BREWERY OF THE MONTH: THE PEOPLE'S CIDER CO.
In a city nationally recognized for its beer, a new producer has popped up in Grand Rapids – not armed with malt and hops, but rather, apples. The People's Cider Co. has begun distribution out of its new facility in Grand Rapids, marking the city's first cidery.
Owner/Winemaker Jason Lummen's father-in-law was an avid homebrewer and cider maker, which inspired him to put his lifelong love with cider to action.
"I went to England and Ireland, and they have a huge cider culture there," Lummen said. "I came home and there wasn't any craft cider that fit my tastes."
More than 10 years ago, Lummen decided to make the kind of cider that he wanted to drink. He acquired 15 bushels of apples, and with the help of Lubbers Farm, pressed his first batch of cider. He was so intent on cider making that he purchased a 50 gallon fermenter to use in his Heartside apartment.
One fermenter soon became four and he would bring cider to social engagements, to much praise.
"It was encouraging," Lummen said. "And it finally got to the point where it was time to [open a cidery], and that's where we are now, operating within my means."
And the name? It was derived from Howard Zinn's "The People's History of the United States."
"Zinn has a great quote where he says 'I grew up class conscious,' and so did I," Lummen said. "When you grow up class conscious you look at the world differently."
The People's Cider Co. focuses on using all local product, which is a very important aspect of the business, according to Lummen.
"We're this huge beer city, but cider is really our local product. I can get the apples 13 miles from here, press them, and make wine in town."
In light of the apple crop shortage this last harvest season, many cider producers turned to out-of-state sources to continue production, but not The People's.
"This is your local apple. This is what your climate tastes like, this is what Grand Rapids tastes like," Lummen said.
Armed with a mini-fleet of fermenters and Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, People's Cider focuses on drier cider across the board, while still retaining a brightness from the semi-juiciness of the apples and carbonation. "Batch #1" is a bourbon barrel aged cider, with a comfortable barrel presence that doesn't overpower the light, crisp flavor profile of this cider.
You can find The People's Cider on tap around Grand Rapids while it's available at Harmony Brewing Company, Georgio's and HopCat, with more locations in the works.
Lummen plans on releasing new ciders, including a higher ABV cider fermented on an ale yeast strain, releasing some meads (including a dry-hopped variety), and eventually opening a tasting room.
"The biggest thing is gearing up for next season," Lummen said. "We're going to self-distribute for now, and prepare our infrastructure for, hopefully, a great apple harvest next year."
BEER OF THE MONTH: SAUGATUCK BREWING COMPANY'S BONFIRE BROWN
In the heat of the summer, a lot of people turn to lighter brews, but when the cooler night time rolls around and you find yourself around a bonfire, darker ales can also be equally refreshing. For your summer nights, grab Saugatuck Brewing Company's Bonfire Brown, which just won Best of Show at the 2013 World Expo of Beer in Frankenmuth for brown ale.
This brew pours deep red/brown with a dense tan head with an aroma full of biscuit, roast, chocolate, caramel and a hint of smoke. The flavor is very balanced and full of roasted malt, chocolate and biscuit with a moderate smoke presence, a light but bitter hop presence and a semi-creamy mouthfeel.
New Holland Hatter Days 2013 Street Party celebrates the release of the full Hatter Family on June 8.
On June 21, Detroit Summer Beer Fest celebrates Detroit Craft Beer Month. The festival features more than 60 breweries from around the world. Visit detroitsummerbeerfest.com for more information on breweries and tickets.
On June 22, Founders Fest 2013 takes over Grandville Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids and features Founders beer, live music all day (including G. Love & Special Sauce, Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk, and Man Man), and local food. For more information and tickets, see foundersbrewing.com.
Bell's recently announced Upper Hand Brewery, a new division to open in Escanaba in late 2014.