cider
paintedturtlehardcider.com
(616) 644-3047

Painted Turtle came on the scene in 2016, and it’s clearly here to stay. The Apple Crisp, Blueberry Bliss and Java Vanilla ciders have made a splash, being packed full of flavor without going overboard. There’s no tasting room, so look for the cute little reptile on the tallboy cans at your local party store.

Pux Cider
1051 Harding St., Conklin
puxcider.com, (616) 899-2298

The family at Pux has a real passion for apples, going back six generations at the Schaefer Orchard. It’s here that they crank out a wide variety of excellent ciders, including barrel-aged tart cherry, hopped cider, blood orange and a single apple varietal. There’s no taproom, but you can find Pux’s ever-growing lineup on shelves near you.

Ridge Cider Co.
351 W. 136th St., Grant
ridgecider.com, (231) 674-2040

Ridge Cider Co. has gone through a lot of changes over the years, but the one aspect that’s stayed consistent is quality cider. Located off M-37 near West Michigan’s famous apple ridge, Ridge’s tasting room is large, comfy and full of wood. It features a wide range of ciders and the company’s distribution keeps growing as well. Check your local store for Porch Sittin’, a cider with vanilla and cinnamon, or Caramel Apple with handmade caramel sauce.

Robinette’s Apple Haus & Winery
3142 4 Mile Rd. NE, Grand Rapids
robinettes.com, (616) 361-7180

Passed down through five generations, Robinette’s has been making apple cider since 1971, which means they’ve had plenty of time to get it right. In 2006, they started making it with alcohol too. Now, you can swing by at any time of the year to taste six wines or ciders for just $3.

St. Ambrose
Cellars Meadery
841 S. Pioneer Rd., Beulah
stambrose-mead-wine.com
(231) 383-4262

St. Ambrose’s affordably priced selection is out of control in the best way possible. Draft mead, still mead, honey wine, it’s all there in an outrageous variety of flavors. If you’re a big fan of sour beers, this is the meadery for you — try the Wild Ginger, a sour mead with ginger. The owners keep their own bees, so they know their stuff.

Starcut Ciders
121 N. Bridge St., Bellaire
starcutciders.com, (231) 498-2300

Starcut Ciders, made by Short’s Brewing Co., was born in 2014 out of a desire to utilize the apple orchards of northern Michigan. Starcut features both unique and traditional ciders. Keep your eye out for Immortal Jelly, a cider inspired by Soft Parade and fermented with raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries. It’s slightly sour, slightly fruity and totally delicious.

The Peoples Cider Co. 
539 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids
thepeoplescider.com, (616) 322-7805

Peoples Cider has had an amazing time at its new location next to Long Road Distillers and Mitten Brewing Co., where there are opportunities to collaborate between owners. The cidery has quickly established itself as a destination for top-tier cider that’s nuanced, complex and full of flavor, served in a totally unpretentious tasting room. Whether you’re a first-timer or a cider fanatic, you shouldn’t pass up Peoples.

Uncle John’s Cider Mill
8614 N. US-127, St. Johns
ujcidermill.com, (929) 224-3686

One of the oldest apple farms in the country, Uncle John’s hard cider is simple but well refined. Classic flavors like Cherry, Blueberry and Apricot make the cider easily accessible, but with enough options to offer some variety. Look for the cans in stores or make the trip to St. Johns, north of Lansing.

Vander Mill Cider
505 Ball Ave. NE, Grand Rapids
14921 Cleveland St., Spring Lake
vandermill.com, (616) 259-8828

Vander Mill is a cider powerhouse, both in terms of quantity and quality. The Grand Rapids taproom reflects that, with an indoor deck overlooking the massive production facility churning out wine across the flavor spectrum. Sweet, dry, spiced, nitro, wood-aged, Vander Mill has it all. While you’ve definitely heard of mainstays like Totally Roasted and Blue Gold, hit up the taproom (or some specialty stores) for specialty ciders like the Loving Cup, made with peppercorn and hibiscus.

Virtue Cider Co. 
2170 62nd St., Fennville
virtuecider.com, (269) 722-3232

Virtue’s ciders are legit and true to the dry European style. The sheep, chicken and Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs — common to Old World cideries — add to the traditional vibe at the farm and cider mill. Stop in for a tasting or to buy a bottle of these Michigan-centric ciders. The Mitten, a bourbon barrel-aged cider, has remained a fan-favorite, but you’ll also find French-style bruts, single-apple varietals and specialty blended ciders. 

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