Q&A: Paul Vander Heide, Owner of Vander Mill LLC

Vander Mill owner Paul Vander Heide has helped put Michigan cider on the map. The growing Grand Rapids-based hard cider producer makes more than 250,000 gallons a year and sells its portfolio of brands in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. With his election as president of the United States Association of Cider Makers during CiderCon this month, Vander Heide wants to help professionalize and grow the overall opportunity for the diverse cider industry. Over a couple rounds of ciders at Vander Mill’s Grand Rapids taproom, he spoke with MiBiz about the next steps he would like to see for his company, the USACM and the industry as a whole.

The craft cider industry seems like it’s trying to professionalize itself with style guidelines and a new industry certification. What’s behind that effort? 

The cider industry has got a lot of education to do for the consumer, as well as for other service professionals. The Certified Cider Professional program is modeled similarly to what the sommelier and cicerone programs look like. We’re first and foremost trying to educate those frontline service professionals, buyers at beer bars, bartenders, retail staff to try to help use the guidelines that we’ve developed to have everyone speak the same language and do so correctly. We still hear a lot of people in the market use terms like ‘cider beer.’