Thursday, April 10, 2014

Not Just Cider & Doughnuts Anymore! Check Out Blake's Hard Cider!

Every fall I take a group of friends out to Blake’s Cider Mill in Armada, Michigan. When I send out the invite people always ask why I drive so far to go to a cider mill and I reassure them that if they come along they will see why I make the trek. Blake’s is the best cider mill in the Metro Detroit area. It is known for its pick your own apples, fruits, and veggies, but it is also known for its great cider and donuts. The farm opened in 1946 and was actually the first u-pick orchard in Michigan. It is still owned and operated by the Blake Family and the third generation of Blakes are about to take over.

Andrew Blake is the grandchild of the original owner. He briefly moved away to Chicago and decided to come back and get into the family business. He wrote up a business plan, pitched it to the family, and convinced them to turn their cider into hard cider. He literally researched the history of hard cider and how it is made and decided that it had to be the next step for the family farm. The farm was already growing and picking their own apples, they were already making cider, so why not try their hand at hard cider?

Andrew explained that before prohibition, cider was the drink of choice in America. Our founding fathers all drank hard cider and saw it as the perfect way to kick back and enjoy yourself after a hard day at work. It isn't as bitter as beer and doesn't give you the same hangover that wine does, so they preferred this kind of buzz to others that were available at the time. When prohibition came along, the government actually went around the country and cut down a lot of apple trees so that people weren't able to get them to make their own brews anymore. Lately, hard cider has made a comeback and some of the bigger companies have jumped on board and started making their own versions of the drink. But, they are doing it from concentrate with additives so that they can mass market the product; Andrew has an entirely different approach.

Instead of adding all sorts of products to the drink to make it last forever, he is making it as natural as he can. Blake’s Hard Cider is naturally gluten free and is as close to drinking an apple as an alcoholic beverage can be. It might have a shorter shelf life, but it also tastes a whole hell of a lot better than anything I have ever had.

Andrew invited Hip In Detroit out to the new bar that they built on the farm's grounds and loaded us up with samples of all of the products that he is about to launch all over Michigan. The bar itself is huge and made out of wood and iron taken straight from old barns that were on Blake’s property. The tables are made out of old barrels from the Wild Turkey distillery and there is the cutest fireplace in the middle of the bar. The look for the space compliments the idea behind the drink.

Distribution of the hard cider will officially be launched on May 1st and it will be in a lot of local bars and liquor stores. It is already available at a few, such as Cheli's and One Eyed Betty's, but we highly suggest that you head out to the bar right at Blake's. Starting soon the bar will be open 7 days a week. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for details on hours.

We had a chance to interview Andrew Blake and the designer of the labels, Adam Yarbrough. They talked about the three flavors that will be available outside of the Cider House and the idea behind the names. The three flavors that they are launching are Flannel Mouth, Beard Bender and Cata-Wampus. Check out what they had to say and make sure to add them on Facebook to keep up with launch dates and new bars that will be carrying this product. This is going to be one of your favorite drinks as soon as you try it, we have no doubt about that! Plus you are supporting a local family and drinking something that was grown right here in Michigan. 

Special thanks to Andrew for letting us come out to the bar, we promise we will be back to refill the growlers that we purchased as soon as possible! To the rest of you, once you visit, you’ll never ask if Blake’s is worth the drive again!


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