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Peoples Cider is All Michigan

Jason Lummen owns The People's Cider Co.

Complex, dry cider from The People Cider Co.

Jason Lummen drinks a bit of Cider.

Jason Lummen, owner of The People's Cider Co.

Casks age cider to perfection.

Bottles wait to be filled with perfectly aged and prepared cider.

Jason Lummen makes cider in a small space on the northeast side of Grand Rapids. It's a diminutive operation, but the reputation of the cider precedes itself. Mention it to anyone who's in the know, and out comes the praise. I was even tipped to Lummen's skill by someone who declared it "the best (expletive) cider" they'd ever had.  

Lummen has owned his space, now the home of Peoples Cider Co. since May, but he's been making cider for a decade. 

"The first time I made cider, I actually went and bought a pickup truckload of apples, borrowed a press from Lubber's farm (who I'd met at the farmers market), and went over to Trillium Haven," he says. "We crushed up the apples and made 40 gallons. I was totally hooked."

At the time, Lummen lived in the Avenue for the Arts on S. Division. He soon had two fermentors in his kitchen, making his legal limit of homebrew. "I'd bring it to every social engagement I went to, and I knew that I liked it, and other people liked it, too," he says. "The lack of a really dry cider commercially available was very encouraging."

At the time of the interview, Lummen had 660 gallons of cider in two varieties -- a bourbon barrel aged dry draft cider with a lower ABV (under 7 percent), and a stronger bourbon barrel aged cider with an alcohol gravity between 13-14 percent. The latter takes longer to make. Lummen also makes meads, including a cherry wine he had recently brewed for a wedding. 

Peoples Cider is made using only Michigan products. Lummen uses Fruit Ridge apples (Sparta), sugar from Bay City, and Michigan yeast. He then ages the cider in oak -- "it's more odor, than flavor," he says. The dryness of his cider will please fans who find other ciders too sweet. 

"(Michigan) apples have the pH that's correct, the sugar that's correct," he says. "Apples grown in other parts of the country don't make as good of a hard cider as (the apples) in West Michigan. I fell in love with how local it all is -- the fact that I can get all my product from here."

It's 13 miles from his space to the orchard where he buys his apples. A commercial press yields 5-6 gallon per bushel. Lummen now presses the apples right at the orchard. Because his volume is small, he can throw a couple kegs in the back of his station wagon and drop his product off at local bars. "Not too many breweries and wineries are starting up this size," Lummen says. "Even Harmony (Brewing Company) is a big project compared to what I'm doing here."

Prior to Lummen's life as a cider maker, he worked in government jobs. He's also an artist, specializing in stenciling and street art. The logo for Peoples Cider is a stenciled fist. "I'm a reluctant capitalist," he says of his new venture. 

But as a reluctant capitalist, he's been grateful to receive help from his friends to get his business off the ground, as well as the local homebrew climate he enjoys by living in West Michigan. 

"There are a lot of really good breweries, but also people making beer at home and seeking out new beers," Lummen says. "I think Grand Rapids is the perfect place to start something like this right -- the apples we have, and the beer culture we have."

While Lummen admits it's a gamble for any entrepreneur, he feels his small business, quality product, and commitment to locality can result in a winning situation for everyone involved, from himself, to the farm, farm worker, bar owner, and bar staff. And, of course, the consumer. 

Want to test the raving reviews for Peoples Cider yourself? It's on tap at Hopcat (25 Ionia SW), Georgio's (15 Ionia SW), and Harmony Brewing Company (1551 Lake Dr. SE). You can also order a keg or case online starting May 1. Once a week, Lummen will be offering free delivery of his product straight to your door. 

J. Bennett Rylah is the Managing Editor of Rapid Growth Media. 

Photography by Adam Bird
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