Celebrate Michigan Cider This Week!
Michigan’s prominence as a craft beer state is well known and without dispute.
Now, Michigan hard cider producers are teaming up to make sure they have a place at the tap. The first-ever Michigan Cider Week will take place April 6-12. Cider dinners, tastings at local shops and restaurants, and make-your-own-cider workshops are just a slice of the fun planned. You can find a full list of events here.
The weeklong celebration of cider is being held in conjunction with the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition, which will be held at the Courtyard Marriott in downtown Grand Rapids April 10-12. Organizers are touting it as having the potential to become the world’s largest cider competition, with ciders represented from around the globe.
Noteworthy events include a judging training seminar on Friday, April 10 which allows participants to serve as an official judge at the competition. The Grand Rapids Downtown Market will host a Spanish Sidra and Food event the same night, featuring Spanish cider and Chef Pablo Balbona of Gijon, Asturias, Spain, who cooks at Aventura, the 2014 Open Table Diners’ Choice award-winning restaurant in Ann Arbor.
The week’s activities are being coordinated and promoted by the Michigan Cider Association, which was formed in December 2014 to support Michigan cider producers. Andy Sietsema, a 4th-generation apple producer from Sietsema Orchards & Cider Mill is a board member.
Sietsema said the association took a page from the Michigan Brewers Guild, an organization of state beer producers who work together to promote their industry when they conceived the idea for the cider association. They’re hoping to leverage the same adventurous consumer palates that have made craft beer so huge in the state.
By educating consumers about and promoting the great cider products in the state, Sietsema and the association are hopeful that people will open up to a pint of cider when they’re out at their favorite bar or restaurant.
“People really don’t know what cider is all about,” Sietsema said.
In fact, cider association members are hopeful that smaller establishments with multiple taps will start to offer at least two ciders to their customers.
“What we’re trying to do is make 2015 the year of the second tap handle,” Sietsema said.
The group is primarily focused on promoting cider, but has a secondary mission of promoting Michigan apple production. Michigan is one of the top-three apple producing states in the country, with 70 percent of the harvest coming from the Fruit Ridge area of the state, near Grand Rapids
“Michigan grows the best apples there are,” Sietsema said.
Michigan currently ranks third in the United States with 9.3 percent of the country’s cider producers, according to a report on the cider industry by IBISWorld. Michigan hard cider annual production has grown from 50,000 gallons ten years ago to 750,000 gallons now, Sietsema said.
American consumers are used to sweet ciders, but it’s clear that there are as many varieties of cider as there are apples and craft brews, making the potential for growth in the market huge, Sietsema explained. He said different cider makers, states, and regions in the country all create and market cider in very different ways, so there really is something for everyone to love.
“Every cider maker has its own special way of doing something,” he said. “It’s different in every region.”
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Photo credit: Julie Bitely