Vander Mill Hard Apple

Maker: Vander Mill, Spring Lake, Michigan, USA20170818_200057

Style: Semi-dry apple cider with sugar added.

ABV: 6.9%

Purchased for $11/4 pint cans (Holiday Market)

Appearance: Pale gold. Medium but steady bubbles.

Nose: Light. Cut apple, bubbles.

Palate: Mineral water, non-fermented apple cider, lemon juice. No tannin to speak of.

Finish: Tart apples, drying to mineals.

Parting words: Vander Mill is one of Michigan’s best known cider-producers. They’ve benefited greatly from the uptake in the popularity of cider in the past few years. Their production has been increasing and they have recently opened a tap room in Grand Rapids in addition to their original one in Spring Lake near Grand Haven in West Michigan.

Vander Mill’s strength is in their flavored ciders, many of which I’ve already reviewed. Hard apple is the base for all of those. It’s a refreshing, easy-drinking cider but there’s nothing remarkable about it. It’s also useful from a tasting perspective as a way to better understand Vander Mill’s fruited and spiced ciders. This cider should have more going for it than that at $11 for 64 ounces. Vander Mill’s Hard Apple is mildly recommended.

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Vander Mill Ginger Peach

Maker: Vander Mill, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USAwp-1471352720002.jpg

Style: Apple cider with peach juice, ginger juice and sugar.

ABV: 6.9%

Price: $11/4 pack of pint cans (Binny’s)

Appearance: Bright gold.

Nose: Light ginger, golden apple, peach nectar.

Palate: Medium bodied, medium dry and well-integrated. Tart with a little tannin. Fresh cut peach and a pinch of ground ginger.

Finish: Much bigger peach in the finish. Dry, underripe peach. Lightly lingers.

Parting words: At the annual early June party my wife and I host, I went with an all Michigan theme. I wanted to make sure there was cider there since I like it and like variety. I also bought a six pack of Beard Bender dry cider from Blake’s. I assumed the Blake’s would go quicker, but Ginger Peach did. After tasting it, it’s easy to see why.

When making a fruit flavored cider it is critical that the cider base is of good quality. When it’s not the fruit element has to be increased to hide the flavor and the whole thing ends up being cloying and gross. The best flavored ciders, like this one, let the tannins and apple character come through while harmonizing with the flavorings. Ginger Peach goes well with food, too, especially grilled meats and South or Central Asian food. Ginger Peach is recommended.

Bon Chrétien: An American Perry, 2013

Maker: Vander Mill, Spring Lake, Michigan, USAwpid-2015-11-10-21.22.43.jpg.jpeg

Style: Bartlett pear perry (pear cider).

ABV: 6.8%

Purchased for $11/750 ml (Holiday Market)

Appearance: Bright gold and effervescent. Even some crystals near the bottom.

Nose: Canned pears, apple juice, flint.

Palate: Fizzy and medium bodied. Fresh cut ripe pear, but without the sweetness. Semi-dry, with some mineral water on the back end.

Finish: Crisp and clean at first, but the pear creeps back to linger for a nice long time.

Parting words: Vander Mill is not a Johnny-come-lately winery or agricultural attraction that has decided to turn to cider to fill out its portfolio. It is about cider and has been since its beginning in 2006. As far as I can tell, this is their only perry. The name is from the original 15th century (my favorite century) French name for Bartlett pears. It’s a part of their Heritage series of specialty ciders in 750 ml bottles. The others in that series are the all heritage variety Chapman’s Blend (named for John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, early American apple evangelist and eccentric), Chapman’s Oak (self-explanatory) and Too Gold, a blend of three golden heirloom varieties.

I think this is the first perry I’ve reviewed since the blog started, so I don’t have much to compare it with, but this is a delicious product. It has all the flavor of a good, ripe Bartlett pear, but has an elegant dryness that takes it beyond what I expected. That and it’s great price makes this an easy buy. Bon Chrétien is highly recommended.

Totally Roasted

Maker: Vander Mill, Spring Lake, Michigan, USAwpid-2015-10-26-12.18.27.jpg.jpeg

Style: Cider with pecans, vanilla and cinnamon (sugar added).

ABV: 6.9%

Purchased for $11/4 pint cans (Holiday Market)

Appearance: Pale gold with a little effervescence.

Nose: Toffee apples, toasted pecans.

Palate: Still effervescent. Light and semi-sweet. Candy apple with nuts, but never sticky or cloying.

Finish: Crisp and clean with a lingering nuttiness.

Parting words: This is the third Vander Mill cider I’ve reviewed and they’ve all been good. This one is no exception. It’s flavorful without being obnoxiously so. What keeps the flavor in check is a solid dry cider base. It’s so well balanced that it even drinks well with a meal, not just after one. I had it with everything from Pierogis and Kielbasa to rum-soused halibut and it held up well. The price is fair for an artisanal cider of this quality. I like the pint cans too. Vander Mill’s Totally Roasted is recommended.

Vanderbush

Makers: Greenbush, Sawyer, Michigan/Vandermill, Spring Lake, Michigan, USAwpid-20141110_170204.jpg

Style: Tripel brewed with cider.

ABV: 10.2%

Purchased for $13/4 pack

Appearance: Like cloudy cider with a big foamy head.

Nose: Sweet malt, hot cereal, hot cider.

Palate: Effervescent with hops, apple juice, and sourdough swimming around.

Finish: Bizarre. Big bitter hops clashing with a slightly sweet, apple flavor. Like chewing on cotton or accidently swallowing a bug.

Parting words: I have had lots of great beers from Greenbush and lots of great ciders from Vandermill. I have nothing but love and respect for both producers. That said, this is a terrible product. The nose and palate are decent, but nothing special. The finish is what kills it. It’s just gross. If a cider-beer from two great craft producers tastes this bad, I shudder to think what the corporate versions taste like. Vanderbush is not recommended.

Vander Mill Cider Masala

Maker: Vander Mill, Spring Lake, Michigan, USA

Style: Spiced Cider

ABV: 6.8%

Appearance: Cloudy gold and effervescent.

Nose: Clove, ginger, star anise, crisp apple.

On the palate: Medium-bodied, slightly tart. Apple pie, sweet curry, ginger chutney.

Finish: Tart and spicy. The tartness tickles the cheeks for several minutes afterwards.

Parting words: If there’s a cider equivalent to B. Nektar meadery, Vander Mill is it. They release a number of one-off experimental bottlings like this one.

Cider Masala is a cider infused with Indian Masala spices. It’s an interesting sip, and as an experiment it works. I don’t see it becoming a go-to cider, but that’s not the point. Vander Mill Cider Masala is a recommended.