A Taste of Michigan Hard Cider

by | Sep 29, 2023 | Beer, Travel

Looking for the perfect way to savor the flavors of fall in Michigan? Join me on a hard cider-hopping adventure that takes us from Alber Orchard’s nostalgia-filled to the time-honored traditions of Dexter Cider Mill and finally to the community-centric vibes of Ore Creek Craft Cider. Whether you’re a cider enthusiast or a newbie, this road trip through Michigan’s cider landscape promises to be as crisp and refreshing as the drink itself. So buckle up and let’s dive into the apple-infused world of Michigan hard cider. Cheers!

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A Taste of Michigan Hard Cider 

My sister and brother-in-law were in town last week, it was a beautiful fall day, so we invited them to go hard cider hopping. (Yes, I just made that up, it’s like bar hopping but not.) We’d asked our Facebook fandom (It’s not really a fandom, but it sounds better) where to get the best hard cider. I was blown away by their response, as I had been kind of scratching my head as to where to go.  

If you don’t have a Facebook fandom, you can also use the Michigan Brewery Map app on your phone. It is an excellent tool for finding hard cider. In the filter settings, you can get specific, like just cideries or breweries that serve cider. It’s better than Google Maps. 

With our hard cider hopping plan devised, we set off for a beautiful fall day. 

A Nostalgic Return to Alber Orchard & Cider Mill

Alber Orchard & Cider Mill holds a special place in my heart, akin to the warmth of a Thanksgiving feast. My mom would pack the car with all the kids in the yard and another adult, maybe. Seatbelts? Those were more of a suggestion than a rule back then. We’d bump along the country road, fingers crossed no one got sick. I won’t name names, but there was one kid who always puked.

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We’d make a beeline for the same rustic building that still stands today, where apples are sold. While my mom haggled with the farmer’s wife over apple varieties, we kids would be engrossed in the candy selection. The highlight of the mill visit was when we’d each get a Gobstopper or Pop Rocks for the ride home.

Alber Orchard Today: A Blend of Tradition and Modernity

Fast-forward to the present day, and here I am at Alber’s again, this time buckled up securely. My husband is driving, and fingers were still crossed no one would get sick. The familiar dirt road remains, now framed by trees just beginning to flaunt their fall colors. Bees buzzed in the afternoon sun, and a new farmer’s wife was at the helm of an apple empire boasting an impressive range of over 100 heirloom apple varieties.

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Alber Orchard has matured over the years. Pumpkins now complement the apple offerings. Visitors can either meander down to the pumpkin patch or select one from bins near the barns. Hayrides are also an option, from noon until sunset—unless the tractor driver has other commitments, as was the case during our visit. For younger guests, a corn maze filled with hidden clues offers an apple as a prize for successful navigation.

A Tasting Experience to Remember

The crown jewel of my visit was the Freedom Winery tasting room, the orchard’s latest addition. 

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Michael Bossory, the orchard’s owner, was busy fixing the cash register as we entered the inviting tasting room. The Farmhouse cider on offer had a bubbly quality reminiscent of prosecco, with subtle notes of oak and chardonnay and a finish that evoked a Pilsner. We sipped our ciders while taking in the scenic orchard views, some of which featured trees that have stood for over a century, planted when the mill was established in 1890.

Alber Orchard’s website had promised a trio of sensations: the sweetness of their cider, the unique tang of a rare apple, and the robust kick of their hard cider. They didn’t disappoint. But what the website didn’t mention, and what you’ll also discover, is an authentic, earthy, and apple-infused slice of life. 

Dexter Cider Mill

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The next stop was the Dexter Cider Mill. It has been a family-run operation since 1886, earning it the title of Michigan’s longest-running cider mill. Their legacy is as enduring as the crispness of their cider.

While we didn’t find the usual autumnal attractions like corn mazes or hayrides here, we found exceptional cider. Exclusive to the mill, their hard cider comes in three distinct varieties: Traditional, India Pale, and for those seeking a bit of a zing, Bourbon Barrel Aged.

