We recently wrote an article about mead, an alcoholic drink made from fermented honey. Hard cider is an up and coming option for those who enjoy beer and wine. Hard cider is also gluten free, which is sought after more and more with people’s changes in diet.
Early accounts of hard cider consumption date back to the 17th and 18th centuries in the United States. It is most popular in the UK but In recent years has gained popularity in the United States. Here in Lowell, locally owned and operated Painted Turtle Hard Cider is creating a name for itself.
The Seed is Planted
In 2014 members of the Loughlin family came up with the idea of making hard cider. Marie, the matriarch of the family, along with her husband, daughter, son, and daughter-in-law have different backgrounds but together become the perfect business combination. In the apple business for 30 years, patriarch Bob is an expert. Daughter Tracy, an engineer, had the original idea for making hard cider. Her brother Rob has a sales background and his wife Melissa’s strengths are in marketing as well as her creativity in the kitchen.
This quintet wanted to go back to hard cider roots by creating a product in a traditional English style. But ‘traditional’ also includes creative. “We really wanted to be creative and utilized our culinary and baking skills to develop our test flavors. We were inspired by desserts we’ve tasted and even by some of the unique craft beers we have tried.” reveals Tracy Loughlin. “We were really excited in that some of our flavors really hadn’t been done before, at least in the Michigan market for cider.” Traditional, Blueberry Bliss, Apple Crisp, and Java Vanilla are the four flavors currently available. The blending and experimenting doesn’t stop here. Additional flavors are being created, including some seasonal offerings, for future release.
Fall through early winter is the busiest creation time, coinciding with the apple season. Thanks to cold storage of the apples, hard cider production can continue into late spring. It takes 6-8 weeks from start to finish to make hard cider. Painted Turtle Hard Cider products are fermented slowly at the coolest temperature possible while interacting with yeast. This creates a smooth flavor. The preparation doesn’t stop at this point. Tracy explains, “We also age our cider to round out the flavor, which gives our cider the great mouth feel and apple pop we want it to be known for.” Some ciders are aged longer than others for optimal taste.
The Loughlins proudly boast that their product comes from Michigan. The painted turtle is the state reptile of Michigan. Ingredients needed come from around the state. Even their logo and tap handles are created in the Grand Rapids area.
The family also sells and delivers their product in the Grand Rapids area. In April of this year their hard cider was first sold in stores. It can now be found in over 50 stores and restaurants, including Pauly’s, Lowell Beer Store, Main Street BBQ, and Flat River Grill.
Due to the success of their business, Painted Turtle Hard Cider is already looking to expand its production facility. But the family won’t lose sight of their focus on quality, unique products, and continuing to be a hand crafted cidery.
There could also be future partnerships with other local small businesses. They already have a relationship with Schuil Coffee, another family owned and operated establishment. Collaboration with these types of businesses ultimately grow the local small business market and strengthen community ties. A tasting room is also on the list of possibilities for the future.
An Asset to the Community
The family behind Painted Turtle Hard cider is passionate about their product. They are also enthusiastic members of the community. Recognizing support and help from local farmers and government entities helped their small business, the Loughlins are contributing members of the community. Marie Loughlin refers to their “worthy cause marketing” as a method for advertising in addition to helping through donations and sponsorship of charitable events in the community.
In conclusion, you can be certain a great deal of thought and passion has gone into any Painted Turtle Hard Cider product. The Loughlin family thinks outside the box. Their drive and compassion is evident through business practices and a variety of unique hard cider flavors.
Photos courtesy of Painted Turtle Hard Cider (family photo by Kendra Denault Photography).