The retail store started in 1971 with tours for children and families soon following. It wans't until 2002, with the help of a federal grant that they were able to turn distilling hard cider from a hobby into a viable business plan.
Mike mentioned that when he first started brewing cider that their were less than 10 cideries in the USA and now there are close to 400. With Michigan leading the way with over 45 Michigan based cideries. It helps that Michigan is number two for variety of fruit crops along with number one for fruit processing. Roughly 70% of all fruit grown in the state of Michigan becomes processed fruit. Michigan also leads the way with most distinctive apple crops, we have more varieites than any other state.
With the addition of the tasting room and other events they now have over 300,000 people visit per year.
Sales have been mainly by word of mouth for as long as Mike could remember. He just recently hired Eric Eliot to be the head of sales. Before that finding Uncle John's Cider outside of the cidery was hit or miss. They would have restuarants and bars call up to see about receiving product and with no one dedicated to sales, those leads tended to fall flat. With Eric now dedicated to sales, Uncle John's can be found at different locations throughout the state and even in New York and Chicago.
They might not have sold much outside of the tasting room for years but they have quietly been collecting awards for their cider since the beginning. Mike was telling me how they only enter cider compeitions. They have won 3 years in a row, “Best of Show” at the Great Lakes Cider and Perry Competition. Their most prestigious award has been from the Royal Bath and West of England Society. They have won best “International Cider” three times now. Mike was very excited to tell me that they are the only cidery in the US to have won this award three times and that there is only one other US cidery that has even placed in previous years.
Those awards are just confermation that they are doing things right at Uncle John's Cider Mill. Hard Cider has little to no water added to the finished product unlike Beer. Which means that if you are looking for a “Pure Michigan” produce you are not going to get any closer than hard cider from Uncle John's. They are also the only cidery creating a Rose; This hard cider is created from a red apple that is red from skin to core, which gives the finishsed product a lovely red glow. They are also the only ciderery to have an Heirloom Blend that is created with apple trees that are over 150 years old.
Lot's of great things are happening at Uncle John's Cider Mill. Enjoy a day with friends in the tasting room or bring the whole family for an adventure on the farm.