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Beyond cider, the mill offers other irresistible treats. Their doughnuts are so delicious they’ll make you set aside any diet plans, and their caramel apples encapsulate the essence of fall. 

They’ve also got Huron River in their backyard. We grabbed a seat at one of their picnic tables and enjoyed a caramel apple and a glass of cider.   

As they say, it was Pure Michigan. 

Ore Creek Craft Cider

Many of our Facebook friends suggested Ore Creek in Pinckney. When we mentioned this to Brandon Bond, one of the owners. Unsurprised, he said,  “We have customers who drive from Muskegon, Detroit, Southfield, and Sterling Heights. We even had a couple drive up from Columbus last weekend.” 

The Ore Creek Experience: More Than Just Cider

But before you make the drive check the hours. They have limited hours to avoid staff burnout. “I want everybody to have a high energy level and to be happy that they’re here,” Bond says. 

Ore Creek is not just about cidery; it’s about creating a community. “We don’t have any TVs in here. It’s basically conversation, people meeting. It’s a community-type building rather than just a site,” says Bond.

Jay Denton, another owner, adds, “We wanted to keep it rustic. Give it a little bit of ‘up north’ down here.”

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They’ve accomplished all of that and a lot more. They have 12 taps running a variety of hard cider flavors. They specialize in finding you the perfect glass of cider.

Diverse Cider Offerings

Denton elaborates on their diverse cider offerings: “You’re never going to find a perfect match to a beer with cider, but we aim for our ciders to be semi-dry or semi-sweet. Nothing’s over the top with sugar.” For those who enjoy a more complex flavor, they offer a bourbon barrel-aged cider that’s been aging for six months in Traverse City whiskey barrels. “You’re going to taste the oak, and a little bourbon hit to it, kind of like a barrel-aged chardonnay,” Denton explains.

If you’re a fan of hoppy beers, Ore Creek has you covered with their hop cider made with Citra hops. They also offer an array of fruit-flavored ciders and even a jalapeño cider for those who like a little kick.

Ore Creek Levels 

“I tell people coming in for Ore Creek for the first time, you’re what we call level one? We’ve got five levels here. You’re gonna end with a world-famous cider bomb,” Bond said. “We can do a lot of mixing without stripping any flavor profile.”

Basically, it means they have a lot of drinks that aren’t on their menu. 

Bond elaborated, “So what happens is the staff or myself or Jay, they’ll get to know you. They’ll get to know what you like as a customer. And then once we do, we’re gonna start bumping up levels.” 

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Secret Potions

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Kelly Lollio, Ore Creek’s Ciderista, handed us their version of a Bloody Mary, which she calls an “Angry Mary” made with their Angry Spanker cider. “The carbonation in the cider gives it a different feel than the flatness of a vodka,” she notes.

One of their most popular ciders is the Winter Shanty. A cider infused with mulled spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a few other things Bond wouldn’t share. He said, “It’s Christmas in a cup.” Adding that it’s so popular, they keep it on the menu year-round. But another reason they leave it on year-round is one of their popular combinations is the Winter Shanty and Chappy. “That’s our world-famous level 2 apple pie.” Bond said with a huge grin on his face. 

From unique flavors to a community-focused atmosphere, Ore Creek offers a hard cider experience that’s worth the drive. Whether you’re a cider novice or a seasoned enthusiast, you’re sure to find something that tickles your palate.

Other Hard Cider Suggestions 

As I said, our friends (I mean Facebook fandom) really love cider, so there were lots of suggestions. Here are just a few: 

From the nostalgic charm of Alber Orchard & Cider Mill to the legacy of Dexter Cider Mill and the community-focused atmosphere at Ore Creek, each Cidery offers a unique experience that goes beyond just great cider. Cheers!

Photos

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There are more pictures from our hard cider hopping. After you take a look, let us know what you think.

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