Cider Celebrations Await! Cider Week GR Returns for 2024

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9 days of cider celebrations—including a Global Competition and Michigan Cider Fest—await, thanks to Cider Week GR returning on May 10-18, 2024.

Experience Grand Rapids, in partnership with the Michigan Cider Association, has announced the return of Cider Week GR, from May 10-18. The nine-day celebration is packed with cider-themed events, tap takeovers, and the world's largest cider competition, GLINTCAP. It culminates with "Michigan Cider Fest," a public festival in downtown Grand Rapids featuring ciders from across the state, local food and live music.

"Cider Week GR highlights the exceptional cideries across the state, alongside the hard work and dedication of our local family farms," said Kate Lieto, Associate VP of Marketing for Experience Grand Rapids. "It's a celebration of community, tradition, and the bountiful harvests that keep West Michigan at the forefront of cider production."



To learn more about the event and cider in itself, we connected with Paula Englin, Executive Director of the Michigan Cider Association (MCA). Englin has been a hard cider enthusiast for over a decade, and has long been delighted and inspired by the hard work and creativity that characterizes every aspect of the cider process.

West Michigan Woman: What is it about our region that makes it a strong cider hub?

Paula Englin: West Michigan is home to a rich agricultural landscape with numerous apple orchards, providing a diverse supply of high-quality and cider-specific apple varieties. The Fruit Ridge—about 20 miles from downtown Grand Rapids—is considered one of the best fruit-growing regions in the world and supplies 60% of Michigan's apples.

Like many industries in this area, the West Michigan cider community is characterized by collaboration and knowledge sharing—especially among cidermakers and apple growers. This wonderful collaborative spirit fosters innovation, enhances quality, and promotes the region's reputation as a hub for crafting some of the best ciders in the world!

WMW: What are the differences between cider and other alcoholic beverages, in terms of production process, flavor profiles and cultural significance?

PE: Many people don't realize that hard cider is created in a process quite similar to winemaking and completely different than brewing beer. After harvesting, apples are washed, crushed into a rough mash, and then pressed to extract juice, crucial for cider's flavor. Filtered juice is fermented with yeast in stainless steel tanks or wooden barrels, converting sugars into alcohol and CO2, with yeast choice impacting flavor and aroma. Post-fermentation, cider matures for varying periods, from weeks to months, influencing its style. Blending may occur for consistency, adjusting flavor and sweetness. Carbonation can be added for effervescence in desired styles.

Hard cider has a rich history in the U.S., stemming from colonial times when settlers brought cider-making traditions from throughout Europe. Hard cider was a staple drink due to its safety—the fermentation process killed off harmful bacteria often making it safer to drink than water—and nutritional value.

Unsurprisingly, women have played a significant role in the production of hard cider throughout history! In colonial America, women were actively involved in various stages of the cider-making process, including harvesting apples, washing and crushing them, pressing the juice, and fermenting the cider; they were undoubtedly integral to the tradition, which often created additional revenue for the household.

WMW: In your opinion, what sets an exceptional cider apart?

PE: Excellent ciders are made from choice apples, which Michigan is blessed to have an abundance of! The first step is choosing the right apples. Often distinct from the apples you'll find in the produce section at Meijer, cider apples are categorized into sweet, sharp, bittersweet, and bittersharp varieties, each contributing unique flavors, sugars, acids and tannins to the delicious finished product.

WMW: Talk a bit about Cider Week GR and why folks should be excited about its return and celebrating cider.

PE: We are thrilled Cider Week GR is back! Our partnership with Experience Grand Rapids and dozens of West Michigan businesses, cidermakers and orchards is a celebration of the best of our community! We're excited for locals and visitors alike to grab a cozy spot at the bar sip on a flight and learn more at these wonderful local cideries: Archival Brewing, Farmhaus Cider Co., Painted Turtle Hard Cider, Pink Barrel Cellars at Ed Dunneback & Girls Farm, Pux Cider, Sierra Rose Cellars, The Peoples Cider Company, Thornapple Brewing Company, and Vander Mill.

Guests learn more about how incredibly—and easily—cider pairs with fine cuisine at wonderfully curated events at Littlebird and Aperitivo! Plus, don't miss exciting cider tap takeovers all over town, including 7 Monks and House Rules. Interested in learning which ciders are crowned the best in the world? Don't miss the exciting GLINTCAP Awards Dinner on May 17! If you want to learn more about cider-specific apple varieties and how cider is made, don't miss the apple orchard bloom tour on May 18!

Of course, everyone will want to attend the Michigan Cider Fest at Rosa Parks Circle on May 18 where they'll have the chance to try countless, incredible ciders from all over the state! To learn more about all of the amazing events, and for the chance to enter an incredible giveaway—including a hotel stay and gift cards to local businesses—make sure to visit ciderweekgr.com.

WMW: What would you say to encourage folks who haven't really dipped their toes into the cider world to enjoy what Cider Week GR and Michigan Cider Fest have to offer?

PE: The Michigan hard cider scene truly has something for everyone—beer, wine, spirit and nonalcoholic consumers alike! Beer enthusiasts can enjoy cider's dryness, carbonation even the addition of hops or familiar notes from barrel-aging, while wine lovers will appreciate the diverse fruit flavors from interesting apple varietals and terroir expression. Spirits fans will love the fortified ciders, apple brandy, and pommeau offerings. Avoiding alcohol? There are more excellent non-alcoholic or low-alcohol ciders available than ever before!

The Michigan Cider Fest is the perfect opportunity for people to try the full spectrum of ciders crafted in Michigan while listening to fantastic live music and enjoying local food trucks. Whether you're cider-curious or an all-out cider enthusiast, you're sure to have an incredible time!

WMW: Anything additional you'd like to add that we haven't already touched on?

PE: Michigan is the Great Cider State! We're proud to have more active hard cider businesses than any other U.S. state. Grand Rapids is also home to the world's largest cider competition! The Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (GLINTCAP), now in its 18th year, is focused on raising the caliber of cider as a category through an emphasis on providing clear and helpful feedback to entrants from some of the most experienced palates in the industry, in addition to coveted medals and trophies. Held annually in Grand Rapids, GLINTCAP receives and judges over 1,200 commercial and noncommercial entries from across the world.

Michigan cider makers use more Michigan-grown and sourced ingredients than any other craft beverage makers in the state! In a recent Michigan Cider Association survey of Michigan hard cider producers, we learned that, on average, an impressive 93% of the total ingredients utilized in their production were grown locally in Michigan. By choosing Michigan cider, consumers are demonstrating their support for our local farms and, often, for family-owned small businesses, as well.

Learn more by visiting Cider Week GR.

Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.

 Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids. 


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