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Craft beverage producers wrestle with federal product definitions, labeling requirements

Imagine spending time and resources to develop a product only to find out that you won’t be able to describe it on the label in a way you think best resonates with consumers.

That happened recently for Maciej Halaczkiewicz, president of Grand Rapids-based Arktos Meadery LLC, a startup producer of fermented honey-based craft beverages.

When he submitted a proposed label for Arktos’ Cricket Song mead to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), a division of the U.S. Department of the Treasury that governs the labeling of many alcoholic beverages, the agency told him he could not describe it as a “coffee-based mead” because of the way it was produced.

“Now when someone looks at my bottle they’re not going to have any idea they’re looking at a coffee mead,” Halaczkiewicz said.

The label for Cricket Song could only mention coffee in the product description. The product is labeled as a metheglin, an archaic term for meads that contain herbs, and is described as a “honey lemon strawberry wine with coffee added [and] aged in oak barrels for 3 months.”

To Halaczkiewicz, the TTB’s outdated labeling rules


Vander Mill Cidery In Spring Lake Hosts 2nd Annual SOWco De Mayo Celebration

What a better way to celebrate spring than with a pig roast? Vander Mill did just that for their 2nd year in a row, hosting their now annual SOWco De Mayo Spring celebration on their recently opened outdoor deck equipped with a stage for entertainment and of course, plenty of food and cider. As last year, the event was preceded by an underground whole pig burial roasting outside the mill and featured an all-you-can-eat fresh roasted pork taco and sandwich bar.
$15 was the cost of admission to the outside deck which included live music and access to the buffet. 4 specialty ciders were also available including the delicious dry-hopped Mango Citra. This year’s entertainment was provided by the Nashville based duo of Channing and Quinn who have been making the rounds in Michigan and will also be performing at New Holland Brewing Co. on Friday, June 26th. Hopcat in Grand Rapids also hosted their own third annual Vander Mill pig roast out on their patio this year as well.

Can’t get enough of Vander Mill hard cider? The great news for this year is that Vander Mill is in the process of opening an expanded production facility and taproom in the Grand Rapids area. The plans…


Vandermill opening G.R. cider mill

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) — Grand Rapids has plenty of breweries and brewpubs, and is getting distilleries. Now a new alcoholic cider mill has plans to expand here.

Vandermill, LLC, which operates a cider making facility in Spring Lake, plans to turn a former beer distribution site into a large cider making and serving location.

Vandermill Tuesday won city commission support for tax incentives for the project.

City commissioner Rosalynn Bliss told WZZM 13: “They have a well established product; they’re very well respected, they have a great product and so having that addition to Grand Rapids I think is really a great thing.”


Hard cider makers medal at international competition

One of the world’s largest hard cider competitions took place in Grand Rapids last weekend.

Several hard cider makers from the region scored big, taking home several medals at the 10th-annual Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition, or GLINTCAP.

The competition took place at the Downtown Courtyard by Marriott, with an awards party Sunday night at The Pyramid Scheme.

With a record number of entries from across the globe, GLINTCAP is said to be the world’s largest cider and perry, or pear cider, competition. England’s Royal Bath and West Show likely could regain its title as it opens up to North American entries.

Commercial division

There were 480 entries into the commercial division, with 413 medals awarded.

Both of the ciders by Farmhaus Cider Co. in Hudsonville took home bronze in the new world cider-modern category.

Gunga Din by St. Julian Winery in Paw Paw won bronze in new world cider-modern. Gunga Din Cherry won silver in the fruit cider category. Gunga Din Cinnamon won bronze in spiced cider.

Robinette’s Cellars in Grand Rapids won bronze in the three categories: applewine, hopped/herbal cider and ice cider.

Sietsema Cider

Sietsema’s Cider in Ada performed well. Red Label and Sietsema’s Traditional Dry won bronze in the new world cider-modern category.

Sietsema’s Hopped Cider won bronze in the hopped/herbal category.

Its Lemongrass won gold in hopped/herbal category, and BackWoods Cider won bronze in the wood-aged cider category.

Virtue Cider

Virtue Cider in Fennville took home a bronze and a silver in the new world cider-heritage category.

