Feb 4, 2024
Hill Brothers Orchards lands first in Michigan Cider Contest

The 25th winner of the Michigan Apple Cider Contest, Hill Brothers Orchards Grand Rapids, has earned the recognition six times.

Jim Hill, owner and cider maker, accepted the award at the annual awards banquet during the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO in Grand Rapids on Dec. 6. Hill Brothers Orchards has been family owned and operated since 1843 and has placed in national cider competitions as well.

In order to fit the name of the newest Michigan Apple Cider Contest winner, organizers added a second base to the award. Photo by Debbie Eisele.

There were 25 entries in this year’s competition, said Derek Plotowski, fruit Extension educator at Michigan State University and director of the cider contest. This is the first year he’s overseen the event after Bob Tritten, who ran it for the first 24 years, retired.

Three of last year’s finalists placed in the top five this year, Plotkowski said. He noted that the traveling trophy looks different: there was no more room to note new winners, so another level was built on the base of the award, which is a wooden cask.

The second-place winner was Farmer White’s, Williamsburg, Michigan, owned by Mary and Vincent Cooper. The third-place winner was Blake’s Orchard and Cider Mill, Armada, Michigan, owned by Pete and Paul Blake.

“The annual cider contest is a great way for cider makers to connect and learn from one another,” Diane Smith, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee, said in a news release. “Cider makers put in a lot of hard work to make their delicious cider, whether it be growing their own apples or changing up their recipe to make the best cider.”

Michigan Apple Cider Contest judges rate the cider on appearance, flavor, consistency and other factors. Photo by Chris Koger.

The apple committee, Michigan State Horticultural Society and Fruit Growers News sponsor the annual event.

Tritten started the competition to help improve cider making, promote the industry and educate the public.

— Chris Koger, managing editor

Top photo: Michigan Apple Cider Contest winners Chris (from left), and Jim Hill, of Hill Brothers Orchards (first place); contest director Derek Plotkowski, Vincent Cooper of Farmer White’s (second place), and Ray Blake, of Blake’s Orchard and Cider Mill (third place). Photo by Debbie Eisele.


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