From brewing to packaging, David Crawford knows how to create the ciders we can't get enough of. —INGRAIN, Summer 2018
I had never made cider or anything like that when I started here [Virtue Cider]. I built the deck for Greg's house in Fennville.* He offered me a position helping with packaging—filling and cleaning kegs and working the bottling line.
At the cider house, we are constantly wearing things out, breaking things. I fit in at that kind of place. I fix things. I build things. I use a lot of [reclaimed] wood that we have around here. I made the communal table in the Tasting Room from an old horse stall in the barn and some wooden shipping containers. I made a new bar top last weekend.
The first cider I ever tasted I didn't get. I had no frame of reference. I thought of apple cider like sweet apples, that flavor, but it's not supposed to be. It's like the difference between grape juice and wine. I think it's the same with beer, how people learn about it and then appreciate what they’re tasting. Cider is better than beer, though.
It's been an adventure the past five years. There's no end to the work. I've picked apples, pressed apples, fermented apples, bottled apples, sold apples. There's no such thing as a typical day.
I'm called a cidermaker but cider just happens, you know? You have to watch it. But fermentation is really just about isolating one natural decomposition aspect of the fruit until you have cider.
* Virtue Cider Founder & Goose Island Company Brewmaster Gregory Hall Reflects On Community
FIRST, THE APPLES
I call the west coast of Michigan the Cider Coast. All the best cider regions in Europe are on a rainy coast: southwest England, Normandy, and Asturias in Spain. We all like rain. We all have great local family apple growers.
As for Fennville, this is a great community. Really special. For the apples, but also the southwest Michigan food, drink, and music scene. The people. And we didn’t want to leave our Chicago behind. It’s close enough to our roots for a day trip.
And the Mitten State. Growing up, what I looked forward to most was the two summer weeks my family spent in the beach towns of Michigan. When I got into the beer business, I would drive up to visit breweries in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. Later, when I started going to the farmers’ markets, even my Chicago chef buddies were getting most of their fruit from Michigan. Now here we are, making cider. That’s destiny.
Get the full cider lowdown in Up Your Cocktail Game.