Creativity, experimentation helps boom of craft cider industry

GRAND RAPIDS — Cider throughout the U.S. is booming. But in Michigan?

“It’s been pretty fast [growing] for a good three years running now,” said Paul Vander Heide, president of the Michigan Cider Association (MCA) and owner of Vander Mill in Spring Lake.

The Michigan cider industry is growing so fast that Vander Heide teamed up with several other cider producers from across the state, to produce the first-ever Michigan Cider Week, which ran through Sunday.

The week culminated with the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition, April 10-12.

“A lot of Michigan producers that are here are experiencing growth rates beyond what national producers are,” said Vander Heide, pointing to the fact that national producers are receiving average growth rates of 60-70 percent, while Michigan producers are often far exceeding that number.

The week-long event, held in Grand Rapids, highlighted the MCA’s 12 producer members, as part of in-store tastings, education seminars and cider dinners, all of which introduced new and interesting ciders to the public.

According to Vander Heide, creativity is blossoming and helping to form new cider drinkers state-wide.

“Dry hopping is becoming really popular; we’re seeing a lot of producers start to use hops and we’re seeing a lot more creativity,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of success in the consumer really enjoying that — people are seeking something a little different.”

While sweet ciders are still very much prevalent in the industry, producers are starting to make ciders that incorporate new flavors.

Blake’s Hard Cider Co., which entered the market roughly a year and a half ago, has already started to feature ciders towards this new group of cider drinkers, featuring Wakefire (Michigan cherries / orange peel) and El Chavo (habanero / mango) ciders throughout the week.

“Right now, people are really up for experimenting and trying new things — whatever’s new and exciting,” said Dave Blake, Manager at Blake’s Hard Cider Co. in Armada. “I think it’s fun that we can experiment with a lot of those new flavors.”

Other cider producers highlighted during the week included Tandem Ciders (Suttons Bay), Uncle John’s Hard Cider Cider (St. John’s), Sietsema’s Hard Cider (Ada), The Peoples Cider Co. (Grand Rapids) and FarmHause Cider Co. (Hudsonville).

For more information on the Michigan Cider Association and its upcoming events, visit

Bryan Esler

Bryan Esler

A lover of dark and sour beers, Bryan is an original co-founder of MittenBrew. Based in Grand Rapids, Bryan is a corporate events and commercial photographer, having been featured by BeerAdvocate Magazine, Pure Michigan, CNBC, ArtPrize, Bliss for Mayor, Circle Theatre and more . Visit his website at for more.

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