Even with gas down to 2.15 per gallon, I know that getting in the car to run just one errand is a waste of my carbon footprint. Still, I needed to go over to the casino to pick up my paycheck, so on the way back I decided to check out the Tandem Ciders sign that has be recently erected on M-22 at Setterbo Road.
I had a idea of what was up there thanks to an article in this week's Leelanau Enterprise, but hard cider has always been something that happened by accident, something that figured in Grandpa Gord's stories of growing up in the UP, or in the case of a friend's old-school grandmother, something that teetotalers drank because it wasn't really alcohol. So it was funny, at least to me, to find that I had inadvertently joined a throng of wine-tasters working their way from one winery to the next. The small tasting room was packed, proprietor Dan Young was swamped, and I ended up talking to a lady who was not quite sure where she had ended up.
"So what is this hard cider?" she asked me, looking at her the contents of her sample glass, a clear, dry, golden cider made from old-fashioned Northern Spy apples. Northern Spys, an heirloom variety from the 19th century, were Grandpa Gord's favorite apple, the same apples that I sought out for him every fall in the last years of his life.
"It's wine made from apples."
"You can make wine from apples?"
"Sure. You know the sweet cider that we drink in the fall? That's unfiltered apple juice. If you ferment it, you get hard cider."
Just as the sweet ciders can vary greatly in taste depending on the apples used, the three hard ciders I tasted each had their own character. The Northern Spy was dry and sophisticated, nice, but a little formal for just knocking around on this beautiful fall day. The Farmhouse blend used the varieties that were the mainstays of the apple industry 30 years ago -- Macintosh, Romes, (did he mention Empires?) a little Delicious -- for a sweeter taste that seemed a little thin, at least when it followed the Northern Spy.
I liked the Bees Dream, a blend made with a different yeast. This one was just nice, a full, friendly hard cider. All three ciders that I tasted were 2007 apples. The folks on the other side of me were drinking this year's Macintosh, which was being served on tap, but the barrel ran out before I could try it. Being new, it was still a tad cloudy and the folks enjoying it, friends of the proprietor, praised it as the best cider there.
I bought a bottle of Bee's Dream, for $10. They were also selling gallons of fresh cider, one of the few places where you can still buy fresh cider so late in the season.
Tandem Ciders is located on Setterbo Road, across from the Toy House. It is the white barn with the bicycle-built-for-two above the door. When you go there, check out the dark-sky-friendly light fixtures above the doors.
Tandem Ciders is open Wed-Sat from 11 a.m - 7 p.m. and Sun from Noon to 5 p.m.