Working as a brewer in Massachusetts, Dan Young had his cider epiphany on a bicycle tour of Southern England with his wife Nikki Rothwell. Following her back to her homeland of Northwest Michigan, Dan found apple nirvana in Leelanau County and launched Tandem Ciders in 2008. We sit down with Dan to talk cider chemistry and fall food pairings.
How does Northwest Michigan favor cider production?
We’re known primarily as cherry country but Northwest Michigan grows a huge diversity of apples when compared with the rest of the country, so cider makers have a lot of varieties and styles to work with.
How do apple varieties shape the ciders?
In Europe there are a large number of apple varieties grown exclusively for cider that are so tannic and acidic that they’re unsuitable for eating. While growers are developing a few of those here we’re mostly adapting our cider to eating apples. Northern Spy, Greening and Macintosh are all great cider apples in that they have good natural acidity and are very aromatic. Jonathans impart spiciness.
Does Tandem have a house style?
We’re known for really clean fermentations and fresh fruity flavors. In that range, we have really dry to sweeter ciders, all of which retain fresh fruit flavors and represent the apple varieties we’re working with.
What’s the best way to drink cider?
I like to break it down into two categories: session ciders and celebratory ciders. Session ciders, which are more fruit forward and often packaged in cans, are to be drunk cold out of a beer glass. Celebratory ciders, which typically have more complex aromatics and are bottled in 750ml bottles, should be drunk from a wine glass or champagne flute.
Magic cider and food pairings for fall?
You can’t go wrong with fresh apple slices, baguette and a nutty soft-ripened cheese like Camembert. We also like to stud a pork shoulder with garlic cloves, sear the outside and then braise it for hours in hard cider.
6 Ciders To Sip This Fall
Feel the autumn wind while sipping on these local apple elixirs.
TANDEM CIDERS SMACKINTOSH
The juicy sweet tart essence of our favorite eating apple reincarnated with booze and bubbles.
LEFT FOOT CHARLEY ANTRIM COUNTY HARD CIDER
Single origin cider pressed from cellar-aged apples grown by the Boals family. Forward fruit and zippy acids in an off-dry style.
CHAOS CIDERS APPLE PIE
Chaos laces their hard cider base with hints of caramel and cinnamon in an eminently drinkable orchard/oven mash-up.
STARCUT CIDERS OCTOROCK
Sweet apple flavor and subtle savory yeastiness make Octorock light and bright on the palette.
NOMAD DRY HARD CIDER
Both dry and textural, Nomad’s staple cider embraces multiple apple varieties for its complex fruit and spice character.
NORTHERN NATURALS LAVENDER APPLE HARD CIDER
A light lavender infusion adds perfumed floral dimension to the fruit and acidity of heirloom organic apples.
Traverse food and drinks editor Tim Tebeau writes from Petoskey. [email protected]