Hi all, I’m Michael. If you fit into the same tiny cross-section of sword/pen/pint-slinging we do, maybe you’ve come across Literary Beer, a blog series on homebrewing I used to write for Small Beer Press. Who knows, maybe I’ll write it again. In the meantime, what you need to know about me is that I really, really like cider, mead, cyser, lager, stout, an ancient style of herbed beer known as gruit, tequila, mezcal, bourbon, scotch, and all kinds of weird things in between, and may here subject you to ruminations on any of the above. I hope you enjoy.
I went to the Great Lakes Cider and Perry Festival last weekend. It’s held at Uncle John’s Cider Mill, among the farmlands just north of Lansing, Michigan. I brewed my first batch of Michigan cider, a cyser I bottled in January, with apples from Uncle John’s orchards. This year they lost their entire crop after the freak (read: new normal) 80 degree weather in March. The trees flowered prematurely, then the buds were all killed by frost–a tragedy. Cider made from this year’s crop will come dear, though that won’t stop me. Last year’s crop, anyhow, spent all this year maturing and was present and abundant in all its glory.
My old favorites Farnum Hill, West County and Albemarle were represented. I sampled ciders from Wisconsin, Oregon, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan, Spain, France, the UK. It was awesome.
I got cheery with a British expat cidermaker living in Ohio (that’s him on the right in the silly hat) whose ciders were really satisfying, a classic English style I’d been looking for since I moved out here. Griffin Cider Works is his label–”Burley Man” was my favorite, 7.5-8% alcohol with rich mouthfeel and sweetness to balance.
I tasted a hopped cider from the much-touted Wandering Aengus in Oregon, which I expected to dislike (hops are for beer!) but turned out to be quite a pleasant, gently bitter reprieve from all the sweet and dry.
Maybe the best American cider I tried was a bourbon barrel aged maple cider from Crow’s Hard Cider in Michigan–a single keg made just for this event, not available in stores.
I sampled a whole bunch of Spanish ciders all from one importer, a most eye-opening experience. They were peppery and funky like Belgian farmhouse ales, but light and richly tart, like nothing else I’ve tasted. Of course! Because they’re made from apple varieties I never knew existed. I drool at the thought. I can’t really get excited about wine or hop regions, but something about cider apples does it for me. Comes of once having lived next to Clarkdale Orchards in Deerfield, MA. I will never eat better apples, unless maybe I go to Spain.
I hear after the tastings are over, the orchardists and cidermakers hang around until the next morning boozing and talking shop. That sounds like a pretty good time. Maybe next year I’ll try to crash, if there is a next year. I hope so.