PROPER FARMHOUSE CIDER
A seemingly simple drink; apples plus time. At Virtue Cider, we know that it is a bit more complex. Proper farmhouse cider is a style tied to provenance and process. Because proper farmhouse cider needs traditional craftsmanship learned from faraway lands combined with sustainable methods. Proper farmhouse cider needs a blend of the finest apples, grown in orchards with just the right climate. Proper cider needs hand-picked apples, barrels, and cidermakers with a ton of patience. Because like all good things in life, proper cider needs time. They say patience is a Virtue, it just so happens that Virtue requires patience. Virtue, it’s at our core.
FROM BREWHOUSE TO FARMHOUSE
Gregory Hall founded Virtue Cider in 2011. He is known for his 20-year tenure as brewmaster at the Goose Island Beer Company, having won 14 consecutive Great American Beer Festival medals and pioneered bourbon barrel-aged beer with Bourbon County Stout. In the spring of 2011, Hall left Goose Island and embarked on a two-month pilgrimage to study the craft of cider, touring and tasting at top cidermakers in England and France. He brought his extensive experience and innovative style to launch Virtue Cider. In 2013, Hall brought the award winning cider making venture as close as possible to one of the United States' best apple-growing states of Michigan and launched Virtue Cider in Fennville, Michigan. At Virtue Cider, it is at our core to make better cider for a better world and a better you. We use local heirloom fruit, never add any sugar and craft our cider like wine on a sustainable solar powered farm.
SUSTAINABILITY IS AT OUR CORE
Our farm is environmentally verified through the state of Michigan. Which means our practices for water use, pollinator habitat, soil erosion and animal welfare get reviewed regularly. We have over 20 acres of grasslands that create a monarch waystation for our pollinators, which in turn help our neighbors and the wellbeing of our overall environment locally. Our farm has been recognized and awarded for its sustainability and environmental standards, including being recognized by the state as an MEAEP certified farm. We use very little water or energy (we do not heat or cool our cider houses), and we are on our way to being majority solar powered. We currently have 200 solar panels that provide 61% of our electrical usage.
MICHIGAN IS HOME
Why did Gregory Hall choose Michigan as the place to start Virtue Cider? The climate of the southwest region of Michigan closely resembles the climate of the great cider regions of the world. Major fruit-growing regions need at least 40 inches of annual rainfall, and there are only three regions in the United States that meet this criteria: the Pacific Northwest, the Hudson Valley in New York, and the southwest region of Michigan, a place that Greg felt closely tied to from the childhood summer trips he took there with his family.
Our location on the Cider Coast also brings us close to those farmers that Greg wanted to be close to and support. In fact, every harvest season our farmers come here and drop giant crates of apples that we will use to make cider.
In addition to our orchard and cider houses, our 48-acre farm is home to an array of animals, like our Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs. These are traditional orchard pigs who were part of the cycle from soil to cider in England. According to orchard folklore, their spots are said to be bruises caused by apples falling from the trees in the orchards where the pigs grazed.
We are also home to chickens (breeds include Ancona, Easter Eggers, Blue Silkies, Blue Orpington, Cream Legbar, Barred Plymouth Rock, Dominique, and Rhode Island Red). They provide eggs, remove pests, and fertilize soil.
You can hang out with any of our farm animals when you visit Virtue Farm.
OUR CIDER HOUSES
Our cider houses were designed to pay homage to Gregory Hall's time in France. The architecture emulates the Norman French style cider houses and were built with an environmental mindset. We used fly ash concrete, Forestry Services Certified (FSC) lumber wherever possible, and locally sourced Michigan White Pine (the MI state tree). These cider houses were built entirely by local general contractors and tradesmen.
Our New Addition: In 2020, we completed construction on a third cider house.
OUR PRODUCTION PRACTICES
Here are some of the production practices we follow in order to be sustainable and help our community.
We purchase apples from our farmers above MACMA standard pricing at a starting point and go up from there based on varietal and fruit condition.
We press our apples on site and use minimal electricity and water in the process.
Pomace is given to local farmers for cattle feed, spread on our property to create a volunteer orchard of seedlings, and fed to our animals.
We never heat or cool our cider house. Fermentation is done in our tanks below ground which keep at a steady temperature even in Michigan winters.
Locally made cider starts with local farmers. Meet some of the great local farmers that bring the best fruit to Virtue Cider, so that we can bring the best craft cider to your glass.
Cranes Orchard - Fennville, MI
Gold Coast Farms - Fennville, MI
Heritage Orchards- Benton Harbor, MI
Herrygers Farm - Hart, MI
Hunsberger Orchards- Fennville, MI
Midway Orchards - Bangor, MI
Miller Fruit Farm- Grand Junction, MI
Overhiser Orchards - South Haven, MI
Ridgeview Orchards - Conklin, MI
Russ Latchaw Farms - Pullman, MI
Schultz Fruitridge Farms - Mattawan, MI
Seedling Farms - South Haven, MI
Wyncroft Wines - Pullman, MI