Taste Testing Fall

“What’s your favourite cider mill?” is as common an opener in Michigan as college students asking each other their majors. 

Fall in Michigan means one thing above all else: cider mills. For so many years if our family was going to visit my inlaws we tried to coincide our trip with cider mill season. (It’s generally Labor Day weekend to Thanksgiving, although each cider mill varies their schedule.) It’s such a delicious way to welcome the new season.

Of course we’ve had our family favourite for years. However now that we live here I decided to put it to science. Is my favourite my favourite because it is the best? Because it’s closest? Because it’s the only one I’ve tried?

Making magic at the Franklin Cider Mill. Sometimes they have the presses going when you visit.

That’s right. My favourite cider mill was also my only cider mill. That doesn’t give me a lot of credibility.

Using this list from the Detroit News, I narrowed down the list to those I had heard recommended by friends and were also within a reasonable drive. 

Each was charming and unique. While they all offer cider and doughnuts, they each offered different extra food items, souvenir items, ambiance, and more.

Only one, Erwin’s, offered a u-pick orchard. I can’t wait to go back with the family and do some picking. I think it’s been 25 years, or longer, since I was apple picking but it was a big part of my childhood. 

Come along the path with me: let’s gather some apples and dream some dreams.

Erwin’s also puts their pollinators on loving display.

Several of the mills are water powered. I have always found water wheels so fascinating.

Water wheel at Yates.
The original water wheel for the Franklin Mill, dating to the 1830s.

Of course to run on water wheels the mills need to be located near a river. That means plenty of water fowl to greet you!

Ducks, geese, and even a rooster yelled at us at Parmenter’s. The geese got a bit too close for comfort – this is not zoomed in. Geese can be grumpy so I took off after this photo.

The cider mills know their clientele well. Children need places to roam and explore, especially after a long trek in the car.

Part of the playscape at Erwin’s. Just in case you forgot this is still the Metro Detroit area.
Part of the playscape at Parmenter’s.

In addition to places to play, there are usually some great photo ops as well.

Posing at Plymouth.

I picked up a half gallon from five different cider mills and set up our blind taste test. We sampled Franklin, Yates, Erwin, Parmenter’s, and Plymouth. In truth I had two half gallons from Franklin, because their Honeycrisp exclusive was available in addition to their cider blend. Our family always says yes to Honeycrisp.

Don’t want to mess around with a jug and some cups? Grab a sipper for cider on the go.

Keeping it sterile and scientific I labeled the tops A, B, C, D, E, and F. I turned the jugs around so even I didn’t know which was which. I even labeled every single cup so as we sipped and savoured we didn’t forget which was which.

For SCIENCE!

I absolutely loved the variety in the colours! 

So beautiful. So delicious.

My husband, children, inlaws, and myself all enjoyed comparing the ciders. One of them specifically tasted like my childhood, so I assume that the blend at that mill contained the same apples I picked and juiced as a child in the Okanagan Valley. That was a fun memory I had forgotten!

I asked each family member (minus my toddler) to rank the ciders from most favourite to least. Interestingly we had a fairly clear consensus. Yates and Franklin (both their Honeycrisp and their blend) topped everyone’s lists.

A few caveats before you discount any of the other ciders. When it came to the taste test, they were all good. Each of them can stand alone and be delicious. When it comes to cider the winner is all of us. Also, cider mills press different apples on different days. When working with natural products each day’s press is going to be different than the day before. I would return to any of them when I’m nearby.

Fresh doughnuts with your cider? Always.

Next challenge: I would like to do a taste test of the doughnuts. If I can just figure out how to keep them fresh, warm, and uneaten long enough to collect an adequate sample size from each cider mill… Until then we will eat them on location!

PS: this is not a sponsored post in any way. This was a shameless excuse to consume a lot of cider. I have no regrets. I may even need to do it again. For science.

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