Virtue Debuts First Cider

CHICAGO – Virtue, the new hard cider venture from Gregory Hall, former Brewmaster at Goose Island Beer Co., and co-founder Stephen Schmakel, debuts its first release, RedStreak, today in Chicago. An English session-style cider, aged in American Oak, RedStreak is now available in draft format at a number of restaurants and bars in the Chicago area, including The Publican, Hopleaf and Lula Café with more locations coming soon. Virtue will debut 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 is a branch-to-bottle enterprise whose mission is to make a series of English, French and Spanish style ciders that pair well with food and support small farmers, using the highest quality heirloom apple varieties while giving back to the community. To that effect, Virtue hosted an event to recognize the launch of RedSteak on Thursday, April 12, 2012 at The Hideout in Chicago to benefit The Academy of Global Citizenship, a Chicago Public Charter School.

Hall’s interest in cider started long before stepping down as brewmaster at Goose Island in the spring of 2011, a position he held for 20 years. More than a decade ago, in 2000, while traveling in York, England with a group of brewers, Hall came across a cider festival and was deeply impressed by the range of styles and quality of ciders. The seed was officially planted and he has been thinking of doing premium quality, complex ciders ever since.

“Right now cider is in an embryonic stage in the United States, basically where craft beer was when I started brewing in 1988,” explains Hall. “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.”

Virtue produced RedStreak at the St. Julian Winery in Paw Paw, Michigan. It is crafted from a blend of apples from small farms in Michigan and Illinois, including Nichols Farm and Seedling, and fermented with three yeast strains. The 6.3% ABV cider has bright apple peel on the nose with a slight sweetness and a tart yet slightly tannic finish. It pairs well with a variety of foods from cheddar cheese to scallops, and oysters to braised rabbit.

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. Longer term plans include the construction of a LEED-certified cider house on a 48-acre farm in Fennville, Michigan that Virtue recently acquired, slated to open in fall of 2013.

Chicago restaurants and bars that are serving RedStreak on draft as of today, Friday, April 13, 2012:

  • Bad Apple
  • Delilah’s
  • GT Fish & Oyster
  • The Hideout
  • Hopleaf
  • Lula Café
  • Nellc├┤te
  • The Publican
  • Sheffield’s Beer & Wine Garden
  • Uncommon Ground
  • The Village Tap

And coming soon to:

  • The Bristol
  • Bottom Lounge
  • Empty Bottle
  • Farmhouse
  • Longman & Eagle
  • Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar
    • Mindy’s Hot Chocolate
    • Publican Quality Meats
    • Revolution Brewing
    • Tavernita
    • Tiny Lounge
    • Trenchermen

Virtue Brands is a Chicago-based craft cider company. Partnering with local farmers to find the highest quality heirloom apples, Virtue produces ciders that combine old world farmhouse styles with modern craft fermentation and aging techniques, Fan them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @VirtueCider.