Why is Michigan blessed with so many cider mills and other areas aren’t?
Michelle Grinnell of Pure Michigan, the state’s tourism agency, says apple production and cider mills go hand in hand.
“I think it is somewhat unique to Michigan,” she said.
“We are one of the largest apple producing states in the nation. So that is part of the reason why we have so many cider mills because there are so many apple orchards to go along with those. We have a history of that.”
For example, the Dexter Cider Mill near Ann Arbor is more than 120 years old.
The Franklin Cider Mill in Bloomfield Hills has been pressing applies into cider since 1895.
In Rochester Hills the Yates Cider Mill - one of the most popular - has been using local water - and a big water wheel - to power its press since 1863.
Cider mills are exactly that - places were the apples are squashed into one of fall’s great treats, apple cider.
While the mills have long been a feature of apple orchards they have increasingly become fall attractions in their own right, drawing thousands of people.
“And today you see that,” Grinnell said.
“They’ve got all sorts of things for families and people that come in addition to the cider itself.”
The mills have become destinations not just to watch cider being made, or to simply drink and buy cider to take home, as great as that may be.
But often you can buy a range of other foods - mostly donuts but sometimes ice cream, pies and other pastries.
On the grounds of cider mills there can be fun autumn activities like pumpkin patches or corn mazes, or even petting zoos for the kids.
“October, early November is going to be certainly the busiest time of the year for the cider mills here in the state,” Grinnell said. “Part of that just goes along with just the harvest time - the apples, the pumpkins, all of these things are happening right around that time.”
At the Yates Cider Mill, now open, there’s even a fudge tent and pony rides on the weekends.
But one of the most intriguing aspects of this mill is watching close-up the apples being pressed into cider.
The mill’s double table press can produce 300 gallons of cider per hour. Visitors can watch cider being made most fall Wednesdays through Sundays.
The great thing about Michigan’s mills is the fact they’re so accessible.
“I think sometimes people think they’re only going to find mills in these really rural areas but the reality is there’s some really great cider mills not far from urban areas,” Grinnell said.
So you don’t have to go far into the countryside to get to some great mills - an educational, but mostly fun, fall experience.