Our visit to Virtue Cider in Fennville was one of the tourism features in our Pure Michigan Destination Guide: Driving to American Thanksgiving
A bleak and chilly Thanksgiving eve late afternoon sunset greets us
as we pull up to Virtue Farms for a taste of Pure Michigan and Virtue Cider. The Lads are hard at work finishing their last bottle, capping and labeling run and are happy to share their Cider knowledge and give us a tasting before they begin their own Thanksgiving with friends and family. The State of Michigan has a well-established cider history, whose state flower is, appropriately, the apple blossom. There are over 30 cider producers and 1000 apple growers in the state alone, and as cider was the drink of choice for early settlers in North America, it seems completely appropriate to be adding it to our Pure Michigan American Thanksgiving menu.
A Cider Pilgrimage
Gregory Hall is well known in the world of craft beer (aren’t we talking Cider here?!) and Hall was an early advocate of beer pairings and the man behind the world-class beers at Goose Island Beer Co. where he started working in the early 1990s. Hall’s newest obsession is organic apple cider and on a brewery trip to England, they happened upon a pub that was celebrating all things cider with many casks from around the country ‘on tap’. He loved the wide fruity, sweet, tart, sour, dark tannin range that each cider was offering and that they produced a different and the unique taste and nose. He fell in love with cider on that English beer trip and after leaving Goose Island, embarked on a cider pilgrimage of sorts, taking him back to England and the Normandy area of France. He now helms this Michigan-based craft cider company and uses his expertise in modern craft fermentation and aging techniques to produce ciders that embody traditional “farmhouse” styles, aka “natural” or “real” ciders, which is the oldest style of cider with an alcohol content between 5 and 12%. Virtue Farms partners with local Michigan family-run farms to find the highest quality heirloom apples for their ‘go-local’ cider.
Chicago is a Test Market
Down the road and two states over, everyone is excited about cider in Chicago. Hall used the city as an early test market and is now seeing more cider ‘pop-ups’ with tastings by more than 25 cidermakers offering free tastings in trendy Lincoln Park and Andersonville. Toronto sees it’s own interest in Hard Cider’s blooming when in 2013, The Brickworks Ciderhouse became Toronto’s first craft cider at home at the Evergreen Brick Works.
We spend a good, Thanksgiving Eve afternoon hour, discussing, tasting and learning everything Michigan hard cider and grabbed bottles of Percheron, Ledbury, and Lapinette to serve with our Turkey the next day and to sip and share over Thanksgiving Day food prep and pre-dinner cocktails.