RC Investors, a private investment group, today announced it has taken a majority interest in Ridge Cider Company, a craft hard cider company based in Grant, Mich. Matt DeLong, founder of Ridge, will become the head cider maker, and business operations will be managed by the new Ridge Cider, LLC. This investment positions Ridge to begin bottling their hard cider for regional distribution.
Launched in 2015, Ridge produces more than 30 dry, artisanal ciders in the European tradition, made from 100 percent fresh Michigan apples, personally selected by DeLong from specific varieties found along “the ridge,” West Michigan’s legendary apple orchard country. Ridge employs traditional farmhouse production methods that include native and secondary fermentation and use of wild yeasts, native to the region.
“Artisanal cider is made like a fine wine. It starts with locally grown apples from estate orchards, which are then fermented with their own sugars and yeasts. The result is a refreshing alternative to traditional white wine or a session IPA,” said DeLong. “Our goal from the beginning was to start with the best products, make real cider, and build from there. With the RC investment, we can accelerate our bottling operations and immediately expand our distribution network.”
To date, Ridge’s distribution network has been limited to taprooms and restaurants along the Lake Michigan shore. The company will immediately pursue distribution into retail and wholesale suppliers.
DeLong’s simple, natural approach to cider combines traditions that were used at the founding of the United States and pairs them with the modern flavors characteristic of today’s craft beer industry. Variations currently include versions made with local honey, cherries, raspberries and hibiscus flowers, as well as a dry-hopped cider. Initially, Ridge will bottle Hop’d, a dry-hopped cider with using three varieties of hops to create a combination of citrus tones, sharp hoppy flavors and a creamy or buttery mouth feel on the finish, and Porch Sittin’, a vanilla cinnamon blend made with whole vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks.
“Ridge’s founders are passionate about their craft and upholding the traditions of the cider house. The quality and range of the ciders that Matt is producing is unmatched, and we were particularly taken with his creative approach to product innovation,” said Dick DeVos, principal of RC Investors. “Cider is a growing part of our region’s craft beverage market, and it has been experiencing rising popularity among consumers.”
Brian Mucci, a proven organizational executive, has been designated as the manager of RC Investors.
Matt DeLong has been making cider since he was a teenager, where he started experimenting with letting fresh cider ferment in his basement. He has continued
to pursue this passion over the years, refining his approach but always using fresh local ingredients from local orchards. Matt initially formed Ridge Cider Company to produce bulk cider for other breweries and wineries, but with the intention of opening a hard cider company of his own.
In 2014, DeLong joined forces with Bruce Rasch, a fifth-generation apple farmer and owner of Apple Quest, one of the largest orchards in Michigan. Rasch produced much of his apple harvest fresh markets across the Midwest.
Covering 158 square miles and named for its extensive agricultural activity, the “ridge” extends from Walker in the south; to Grant in the North, and is primarily centered on Sparta. It is considered a “fruit agricultural mecca,” as its fertile soil, high elevation and unique climate because of the proximity to Lake Michigan, make it one of the prime fruit-growing regions in the world.
About Ridge Cider, LLC
Since in 2014, Ridge Cider has produced dry, artisanal ciders in the European tradition, made from 100 percent fresh Michigan apples, selected from specific varieties found along “the ridge,” West Michigan’s legendary apple orchard country. Ridge employs traditional farmhouse production methods that include native and secondary fermentation and use of wild yeasts. Ridge Cider’s taproom is open Thursday through Sunday, and also serves food and hosts live music performances. For more info, visit ridgecider.com.