The cider maker’s flagship, Ledbury, won silver for English cider.

The company’s Spanish cider, Sidra de Nava, won silver in the Spanish cider category.

Virtue’s Lapinette Cidre Brut and The Mitten won bronze in wood-aged cider and perry.

Vander Mill

Vander Mill in Spring Lake won a bronze for Ashmead’s Kernel in the new world cider-heritage category.

Chapman’s Blend won silver in wood-aged cider and perry.


7 Innovative American Ciders You Have To Drink Now

Hard cider is no stranger to this country.

History is flooded with mentions of the golden juice. Colonial Americans trusted cider above drinking water and even the founding fathers quaffed startling amounts on a daily basis.

Despite its decline in the 19th century and the ever-surging tidal wave of craft beer in America, cider now continues to make gains in popularity thanks to a modern atmosphere of experimentation. What’s old is new again, and cider is no exception.

What makes cider so exciting? Perhaps it’s the endless ways in which the humble apple can be transformed. Sweet or dry; still or sparkling; bittersweet or bittersharp, today’s ciders run wild with possibility. Many craft ciders display characteristics similar to beer, utilizing techniques like dry-hopping and barrel-aging, but also boast gluten-free benefits. With the opportunity for experimentation constantly expanding, American cider makers are testing the core possibilities of the apple. Now it’s time to taste some of the exhilarating results, from barbecue-smoked batches to wild-fermented sparklers.

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Totally Roasted
ABV: 6.8%
Hails from: Spring Lake, Michigan
Toasted pecans. Cinnamon. Vanilla. These ingredients could be the building blocks of a sugar-shellacked pie, but for Vander Mill, they’re the components of a winning cider. More than four pounds of cinnamon-roasted pecans flavor each batch of Totally Roasted cider, adding full-bodied texture and nutty depth. Yet the aroma of fresh apple still shines through, giving the cider a crispness that balances the undertones of sweet vanilla and pecans. Totally Roasted was originally served in 750mL bottles, but Vander Mill switched to cans for customer ease when the cider quickly proved itself a core product. View full article >

Grand Rapids Cider Week crafts name for statewide industry

A Michigan-made hard cider competition that’s said to be the world’s largest will be the featured event during Grand Rapids Cider Week this month.

The Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition, or GLINTCAP, will celebrate its 10th year on April 10-12, and the newly formed Michigan Cider Association wants people to know about, said GLINTCAP Director Eric West.

The association wants to “capitalize on cider in Michigan the way Denver has with the Great American Beer Festival,” West said.

“It’s just following that model,” he said. “The competition anchors the week, and we worked with the association to get some outward-facing events to help make it more of a happening event.”

The scene

Michigan is a large hard cider producer and ranks near the top with the Pacific Northwest, Colorado and New York.

As far as apples are concerned, Michigan ranks No. 3, just behind New York and Washington.

To help drive awareness of the industry and help with regulatory concerns, the Michigan Cider Association was formed by a group of cider makers from Spring Lake’s Vander Mill, Suttons Bay’s Tandem Ciders and Ada’s Sietsema Cider.

The Grand Rapids area is home to several cider makers along with Sietsema, such as People’s Cider Co. and Hudsonville’s Farmhaus Cider. Vander Mill also announced a major expansion with a Grand Rapids facility. View full article >

Michigan hard cider producers form new industry association

Michigan’s growing base of craft hard cider producers have joined forces in a new industry association that aims to improve the supply of raw materials and drive awareness of the beverage among consumers.

At a time when numerous new operations are coming online and existing cideries are investing in expansions, the industry also faces its share of regulatory challenges, not to mention intense competition from other craft beverages. While the state already ranks among the top three in the nation for hard cider producers, the newly formed Michigan Cider Association wants to encourage even more growth.

To do that, producers needed to set aside their competitive nature and work for the good of the industry, said Paul Vander Heide, owner of Spring Lake-based Vander Mill LLC and the association’s president.

“We sell against each other, but we don’t do it in a way that’s negative to the other,” Vander Heide said. “We’re better off promoting what we have in a positive way for the category first. If we all do that, the category gets bigger.”

