Hard Cider Uncorked

Stats, facts and interesting tidbits about Michigan’s cider industry.
Photography courtesy of Thinkstock

Visiting the local apple orchard for apple cider in the fall is a long-standing tradition with Michiganders. But cider has developed a new identity with the boom of the craft beverage industry; hard cider has become an industry in itself. Michigan is the third-largest hard cider producer in the U.S., with 71 cider producers currently, following California with 77 and New York.

Cider’s Identity

Hard cider has come a long way since the early days. And while it might look and feel similar to a beer, cider is much closer to wine. Ciders and wines are made with fermented fruit juice. How the cider turns out is based on how the fruit grows. The same apple crop can change year to year regarding its acidity, sweetness and more. Extracting the juice, adding yeast and fermentation leads to what we know
as hard cider.

Hard apple cider
Photography by Johnny Quirin

Different Styles

Two overarching styles of ciders dominate the U.S. market: standard and specialty styles.

Standard styles include:

  • Modern: made with table apples. These ciders typically are higher in acidity and lower in tannins.
  • Heritage: made with multiuse or cider-specific apples. These ciders are higher in tannins.

Specialty styles are ciders made with fruits and flavors aside from apples. Ciders made with hops, spices, other fruits or that are made by barrel-aging, iced or soured fall into the specialty category.

A Proper Taste

When tasting ciders, use a method similar to tasting wine: start with lighter-bodied cider and work toward more full-bodied. Cider experts recommend beginning with the “least interrupted” ciders — meaning made purely with apples — and work toward the ciders that are made adding different flavors.

All Things Cider

Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition or GLINTCAP is the largest cider competition in the world. This competition features judges and cider makers from all over the world and has been running every year since 2005.

Photography by Johnny Quirin

Michigan Cider Association: Formed in December 2014, this organization exists to support education, research and promotion of the Michigan cider industry.

Cider Week in Grand Rapids: This seven-daylong celebration is in conjunction with GLINTCAP. There are celebrations and events across the city.

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