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Greg Hall, former Goose Island brewmaster, debuts a cider.

Gregory Hall, long-time Goose Island brewmaster and son of Goose Island founder John Hall, departed the family brewery when Anheuser-Busch InBev bought the company early last year.

Now, Mr. Hall plans to explore the cider category with Virtue, a new hard cider company that debuted its first cider in the Chicago market last week.

The first product, called RedStreak, is described as an English session-style cider, aged in American Oak. The company reports that RedStreak is now available in draft format at a number of restaurants and bars in the Chicago area, including The Publican, Hopleaf and Lula Cafe.

Virtue produced RedStreak at the St. Julian Winery in Paw Paw, MI. The cider was made from a blend of apples from small farms in Michigan and Illinois, including Nichols Farm and Seedling, and fermented with three yeast strains. According to Mr. Hall, the 6.3% abv cider "has bright apple peel on the nose with a slight sweetness and a tart yet slightly tannic finish."

The company is planning to build a LEED-certified cider house on a 48-acre farm in Fennville, MI, that Virtue recently acquired, slated to open in fall of 2013.

Mr. Hall plans to introduce two additional styles of barrel-aged draft cider in the fall of 2012 in Chicago, as well as SW Michigan, New York City and Portland, Oregon.

Virtue's fall release draft ciders will include Lapinette, a French-style brut cidre aged in French oak and The Mitten, aged in 12-year-old bourbon barrels.

Mr. Hall said his interest in cider started more than a decade ago, while traveling in York, England with a group of brewers. He recalled attending a cider festival and being impressed by the quality of the English ciders, and the range of styles.

"I have been thinking of doing premium quality, complex ciders ever since," Mr. Hall said. "Right now cider is in an embryonic stage in the United States, basically where craft beer was when I started brewing in 1988. It is a great beverage with a lot of history in this country. And while there are many American farmstead cider makers producing great cider today, most consumers don't have access to good cider like they do with craft beer, wine and spirits. I plan to help change this with Virtue."

Mr. Hall said Virtue's mission will be to "make English, French and Spanish style ciders that pair well with food and support small farmers, using heirloom apple varieties, while giving back to the community."

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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Geographic Code:1U3MI
Date:Apr 19, 2012
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