Thursday, 28 May 2020 00:20

Sunny Cider Season

Written by  Jack Raymond
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Suttons Bay Ciders. Suttons Bay Ciders. Courtesy Photo

Of all our earthly pleasures, I’ll take 73 degrees, a balance between the sun and the breeze, and a pitcher of cider, please. West Michigan is blessed with an abundance of cideries furnished with patios to drink on. This is great news, because as we reacquaint with public spaces, outside is the safest haven for preventing the spread of COVID-19. 

This summer, seek out these outdoor oases and let your troubles melt away. 

Farmhaus Cider Co.
5025 Stanton St., Hudsonville

Down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere is the 150-year-old Farmhaus family farm. What once looked decrepit and filled with ghosts now operates as one of the state’s premier cideries. The plot’s been transformed into an impressive production facility fit with a Cidergaarten. When the sun disappears, the bistro lights illuminate the bog — creating an atmosphere I can only describe as “Shrek chic.” On tap, there’s plenty of cider to please. Tropical Vibes with pineapple and basil is the clear summer hit, but best in show goes to Trocken Dry. With nary a speck of residual sugar, it smacks the palate like a castanet. 

Suttons Bay Ciders
10530 E. Hilltop Rd., Suttons Bay

Suttons Bay Ciders may plop conveniently on the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail, but its earning business based on killer cider, not lost wine aficionados. The draft list runs the gamut of styles, so opt for a flight. Pay special attention to any hopped ciders like the Mosaic, which captures the floral essence of an IPA without compromising that tangy apple goodness. The deck provides a perfect perch for tasting with a jaw-dropping view overlooking West Bay. The word “Leelanau” literally translates to Land of Delight. Here, you’ll understand why.

Tandem Ciders
2055 N. Setterbo Rd., Suttons Bay

Tandem’s charming barn can squeeze about 20 people tops, but the tasting room spills out into a courtyard replete with benches, gardens and a pit for horseshoes, nestled amongst acres of open fields. A couple ciders deep on a June afternoon and you may mistake this place for Eden. For eats, please note: The pickled eggs are a must. Floating in a murky jar, they look more like a science experiment than a snack; but trust me, the vinegar and fat pair perfectly with a pour of Tandem’s Scrumpy Little Woody. If scrumpy ain’t your bag, the bartenders are the sweetest in the universe — I’m certain they’ll guide you to something delicious. 

Vander Mill
14921 Cleveland St., Spring Lake

Respect where respect is due: The OG Vander Mill in Spring Lake has spawned more cider fans than Johnny Appleseed planted trees. I remember where I was when I first caught the bug: sipping on a glass of Chapman’s Blend in the yard some sunny day, sharing a wood-fired pizza with good company. Although Vander Mill has long left behind its humble beginnings — what with the cider megaplex in Grand Rapids, which also sports an excellent outdoor space — the product has never lost touch with the ground-level memories that make cider special. Return to the source, have a Blue Gold and appreciate a classic. 

Virtue Cider
2170 62nd St., Fennville

Virtue is the only spot on this list where you can sip cider while competing in a staring contest against an Icelandic sheep. Be warned: The sheep never blink. While moseying amongst barnyard animals is fun, let’s talk cider. Virtue’s French styles are otherworldly. Take Lapinette, the Norman-style cidre brut — its nose of funky cheese and oak; its subtle minerality. These old-world flavors come from an extensive barrel program where the cider develops complexity by naturally fermenting in wood. Settle on the lawn with a board of charcuterie, add some liquid gold and pretend you’re in Rhône.

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