Ridge Cider Company sits approximately 30 miles north of Grand Rapids, amongst acres and acres of apple orchards, quietly making top-shelf ciders and food for customers.
Earlier this year, it was announced a contingent of the DeVos family, the same DeVos family of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, purchased a controlling interest of Ridge. The sale has allowed Ridge to quickly scale their production and distribution for their ciders, beginning with Porch Sittin’, a vanilla and cinnamon cider, and Hop’D.
“We’ve mainly distributed the last couple of years in draft to area restaurants and bars,” said Matt DeLong, who co-founded Ridge in 2014 and still makes the cider. “These ciders have been our leaders in terms of volume, so all of our customers have decided what comes first for us.”
Those are the first two ciders to hit the bottles, but the lineup will expand in the future, as will the distribution footprint, which will start with a focus on Grand Rapids, DeLong said.
Hop’D is of particular interest to beer drinkers, and it’s a refreshing take on dry-hopped cider, where the apple juice is still forward on the tongue.
The fruit notes are important, as the apples come from within miles of the production facility.”
DeLong said the idea behind Hop’D started because he’s a fan of hop-forward beers. He began experimenting with different hop varieties to determine which types would go well with hard cider.
Ridge cider makers began with single varieties and blending the versions to determine what they liked best. Eventually they came to a mix of between three and five hop varieties that brought the flavor blends DeLong was looking for from the hopped cider. The ultimate discovery was that C hops – Cascade, Centennial, Citra, etc. – worked best with the fruit.
“After some time, it went over really well,” he said. “We found the more citrus-forward hops go best with cider. With the mix we came up with, we’re experiencing the aroma we were looking for with melon, peach and sometimes grapefruit.”
DeLong said because he only adds hops to the end of the fermentation process, there is no bitterness left behind and drinkers who normally shudder at the idea of a highly hopped beverage are delightfully surprised by the fruitiness of the cider.
“You’re getting enough hops, but it’s not too bitter, but you’re getting a little and some fruit notes as well,” he said.
The fruit notes are important, as the apples come from within miles of the production facility, which sits in the Michigan region known as the Fruit Ridge – hence the name Ridge Cider.
“We source everything from the ridge,” DeLong said. “We try to get our hands on the more interesting, tart, sharp and bitter apples. Those characteristics tend to carry through fermentation.
“We have a choice of 20 to 25 varieties and we try to get a ratio that best showcases those characteristics.”
Ridge offers a wide array of ciders at its tasting room, well beyond Porch Sittin’ and Hop’D, including ciders with peach, coffee, strawberry, cherry, raspberry, hibiscus and banana. DeLong also offers a variety of dry apple only ciders, the style he prefers, but he knows clientele at the tasting room might desire something else.
“We get a diverse crowd coming through our doors and because it’s such a growing category but most are familiar with craft beer, people aren’t sure what we have to offer,” DeLong said. “We’ve learned quickly a lot of people tag along and hope for a beer, or something sweet. We have to offer so many so we have something to offer for each and every person.”