On northern Michigan’s famous Leelanau Wine Trail, there is one place in particular that is exceptionally unique. Tandem Ciders is located just north of Suttons Bay, down some extremely twisty, country roads. The drive down M22 and its subsequent roads is gorgeous in itself, then a large barn with a tandem bicycle presents itself, giving off a very old-fashioned, welcoming feel.
I recently had the pleasure of attending Tandem Ciders’ Wassail, which is the welcoming of a good apple crop for the cider in the upcoming year. The tasting room was cozy and inviting, dimly lit, and full of jolly, cider drinking locals. Free samples of the sweet and hard cider were in abundance, my favorite being the Smackintosh. This delicious, sweet cider was the perfect balance between a candy apple and a crisp Macintosh. I left with two bottles and the good feeling that I had actively assisted in ensuring a good apple crop for this upcoming year.
Dan and Nikki Young met over British-style beer in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Dan was the fortunate owner of a pub called The People’s Pint that Nikki just happened to be a frequent customer of. The two bonded over their love for beer, and their friendship quickly progressed. During the summer of 2003, the two set out for England to take a tandem bicycle tour. Throughout this bicycle tour, the two kept coming across pubs and desolate barns that specialized in hard cider. Nikki quickly fell in love with the cider she sampled, which offered a lovely change from the flat ales she kept encountering. After the tandem bicycle tour, the two moved to Michigan, got married, and got to work on the business plan that would eventually evolve into Tandem Ciders.
The goal these two set out to achieve was to produce ciders that reflect the beauty of the apple it was created from. The Youngs wanted to build on what the Leelanau area already had to offer, emphasizing the “scenic beauty and rural character.” Each collection of cider is made from a small batch of fruit, which is turned into juice with a traditional rack and cloth press. The juice is then fermented using different styles, turning it into cider. This can then either be served ‘straight’ or “blended with a little Leelanau County imagination.” For the sampling of their many ciders, Dan and Nikki were determined to create an atmosphere that reminded them of the pubs they encountered in England; warm, fun, and intimate. This effect produced the perfect ambiance for cider sampling, with the result being many regular customers.
Leelanau Peninsula was named by the Native Americans to mean, “Land of Delight,” and the Youngs have done a fabulous job of keeping this delight alive through their cider. From sweet to hard and an assortment of flavorful ciders in between, Tandem Ciders brings the feel of Northern Michigan to every bottle. ~Jennifer Hamilton, Feature Writer