Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Finally! My fabulous time at GLINTCAP.

Now, as spring is just barely starting to visit orchards in the Finger Lakes area, I want to take a post and share my big cider adventure of this past winter. Yes, I'm considering late March winter. 2014 knew how to keep things cold.

I got invited to volunteer at the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry (GLINTCAP) competition by Eric West. He is writing a book The New American Cider Guide (check out the blog and book project here: http://www.ciderguide.com/ ). Eric does all kinds of really good work within the cider community.

When I first started checking GLINTCAP out as a potential volunteer, I learned plenty. It is one of the major projects of the Great Lakes Cider and Perry Association (GLCPA) and one of the largest international cider-based competitions in the world. The weekend would involve an all day cider training and the chance to meet and talk with cider experiences from all over the place, including some of my long-term cider heroes. The competition is open to both professionals and home cidermakers and includes cider, perry, mead, ice ciders, and other fermented apple beverages, some defying any possible categorization. Their website has tons of useful information: http://www.greatlakescider.com

The last element that really intrigued me was that GLINTCAP is a Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) competition. The BJCP is an extensive network of certifications and competitions designed to help educate folks about beer and related beverages. This is a huge program with a lot of participation worldwide (http://www.bjcp.org/index.php) Cider guidelines exist within the BJCP, and these events are a major point of dialogue for beer folks, cider folks, and equal opportunity quaffers.

It did not take very long for me to decide that I really wanted to make this happen. Either stewarding or judging would be an invaluable experience, so I got time off from both of my jobs for a whirlwind trip to St. Johns, Michigan.

The drive was beautiful. Still winter, but beautiful.


Saturday, we all experienced the good, bad, and ugly through an unbelievably thorough Judges Training Seminar, whether newcomers to the competition or cider experts of long-standing experience. For me, this was my primary motivation to make the trip. I want to learn more about cider all of the time, so I jumped the chance to learn in detail about both common cidermaking flaws and different distinctive cider styles. Amazing!


For this event, I sat with some really fabulously interesting people, including Old Timey Dave (but we were too interesting and ended up getting shushed once, oops!). The big takeaway from this, besides all of the actual flaws and styles we worked on identifying, for me was that experienced cider palates vary just as much anyone else's. I can taste some flaws really easily (mousiness!) but others almost not at all (popcorn) and my tablemates had different strengths and blind spots in their own tasting. We also preferred different styles and characteristics. This really reminded me that when I taste, I may be able to describe and taste carefully, but I can only truly evaluate any given cider for myself. Everyone tastes things and enjoys things so differently. That's a good reminder to get regularly.

By the end of the day our palates were all blown and we were exhausted from sitting and tasting and thinking and tasting some more. It really is work.


For this event, I sat with some really fabulously interesting people, including Old Timey Dave (but we were too interesting and ended up getting shushed once, oops!). The big takeaway from this, besides all of the actual flaws and styles we worked on identifying, for me was that experienced cider palates vary just as much anyone else's. I can taste some flaws really easily (mousiness!) but others almost not at all (popcorn) and my tablemates had different strengths and blind spots in their own tasting. We also preferred different styles and characteristics. This really reminded me that when I taste, I may be able to describe and taste carefully, but I can only truly evaluate any given cider for myself. Everyone tastes things and enjoys things so differently. That's a good reminder to get regularly.

By the end of the day our palates were all blown and we were exhausted from sitting and tasting and thinking and tasting some more. It really is work.

Sunday morning came early, but I could not have been happier about my judging category and partner. I got the privilege of judging with Dick Dunn whose expertise and generosity has helped the cider community for a long time. Not only that, but we were assigned to Commercial New World Cider. Most of our ciders were petillant (meaning sparkling but not champagne level or style of sparkle) and dry. The whole process went smoothly and seriously, just as I'd hoped. Dick was as gracious a fellow judge as one could wish for. Our ciders ranged from the troubled to the positively delightful.

After that first session, we broke for a nice mild lunch. Ordinarily I do not associate mild food with such enjoyment, but we all needed to rest our palates more than stimulate them.

For the second session, I got paired with a professional cider maker to judge a non-commercial division. We had tons of fun because we got the "others"; those ciders that do not fit into traditional categories like fruit wines, oak aged, English, French, or New World style. And we did get a few crazily creative ones. I believe one of them reminded me of what a moon-shining grandpa would drink secreted in his aftershave bottle. A little weird.

Sadly, I did not get to stay long enough to enjoy our celebratory dinner and devouring of all of the cider remainders. That would have been amazing, but my long drive pulled me away far too soon.

All in all, it was an amazing weekend. I own thanks to many people for making it the event possible and for making it such fun! Thanks very much to Mike Beck, Rex Halfpenny, Eric West, Dick Dunn, David White, and Charles McGonegal. I'm sure I owe thanks to plenty more folks too.



For those interesting in the results of all of our tasting and judging:

http://www.greatlakescider.com/glintresults2014.html
http://www.greatlakescider.com/glintanalysis2014.pdf

1 comment:

  1. Glad it exceeded your expectations. It must have been great finally meeting the cider all stars such as Eric West, Dick Dunn and Dave White.

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