Squishy, our first ever seasonal bottle release (a semi-sweet cider made with Michigan cherries) is making its way to stores in the coming weeks alongside our flagship ciders, Pulsar and Octorock. Made with cherries from our own backyard (no seriously, these cherries are grown at King Orchards, just a short bike ride), Squishy will be reppin’ Antrim county flavors state-wide. So it only seems fitting that we talk a little more about the fruit behind the flavors right? Right!
Made with two varieties of tart cherries, Squishy’s signature flavor comes from the use of Montmorency (a traditional cooking cherry, most likely you’ll recognize this cherry from your Great Aunt Sue’s famous cherry pie) and Balaton (a Hungarian cherry that is relatively new to the Northern Michigan cherry scene) cherry juice.
We source the juice for Squishy from King Orchards, a first generation orchard and farm with its roots in Central Lake, MI. Pioneered by Jim and John King and their families, their operation includes u-pick orchards, two farm markets, and commercial fruit and cherry concentrate sales. Jack and Courtney King, members of the next generation of the King Orchards family, took us on a tour of their original M-88 orchard just outside of Central Lake on a busy Saturday at the end of cherry season where we had the opportunity to talk all things fruit and cider.
Outside of cherries, King Orchards also grows apples, apricots, pears, peaches, nectarines, and vegetables in Antrim county. Their location in the northern portion of Michigan’s famed cherry growing region is beautiful (you can see Lake Michigan from portions of their M-88 market), beneficial (the rolling hills, climate, and soil of Antrim county lend themselves to growing cherries and other stone fruit), and at times, trying. In particular the threat of late frosts and the cold and bitter winters of late have tested not only King Orchards, but many throughout the region. But when you walk up the hill at their M-88 orchard past rows of apricot, peach, and seemingly limitless lines of cherry trees and you turn around to breathtaking views of rolling hills and Lake Michigan, you really understand why it is this family chose this path.
We think King Orchards is pretty cool. And if you’ve had a squishy, you know that they mean business when it comes to growing the juiciest, tastiest cherries. When asked for the secret to their cherry juice concentrate, Jack King answered that simply leaving the fruit to ripen on the branch for as long as possible is the most important aspect. While it might not be much of a “secret,” it really speaks to the care and attention that the King family imparts in all they do. Jack’s sentiments and the goals of King Orchards really echo the commitment we’ve made to crafting a beverage we believe in that showcases the beauty of our home.
So the next time you enjoy a Squishy on tap or in our brand spankin’ new bottles, take pride in knowing that this ruby red, semi-sweet cider is made with only the choicest of cherries from our Antrim county neighbors.