SPRING LAKE, Mich. (AP) — Vander Mill Cider has completed a major expansion that will allow the craft hard cider producer to more easily get its product into to customers' hands.
The Spring Lake producer of hard — or alcoholic — ciders has expanded its operation by 3,500-square-feet to allow for new canning equipment. Vander Mill Ciders will now be available in 16-ounce aluminum cans.
The $600,000 investment, which includes additional fermentation equipment, will allow the company to produce more than 100,000 gallons of hard cider this year.
"We expect these cans to significantly increase production — with an expected volume of over 100 percent from last year," owner Paul Vander Heide told The Muskegon Chronicle reports ( http://bit.ly/168MUq8 ) . "We want to decrease the cost to the consumer by increasing automation and use a more cost-effective package."
Began as a hard cider mill in 2006 with a 5,000-square-foot building, Vander Mill began distributing their cider products in 750 milliliter glass bottles in 2008 and in draft barrels.
Now, three of the mill's varieties — Hard Apple, Totally Roasted and Blue Gold (formerly Apple Blueberry) — are being distributed in cans to area convenience stores, groceries, bars and restaurants. Currently, more than 600 retail outlets and 200 pubs in Michigan and the Chicago area carry Vander Mill ciders.
"We are going to continue our focus on innovation and creativity with our ciders," Vander Heide said. "But we wanted to take a few of our core products and make them more accessible to customers."
In addition to the production-area expansion, Vander Mill also has renovated its 2,500-square-foot tasting room and café, introducing a new menu under the direction of Chef Stephanie Luke. Vander Mill offers lunch and dinner, along with a selection of pretzels, cheeses and salads.
The café has 65 indoor seats and 100 outdoor seats in a 2,000-square-foot Cider Garden.
Vander Mill Cider has become one of the Midwest's largest craft cider producers. The operation includes a market serving the cider, donuts, fudge and other products.
Expect some other innovations from Vander Mill as the company is working with Cider Maker Joel Brower on some "barrel-aged" products and brewery collaborations, Vander Heide said.