A family with 160 years of apple orchard history is slowly building a hard cider brand.
Schaefer Cider Co., in Conklin, has been making hard cider for four years and is pushing it into West Michigan as the Pux Cider brand.
Chris Schaefer, one of the company’s owners, said the company is making 11 brands of cider, including three in cans.
Schaefer grew up on a 200-acre farm a few miles away from where his uncle purchased the 160-year-old homestead farm from a cousin a few years ago. The hard cider experiment began four years ago in the old cold storage building, which Schaefer said allowed the family to get “used to the process and different yeasts and apples.”
Initially, Pux Cider came out in large format bottles, but pricing and odd retail placement pushed them to pursue cans.
The canned varieties are Boondoggle, a blood orange cider, Ballyhoo with raspberry and key lime, and Hornswaggle, a hopped cider. Other ciders include Harvest Cider, a European-style, noncarbonated dry cider, and Bill, a dry cider blend with four apple varieties, including crab apples for personality.
“Now we’re priced more competitively, because we came out a little high trying to catch the craft aspect of it,” Schaefer said. “The market isn’t 100 percent there. I’ve noticed people are certainly interested in drier ciders now than they were four years ago.”
Pux Cider is among several cider makers in West Michigan making a push toward drier ciders, much like drinkers might find in Europe.
Schaefer said this fall they’ve made 3,000 gallons of hard cider, doubled from a year ago. He also mentioned because of efforts by Paul Vander Heide at Vander Mill, there was a noticeable uptick in available cider variety apples. They’re also making a push to grow more of their own cider apples.
“Right now, we’re basically pressing what we have on the farm, which are dessert varieties, a lot of our fruit isn’t different than what you’d see in the fresh produce aisle,” he said. “We do have 250 gallons of cider fruit pressed, last year we had probably 10 gallons.”
Schaefer said he tries to play with the Pux Cider Instagram page to showcase differences in apples.
Pux Cider is still a side gig for the Schaefer family, and they’re still reinvesting and covering the basic needs of the business. Eventually, they hope to open a taproom on the farm, but are dealing with some legal hurdles.
“We’re just having a good time, not trying to get under pressure,” Schaefer said. “We’re taking everything slow.”