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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hill Bros. Orchards now pressing their award-winning cider

By Chris Siciliano

Every Thursday* from now until February 1st, the good folks at Hill Brothers Orchards & Cider Mill (6159 Peach Ridge NW) will be pressing their award-winning raw cider and filling carboys, buckets, and even old whiskey barrels dropped off ahead of time by home cidermakers and enthusiasts.

The raw cider is $2.75 per gallon; it's comprised of a secret blend of apples which has earned master cider maker Jim Hill top-prize at the Great Lakes Fruit & Veggie Expo no less than three times. Here's how to get your hands on a few gallons for your own.

The Weekly Process

  • Drop your empty carboys/buckets off at Hill Bros. retail space no later than the close of business Wednesday evening (6pm). Be sure that each and every individual carboy or bucket is clearly labeled with your name, telephone number, and the number of gallons you'd like to take away. Note: your container(s) must be at least five gallons.
  • The Hills will call you on Friday to let you know that your cider is ready to be picked up. If you can't make it back by Friday, you can pick your cider up on Saturday between 9am and 6pm.
  • Why two trips? To cut down on waste, Jim Hill makes only as much raw cider as has been pre-ordered each week. Home cidermakers pre-order by dropping off their empty buckets/carboys ahead of time. After the apples have been pressed on Thursday, the cider settles over night. On Friday morning the Hills begin filling containers. When the containers are filled, the Hills will begin calling each container's owner.
  • Since the bulk cider is unpasteurized, the Hills are adamant that it be used only for fermentation. If you'd like to try their cider raw--and you should, it's great!--they sell UV-treated cider for $4.50 per pre-packaged gallon.
  • Jim or Arlene Hill will be happy to answer any questions you have regarding this process. You can reach them at (616) 784-2767.
  • Stop into Siciliano's to brush up on your cidermaking know-how, or else have a look at the following two articles, both written by former-staffer and all around good guy, Weston Eaton.
Points of Note

  • The Hills also have for sale several dozen empty 55-gallon Heaven Hill whiskey barrels. The barrels are $85 each and would make a great conversation piece in anybody's basement, especially when filled with delicious fermenting cider or beer. Contact Jim or Arlene for more information.
  • In December 2010 Jim Hill was named Master Cider Maker, an honor reserved for three-time first-prize winners in the cider category at the Great Lakes Fruit & Vegetable Exposition (source). Congratulations, Jim!
  • The Hills provide raw cider to many area breweries and wineries, including New Holland and Saugatuck Brewing Co.
  • Hill Brothers Orchards is "family owned and operated since 1843" (source).
*Interested parties should contact the Hills for information on their pressing schedules during the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Images from the Mill

From Hill Bros. to Saugatuck to your glass

Waiting to be filled

For sale, $85 each, empty

Good raw cider = good hard cider

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