Representatives from Ada-based Sietsema Cider LLC and Tandem Ciders Inc. of Suttons Bay also sit on the association’s board.

The 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization spawned from the Great Lakes Cider and Perry Association (GLCPA), which includes members from Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ontario.

Michigan currently ranks third in the U.S. with 9.3 percent of the country’s cider producers, according to a report on the cider industry by IBISWorld.

“We thought there was a lot we could be doing as a state organization that may not be as much of a benefit to outlying states or could have specific benefits to Michigan cider makers and agriculture,” Vander Heide said.

The MCA plans to host the inaugural Grand Rapids Cider Week during the second week of April to coincide with the annual Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition, which is also being held in Grand Rapids. During the weeklong event, MCA members plan to sponsor and participate in various programs and tastings throughout the city, Vander Heide said.

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Vander Mill Ciders aims to make 1 million gallons in Grand Rapids

Vander Mill Ciders plans initially to quintuple production with a $4 million redevelopment of an industrial site on Ball Avenue NE and would have room there to grow much more, its owner said at a Thursday, Jan. 22, hearing.

Grand Rapids Planning Commission approved a permit for the Spring Lake cidery to occupy a former beer distribution facility and open a tap room. Vander Mill hopes to start production in Grand Rapids this summer, with an eye toward opening the restaurant by the fall.

“It’s been a rapidly growing (beverage) category and we’ve been fortunate to be on the forefront of that,” owner Paul Vander Heide said.

Vander Mill produced 200,000 gallons of hard cider last year, he said, and plans to have enough equipment to make 1 million gallons at the Grand Rapids location. And the 52,000-square-foot facility just north of Michigan Street “has capacity for us to go almost 10 times that” much production, Vander Heide said.

“It’s been a fast horse to ride.”

View full article on MLive >

Vander Mill plans on expansion

Paul Vander Heide, owner of Vander Mill at 14921 Cleveland St., plans to open a second location in northeast Grand Rapids this summer. He also has expansion plans for the Spring Lake Township location — a breezeway and 40-by-50-foot pavilion on the east side of the building for additional seating and event space. Vander Heide hopes to finalize the purchase of the 50,000-square-foot former B & B Distributing Center facility near Michigan and Ball Avenue NE early next month.

Plans are to begin production by July and renovate the building to include a tap kitchen and 4,300-square-foot restaurant by fall. “We really were in need of more production space,” said Vander Heide, who now distributes ciders to multiple locations in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio.

He opened the Spring Lake Township location in 2006 and added 3,000 square feet two years ago. “We thought that would be a longer term solution for us than it ended up being,” Vander Heide said.

Vander Heide has received approval for the tap room and restaurant from the Grand Rapids Planning Commission. The property is zoned industrial, so hard cider production can take place without a zoning change.

The taproom is expected to have a 200-person capacity with an outdoor patio that seats an additional 50. The layout of the building will allow customers to view the entire production process.

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Chicagoist’s Cider Of The Month: Vander Mill’s Ginger Peach

This month, we’ve turned our attention to our neighbors to the Northeast for our cider selection.

This ginger peach cider comes to us from Vander Mill up in Spring Lake, Michigan. It pours a deep gold color in the glass and we pick up a little peach pulp on the nose. On the palate, this one is incredibly crisp up front and offers a nice pop of acidity. The peach juice they add kicks in towards the middle, which comes across as incredibly quenching, and while there is a touch of residual sugar the ginger juice (yes, they juice the ginger!) pokes its head out towards the backend and lingers on the finish. It’s certainly more complex than a lot of other ciders out there, but all of these flavors and ingredients are balanced very well. At 6.9% alcohol content Ginger Peach is definitely a cider that could sneak up on you if you don’t pace yourself, because it’s just downright delicious.

Different ciders offer up a lot of interesting food pairings on their own, whether you’re working with something crisp and refreshing or something funky and yeast-driven like you’ll find in Normandy, France or Basque Country, Spain. With the addition of ginger and peach though, Vander Mill has made something that plays along very nicely in a lot of scenarios. The sweetness of the peach juice begs for anything you can slather in BBQ sauce, whether it’s ribs, pulled pork or chicken. If you ask us, though, the zippy character that the ginger brings to the table makes this a force to be reckoned with if you’re picking up Chinese or Thai food. You probably couldn’t do much wrong if you tried it with dessert either. Peach cobbler, anyone?

