Getting to cider for Gregory Hall, was one part luck and a whole lot of beer. When his father John Hall founded the Chicago based Goose Island Brewery in 1988, it took only 3 years before Greg was at the helm brewing at “Goose”. Twenty years later in 2011, the brewery would be sold to Anheuser Busch-InBev. (Side note: A-B just completed a merger with SBMiller company in late 2015.) The 2011 sale set Greg free to move on to his next great adventure – Virtue Cider a new cidery in Fennville, Michigan.
I was curious to ask Greg about what a cidermaker should consider for the long run if they want to parlay their business to the next level as his father did with Goose Island and Greg did with Virtue only 3 years later – this time selling Virtue’s majority stake to A-B InBev.
Obviously one must have a good product and as Greg tells it he looked to the European cidermakers for inspiration and direction.
“I went with my laundry list of questions that I was use to asking at breweries, most of which were fairly technical and found out very quickly that I was asking the wrong questions.Traditional cider making is a multi generational effort. They sure as heck weren’t measuring PH in the 1830’s”
Greg says, what makes Virtue Ciders unique and some of the Michigan ciders is that they are: More balanced towards acid.
What can cider learn from wine?: The French got it right three hundred years ago when they started defining style by geography. It can forever limit your competition.
If we are smart collectively, we talk about terroir and providence. There is a difference from ciders from the Great Lakes and the Northeast.
The condition of the fruit is as important as the variety of the fruit.
3 commonalities Gregory sees from England, France and Spain to making traditional, proper farmhouse cider
- Apples – local apples
- Cider is in barrels, just like you expect a Bordeaux to of course be in a barrel. No one is saying this is barrel aged Bordeaux, it is expected.
- All the best stuff is coming from a ciderhouse on a farm. The microflora matters. If you are doing that in a factory in town you are not going to get to do that.
Gregory defines Cider Maker as part of the “Maker culture”
Thus: cider maker, or cloth maker.
We make cider but we are also part of this maker guild.
Want to visit Virtue Cider?
Address: 2170 62nd St, Fennville, MI 49408
Telephone: 773- 868-6878
Virtue Ciders mentioned in this chat:
- Elder Hall, a special blend made collaboratively with Portland Oregon’s Chef Jason French
- Cider Nouveau 6.0%
- Prince Hall – 5.8%
Michigan Cidermakers and more mentions in this chat
Mick Beck – Uncle John’s Cider
Jason Saldanha – Sound Opinions
Michele Foik –Eris, a new ciderbar opening in Chicago
Cider Bite, a Portland Oregon cider bar
Lisa is launching a cider marketing business! Follow her on Twitter @eirinnlisa
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