Dec 7, 2023
Hill Brothers Orchards earns Michigan’s top cider award

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

The Grand Rapids company placed first in 1997 and 1998, the first two years of the program (due to COVID-19, the event was canceled in 2020 and 2021).

GLEXPO 23 Cider Awards all
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.

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 competitions as well.

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.

Michigan Cider Judging
Judges rate the ciders on variables that include appearance, consistency and flavor. Photo by Chris Koger.

The second-place winner in the 2023 Michigan Apple Cider Contest is Farmer White’s, Williamsburg, Michigan, owned by Mary and Vincent Cooper. The third-place winner is Blake’s Orchard and Cider Mill, Armada, Mich., 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.”

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

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

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