CEDAR SPRINGS — A West Michigan cider producer plans to open a satellite tasting room in northern Kent County.
Ada-based Sietsema Cider LLC has leased 1350 square feet of space at 70 N. Main Street in Cedar Springs. The location, which is nearly across the street from Cedar Springs Brewing Co., will offer the cidery a more visible location than its current tasting room and production facility on 2 Mile Road in Ada, according to founder Andy Sietsema.
“We’ve been at this for about five years, and this will be a big change and a big boost for us,” Sietsema told MiBiz.
Sietsema Cider will pursue a microbrewery and distillery license in Cedar Springs so it will be able to offer the full complement of alcoholic beverages, he said. The new location will also have a small kitchen for heavy appetizers and quick eats.
Sietsema said he’s been watching the success Cedar Springs Brewing has enjoyed in the last few years and hopes to add to the destination appeal for people to visit the area.
“Everything pointed to why not try Cedar Springs. With the brewery, people are up there and spending money, and now they can visit us and the brewery,” Sietsema said. “This is nothing but good for Cedar Springs. A rising tide lifts all boats.”
David Ringler, founder of Cedar Springs Brewing, said he welcomes the additional hospitality business to the neighborhood.
“We’re very supportive of Andy. I’ve been encouraging him to do it,” Ringler said.
For Sietsema Cider, the opening of a satellite taproom in a more heavily trafficked area should also provide the business with a more consistent cash flow. The company started five years ago as a production-only alcoholic cider producer and focused mostly on distribution and other contract business, while also opening the cidery during the harvest season.
“Most breweries, cideries or wineries open a taproom first and then get into distribution, but I went backwards,” Sietsema said. “The orchard is great for about two and a half months, but distribution is hard.
“The taproom is where we make our highest margins, and you’re in charge of your own product.”
Opening the Cedar Springs location will not only even out the business throughout the year, but will also help Sietsema Cider utilize its production capacity in Ada, he added. No changes are planned for the Ada location, which also offers hosting for special events, including the upcoming Hard Cider Run on June 2.
Sietsema Cider — which distributes packaged cider in cans and kegs locally via Alliance Beverage, as well as with Rave Associates in Southeast Michigan and various distributors in the Chicago area — produced about 5,800 gallons of cider in 2017, according to data from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.
Sietsema said he hopes to open the Cedar Springs location before the start of summer after securing all the pertinent permits.
He will share the building with Microcanner LLC, a craft beverage canning equipment manufacturer that last year expanded into the industrial space after operating for a couple of years in Belmont. The satellite tasting room will offer 12 taps to start, and a rustic ambiance that seats 25-35 people, plus possible outdoor seating. The company also will offer cider to-go in growlers and crowlers.
“We want to give people a reason to come in and drink good cider,” Sietsema said. “We want to add something to Cedar Springs and give people another reason to enjoy the community.”
With an expanded license, Sietsema plans to experiment with some new beverages, including a style known as graf, a cider-beer hybrid.
Sietsema Cider’s expansion also comes on the heels of a study demonstrating the strength of local and regional cider producers.
A new annual report from the U.S. Association of Cider Makers and Nielsen shows regional brands are now a quarter of all U.S. cider sales. Nationally, off-premise sales for regional and local producers also are growing — up 30 percent this year at an estimated $118.3 million — compared to larger national cideries, for whom sales contracted 11.5 percent.
In the Midwest, national brands were down 13 percent in off-premise sales, while sales of local and regional brands rose 8 percent, according to the report.
Additionally, Sietsema Cider announced its expansion as Grand Rapids Cider Week kicks off today. The seven-day celebration of the craft beverage includes a series of daily cider-themed events at bars and restaurants around the city, as well as the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition, the world’s largest judging of ciders.
Cider Week Grand Rapids features 26 Michigan cideries, and culminates with a cider festival from 1-5 p.m., Saturday, May 19 on the Gillett Bridge in Grand Rapids.