Over the weekend the Detroit Free Press reported a staggering number that should strike fear in the hearts of hard cider lovers across the Midwest; due to unseasonably warm weather this spring coupled with below-freezing nights, Michigan has lost 90 percent of its apple crop. Beyond that, cherries and peaches have suffered too. Traverse City’s cherry crop took a similar hit thanks to the sweltering St. Patrick’s Day followed by a chilly April.
Just what does this mean for cider makers, exactly? Well, according to the Michigan Apple Committee, a typical Michigan apple crop is a robust 25 million bushels. This year, Michigan farmers will only harvest about 3 million bushels.
We here at Guys Drinking Beer love hard cider, so we went to Paul Vander Heide, owner of Vander Mill Winery and Brewery in Spring Lake, Michigan, to get his perspective on the apple shortage in Michigan (emphasis added).
“We have been working closely with our grower, Dietrich Orchards, during this very difficult year and we will continue to use all Michigan fruit to make our ciders. We are hoping to minimize any price increases though the shared sacrifice of our whole supply chain.
The most significant impact will be a limitation on distribution to new markets. We have been assuring our customers throughout Michigan and Illinois that they will see no shortage of supply and we plan to continue expanding our customer base within these markets.
However, the most significant challenge for us as a producer is the forecasting and production for the spring and summer of 2013. Due to the limited crop this year, we will have to produce our entire inventory before the end of 2012.
Chicago has been great to us. We have many wonderful customers that continually push us to be creative and innovative with new products. We have some exciting new things coming out over the next month. So keep an eye out!”
We wish the best of luck to Paul – I know we look forward to enjoying his cider for many years to come.
Speaking of that – got plans on Saturday, August 25th? We’ll be heading to Sheffield’s for a Vander Mill Pig Roast. Paul will be in attendance and Sheffield’s will be smoking a pig that was raised on apples from Paul’s mill. But check out this tap list. It’ll blow your mind:
- Traditional Apple
- Totally Roasted (listed as Karl’s 3rd favorite thing he drank last year)
- Apple Raspberry
- Apple Blueberry
- Michigan Wit
- Ginger Peach
- Founders Keepers – cider fermented with Michigan honey and aged in Founders Backwoods Bastard barrels
- Chapman’s Blend
- Cider Masala – Indian black chai tea spices steeped with whole cut vanilla beans
- Dry Hopped Cider (no name yet) – Cider dry hopped with Northern Brewer Hops
If you haven’t had any Vander Mill product, you owe it to yourself to check this out. A full pig and all those ciders? Come on. We’ll see you there.