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Tastemakers: SweeTango Apples/ Acoustic Draft Mead Apple Bzzz

Rick Coates - October 4th, 2010
SweeTango Apples
This weekend kicks off the annual
Charlevoix Apple Festival, and while apples do not get as much play as
cherries do, they are very important to our economy. In fact
Michigan’s largest and most valuable fruit crop is the apple with an
average annual economic contribution to the state of $700-$900
million. There are 900 family-operated orchards throughout Michigan’s
Lower Peninsula helping the state to rank third in the country on
overall production. The Honeycrisp continues to grow in popularity and
despite increased tree plantings, production is still not keeping pace
with consumer demand.
Now comes a new apple, yes the Honeycrisp had a baby and its name is
SweeTango (the father is the Zestar apple), and it is the latest rage
in the apple world. Even a bit controversial.
SweeTango is a variety from the University of Minnesota’s apple
breeding program, the same people who developed the Honeycrisp.  It
has the same juiciness and crunch that has made the Honeycrisp
popular, but with a zesty sour kick to it.
So if this apple is so great where is the controversy?
SweeTango  trees are being planted by premier family apple growers
from Nova Scotia and Quebec in Canada, thru New York, Michigan,
Minnesota, Washington State and Wisconsin -- or a better word would be
“licensed.” That’s right, there is big money in agricultural royalties
and the University of Minnesota owns the rights to the SweeTango
royalties and they have chosen to sign an exclusive agreement with
Pepin Heights Orchard in Minnesota to commercialize the new apple.
Pepin Heights in turn formed a marketing cooperative of 45 growers in
five states and two Canadian provinces to grow and sell  the
Now, other farms that are not a part of this licensing agreement have
banded together to challenge this in court. It will be sometime in
2011 before the courts make their decision. In the meantime the
SweetTango is available in Northern Michigan at farmers markets (some
farms are able to grow small quantities that do not interfere with the
licensing program) and at a few area farms.---Rick Coates

Acoustic Draft Mead Apple BzZz
What some believe to be the oldest fermented beverage known to man is
making a comeback. Mead is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting
honey with water, wild yeast and often other fruits and spices. It was
a popular drink in ancient times and in Central Europe during the
1800s. As wine, beer and distilled spirits grew in popularity, mead
lost its flavor in modern times.
Locally, a few wineries have produced meads, but now we have our first
full-time meadery (a facility that produces mead exclusively) based in
Lake Ann. Acoustic Draft Mead is the brainchild of musician and
zymurgyst Bruce Grossman, who converted his garage into a licensed
facility to produce mead.
Acoustic Draft Mead has more ale characteristics than traditional
mead, which is similar to wine. Traditional mead is usually around 14%
alcohol in content and is still, whereas Grossman’s versions have a
hint of carbonation and 6% alcohol content.
Grossman just released Apple BzZz with 100% Michigan Organic Apples.
This style of mead has traditionally been called a “Cyser” and pairs
well with grilled pork chops and apple chutney, pumpkin soup with
cinnamon croutons or a good old fashion homemade doughnut with
Grossman has several mead offerings that have quickly made their way
on tap at area taverns and now are available by the bottle. For
additional information -- including how to have Grossman perform at
your next event while enjoying his meads -- or to locate these tasty
Michigan ingredient-laden beverages, check out
---Rick Coates

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