Celebrating four years of Midland County-produced hard cider

For a small business owner, every anniversary is a big deal. Even your fourth.

That's what Nicole Ward says, and she should know. Ward and her husband Rafe Ward run Eastman's Forgotten Ciders, a line of hard ciders produced from the Wards' apple orchard in Midland County.

There are more than 1,200 varieties of apples grown at the Wards' orchard, producing a unique variety of hard ciders. It's an opportunity for customers to try new types of apples for the first time, while also providing a locally-sourced alternative to the mass-produced overly sugary hard ciders found on store shelves nationwide.

"There are a lot of people wanting more natural tasting ciders, like the ones you find in Europe," Nicole says. "I think we probably have the popularity of craft breweries to thank for that."

The Wards recently celebrated their fourth year in business. While not the typical number of a fifth or tenth anniversary, a fourth year in business is no less worth celebrating for it means one thing: They're still in business. The Wards figured out the hard cider business on their own, and they're feeling appreciative for all those who have been around for the ride.

Different apple varietals ready for processing during a fall season

The team at Eastman's Forgotten Ciders is thankful for the support they've received. Nicole says she was surprised by the turnout at the recent fourth anniversary party, held at the Eastman's Forgotten Ciders tasting room and production facility this past Saturday, Feb. 10. She expected to see some familiar faces, but she saw a lot of new people, too.

"Sometimes it can feel like being an island, as a small business owner. You ride the highs, you ride the lows. This has been unchartered territory for us," Nicole says. "We're just really thankful to the community that we're able to be a part of; the Midland Chamber of Commerce, the customers."

"We're just really grateful for the support," says Ward.

The tasting room shuts down for the winter, so the event allowed everyone back in before the official spring opening. And while customers may have to wait until May for the official season opens for the tasting room, Eastman's Forgotten Ciders can be found year round at bars, restaurants, and party stores throughout the tri-city area, and even statewide.

Eastman's Forgotten Ciders tasting room and orchard is located at 1058 W. Midland-Gratiot County Line Rd. in Wheeler.

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