A bleak and chilly Thanksgiving eve late afternoon sunset greets us as we pull up to Virtue Farms for a taste of Pure Michgan and Virtue Cider. The Lads are hard at work finishing their last bottle, capping and labelling run and are happy to share their Cider knowledge and give us a tasting before they begin their own Thanksgiving with friends and family. Michigan has a well established cider history and the state flower of Michigan 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.
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 1990’s. Hall’s newest obsession is 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, heavy tannin range that each cider was offering and that they produced a different and very unique taste and nose. He fell in love with cider on that English beer trip and after leaving Goose Island, embarked on a cider pilgrimidge 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 in order to find the highest quality heirloom apples for their ‘go-local’ cider.
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 is seeing 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.