October 6, 2022

Cider Season

Four autumn ciders to delight every palette
By Jillian Manning | Sept. 17, 2022

This time of year, cideries are hard at work harvesting apples and getting all that magical fermentation going. They’re announcing carefully-aged concoctions and on-tap-only batches that are packed with flavor. Perhaps because so many of us grew up eating donuts and drinking NoMi apple cider (the non-alcoholic version) in the fall, cider season is extra exciting—we know it’s here and glorious and then gone before we can blink.

If you, like us, want to go all in on cider this fall, then look no further. We connected with local cideries to learn about their top new releases, some of which are here to stay and others that will only last as long as the keg(s). So grab your growler and your favorite drinking buddy—many of these fall flavors could be gone by the time the leaves drop.

Sumac Cider from Suttons Bay Ciders

10530 E Hilltop Rd., Suttons Bay | suttonsbayciders.com

What makes this cider special? In late summer and early fall, we all notice the large red berry clusters on the sumac that grows along the roadways. This panicle of berries is actually edible! Native staghorn sumac tastes wonderful when infused into the cider. The taste reminds us of passion fruit, and it has a passionately red/orange color like pomegranate. We experimented last fall with a small batch, and it was so well received we are putting it on the menu in full force.

What are some of the key ingredients? Staghorn sumac berries

How is it made? We specialize in using locally-grown apples and locally-harvested herbs and spices to enhance the unique flavors in our hard apple cider. The fresh sumac is placed into an infusion sock and steeped for several weeks to impart the most flavor.

When can people enjoy it? It will be available on tap throughout the fall. And because it’s one of our favorites, we are going to create some concentrated sumac to use throughout the winter and spring.

The Ethanologist from Townline Ciderworks

11595 US 31, Williamsburg | townlineciderworks.com

What makes this cider special? The Ethanologist is an ode to our neighborhood distillery down the road in Elk Rapids, Ethanology. This complex and herbaceous cider is a cocktail of its own.

What are some of the key ingredients? Blueberries, cherries, and strawberries

How is it made? We started with a cider blend focused on the Northern Spy apple, which was then co-fermented with blueberries, cherries, and strawberries. After fermentation, the cider was racked into Ethanology’s Ferox Gin barrels for aging. (Ferox Gin is made with local wild-foraged juniper, yarrow, sumac, and burdock root.) The cider was left bone-dry to highlight the subtle complexities of the fruit, oak, and foraged botanicals.

When can people enjoy it? The Ethanologist will be on tap in mid to late September, and once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Beaver Island Cider from Bee Well Meadery

16 N Bridge St., Bellaire | beewellmeadery.com

What makes this cider special? This autumn, Bee Well Mead and Cider is bringing back a favorite that has roots tied to America’s Emerald Isle: Beaver Island. While Beaver Island is known for its quiet, sandy beaches, many miles of forested logging roads, and slower pace, it is also home to abundant wild apple trees. With their high acid levels, mild tannins, and natural sugar, wild apples make great hard cider.

What are some of the key ingredients? Fresh wild apples from Beaver Island

How is it made? Soon, Bee Well will spend a few days and nights picking apples on the island, then return home, only to fire up the apple press and juice the small island gems and begin the slow fermentation process that converts that sweet wild liquid into bubbly, crisp, and dry hard cider. Owner Jeremy VanSice recently traveled up to the island and came back happy to report, “It is going to be a banner year for apples on the island!”

When can people enjoy it? Beaver Island Cider will be on draft and in bottles this fall at the tasting room in Bellaire.

Strawberry Jam from Tandem Ciders

2055 N Setterbo Rd., Suttons Bay | tandemciders.com

What makes this cider special? Strawberry Jam is super special because we used local strawberries and made a relatively small batch. We also rarely make ciders that include fruit other than apples.

What are some of the key ingredients? Local strawberries from Bardenhagen Berries and a McIntosh-heavy blend of apples, with some Rhode Island Greening and Northern Spy

How is it made? We co-fermented 500 pounds of strawberries with apple juice until it reached 4.5 percent residual sugar. The filtering process removed much of the pink color, but the strawberry flavor and aroma is very pronounced.

When can people enjoy it? Strawberry Jam is currently on tap at Tandem’s tasting room. We did a limited bottle run for our Cider Club Summer release, and bottles will also be available at the tasting room soon!

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