Meet David Crawford. He's one of our cidermakers at Virtue Cider, a role that he took on completely by happenstance. He's also a skilled woodworker having hand-made our Tasting Room communal table and portable cider bar.
1. How long have you been at Virtue?
Since October 2013.
2. What is your background?
I was born and raised South Haven, Michigan. I moved around a bit, but I always came back here.
3. What is your cidermaking experience?
Well, none previously. I actually didn't even apply for a job here. I was working for a guy who was making signs for New Holland Brewing. I built the deck at [Virtue founder] Greg's house at 113th Street in Fennville. He told me they were looking for help at Virtue Cider and offered me a position helping with packaging such as filling and cleaning kegs and working the bottling line. It's been an adventure. I love it. There's no end to the work.
I spent a lot of time in restaurants, where I learned there's always something to be done. At the cider house, we are constantly wearing things out, breaking things. I fit in there. I fix things. There's no end in sight. From the farm where apples are grown, to the harvesting, to the packaging and marketing. I've picked apples, pressed apples, fermented apples. Bottled apples. There's no such thing as a typical day.
4. What is special about cider?
The first cider I ever had was Redstreak. We were given some test bottles when I was on that project at Greg's house. I didn't get it at the time. I didn't understand what they were going for. I had no frame of reference.
I had a preconception I thought of apple cider like sweet apple but it's not, of course. It's like the difference between grape juice and wine right?
Now I've gone through the process a few seasons. The Mitten I got right away. Why? Well, it's good. It's bourbon barrel, it's balanced, it's approachable.
I think it's the same with beer too. I've gotten to know a few beer geeks here. Cider's better than beer though.
5. What are your favorite ciders/or other things to drink?
I lean more toward sours and wild-fermented beers. Beers that don't have added flavors.
Making beer and cider are similar in that you're preserving the harvest; beer was made to preserve the grain harvest like cider was made to preserve to the apple harvest. If you have to add to that, to what you started with, perhaps it wasn't good enough to begin with.
I'm called a cidermaker but cider just happens, you know? We're isolating one decomposition aspect.
6. Fun facts:
I've built a lot of what you see at Virtue Cider. I framed the wall of Cider House 1. The window casement in the Tasting Room is made from a birch tree that was behind the cider house. It was a favorite tree of Greg's.
I started making mead as homework to get a better grasp and now I make cider and mead at home. I'm also helping a friend renovate a store front into a meadery.
You can meet our cidermakers and learn all about our craft cidermaking at one of our regularly scheduled tours. We have a special Cidermaker Tour on Fridays. Book your spot in advance, and come see us!