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Hard apple ciders not the only tasty treats at Vander Mill Ciders

Hard cider may not be the only reason to stop by the Vander Mill Cider Mill and Winery’s tasting room, 14921 Cleveland St. in Spring Lake.

Vander Mill, which produces hard as well as sweet – read: nonalcoholic – ciders, recently renovated its 2,500-square-foot tasting room and added a new food menu.

According to Chef Stephanie Luke, the mill has served doughnuts since it opened in 2006, but began serving meals last September. She described the menu items as “local craft food,” or familiar food items prepared in ways that make it “a little more interesting.”

The menu includes a mix of appetizers, salads and sandwiches. Luke said all the food was made from scratch and that most ingredients came from local farmers’ markets.

My boyfriend, Andrew, and I decided to stop by the mill and see what the food was about. We arrived at around 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 6, for an early dinner.

The tasting room itself isn’t huge. Inside, it seats about 65 people and has a warm wood interior with a few modern rustic touches.

Drinks were served in mason jars and the room’s pendant lighting used upside down vintage-looking metal buckets. Each table was decorated with fresh flowers that were placed in a vase made of out the 16-ounce cans that the mill recently began using to distribute its cider.

The eatery is also pretty casual. The menus were printed on sheets of paper. We placed our order at the front counter and grabbed a seat. There were about 10 other patrons in the room when we were there.

We decided to start off our dinner with a pork belly and corn cake appetizer, which cost $7 and included vinegar-braised pork belly, mango, fresh cucumber and sweet cornbread.

For dinner, Andrew went with the “Pitmaster P’s Pulled Pork” sandwich, which was made with roasted local pork shoulder, ancho chili barbecue, cabbage, tomato slices and a spicy garlic sauce on a house roll. He chose to pair it with a side of “Michigan Kettle Chips.” The sandwich cost $8.

I decided on the “No Harm No Fowl Veggie” sandwich, a vegetarian option that included garlic dill hummus, fresh cucumber, bell pepper, apple cider vinegar-dressed cabbage, tomato slices and an Asian aioli on a house-made roll. That sandwich cost $7.

It took about 20 minutes for all our food to arrive, but the kitchen didn’t seem very big and the group that had arrived ahead of us seemed to have a large order.

The food looked great on the plate – my cell phone photos didn’t do them justice – and we dug in as soon as I put my phone away.

Andrew said the “Pitmaster P’s Pulled Pork” wasn’t like a standard pulled pork sandwich. The meat wasn’t shredded, he said, and instead included chunks of pork. Also, he said, the flavor wasn’t smoky like a typical barbecue sauce, but more sweet and spicy.

However, those differences weren’t a turnoff.

He called the sauce “absolutely fantastic” and said he liked the pork they used. The tomato on top was a “nice touch.” Andrew was less enthusiastic about the chips, which tasted like regular potato chips, but he said he the sandwich was worth the visit.

I found the veggie sandwich refreshing. The vegetables were crisp and the sandwich overall tasted fresh and light, perfect on a warm summer day. My only complaint was that the aioli seeped through the bottom of the bun, making it soggy and a little messy to eat.

The coleslaw was also fantastic. It was a little different from most coleslaw I’ve had. There were no carrots in the mix and it was topped with what I later learned was roasted coconut and roasted almonds, although I swear I tasted some cinnamon in there.

Like the vegetables in the sandwich, the coleslaw’s cabbage gave a satisfying crunch and I really enjoyed the almond topping, even though the sweetness was unexpected. Andrew tried the coleslaw as well and said that of our two sides, mine was the better tasting one.

Overall, I found our meal satisfying. The portion sizes were just right and considering that so much of the food is made from scratch and local, I thought the prices were reasonable as well. The staff was polite and I found Vander Mill’s atmosphere relaxed and inviting.

The cider mill’s tasting room is open seven days a week and serves lunch and dinner. Luke said the menu changes seasonally and the café often has daily specials, depending on what’s available from farmers’ markets. Vander Mill also has a kids’ menu.

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