Former Goose Island brewmaster making new ciders using apples

January 12, 2013 8:11:19 AM PST
Most kids love a cold glass of apple cider. In America the tradition of fermented, alcoholic ciders has been relatively unknown.

However, a former beer brewer from Chicago, Gregory Hall, is trying to change that.

Both of these tart, dry ciders are coming from southwestern Michigan, near Fennville, at the relatively new Virtue Cider farm. The farm is the brainchild of Hall, who is Goose Island's former brewmaster.

Wine and beer are no strangers at Lula Café in Logan Square.

The addition of an artisanal, fermented French-style cider called Lapinette has the kitchen excited about the food pairing possibilities.

A few miles south in Wicker Park, The Carriage House offers a dry, English-style draft cider called Red Streak. The beer pairs exceedingly well with its Low Country cuisine, like fried chicken with pickles.

Heirloom apples come from all over Michigan where the mill turns them into pulp.

For Red Streak, Hall combines three different ciders with as many yeast strains, aging it a few weeks in stainless steel. In the case of the Lapinette, the juice ages with French yeast in French oak for three months. The process is a lot like wine making.

"Almost all of the great ciders are a blend of multiple ciders. That's how you build those layers of flavor," he said.

Hall is already in the process of building a second fermenting facility and planting thousands of trees here; hoping to turn this part of the state into a mecca for high-end agriculture.

"We think that Southwest Michigan because of all the rain we get from the lake is really just about the best place to grow stuff," Hall said.