Wednesday, April 27, 2016

My Experience at GLINTCAP 2016: The World's Largest Cider Competition!

I hope you guys had great weekends, I know I certainly did. This was my third year trekking up to Michigan to judge in the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition. The competition has been going on for eleven (11!) years now, growing exponentially. Reading back to Old Time Cider's coverage from 2012, only 299 entries made up the entirety of the competition. (You can read the full entry here: Its mind boggling how much this has taken off!

This year we crossed a major threshold; more than 1,000 ciders and perries were submitted and judged. Also, it was my first year as a featured judge, whoa. I cannot say that wasn't a complete honor.

You can see the web presence of GLINTCAP here: 
Right now, you can see the Best in Class winners front and center. All of these ciders are exceptional and not to be missed should you have the chance to try them!

As this was my third trip, I've written about my wonderful experiences at GLINTCAP before:

Just before my first GLINTCAP, I started my apple branch tattoo:

Here's my write up of attending GLINTCAP in 2014:

This review from 2015 also includes the GLINTCAP results:

And now for GLINTCAP 2016!

One of the major draws of GLINTCAP for volunteers is getting to take a tasting seminar by Gary Audey (an amzing Indiana cider maker) and  Charles McGonegal (cidermaker of his own Wisconsin cider company Aeppeltreow). The seminar covers styles, common fermentation flaws, as well as a careful breakdown of the aroma, mouthfeel, and flavor elements of tasting cider.

Its a wonderful workshop that McGonegal describes accurately when he calls it a "Sampling of the cider experience." But, lest ye think it all fun and games, some of the flaws are unpleasant and the whole seminar takes about 5 hours. I wrote up an earlier version given at Cider Con 2015 (

This year, the modifications to the workshop focused on volatile acidity, acetic acid, and the nearness in style of some French and English ciders. As always, it is a great tune up of the palate and taking of the pulse of the cider world. Then we were all supposed to go to bed, but most folks went out in search of food instead. I sought sustenance in the fine company of fellow cider writers( and award-winning home cidermakers (who make super weird things sometimes) and found awesome macaroni and cheese with roasted red peppers. 

Saturday started early with an oatmeal breakfast at 8am. Not glamorous but necessary ballast for the cider tasting to come. Everyone was encouraged to spit rather than drink their samples (and most of us complied) but even so, tasting three flights of 10-12 samples is a long slog of a day.

I got got serve as table lead for three very different commercial categories: New World Heritage, Fruit Cider, and Barrel Aged Cider and Perry. I am not going to say much more specific than that, as I feel discretion is a valuable thing in a judge. But, the range went from the sublime to the ridiculous. Our tables kept focus and gave honest feedback, including our email addresses in case any cider makers want to contact us for follow ups. There's a tremendous sense of responsibility in the competition. I respect and appreciate the sense of accountability instilled by the GLINTCAP organizers. 

The illustrious Eric West (of Cider Guide: organizes the competition with incredible care and devotion.  Long-standing pillar of the cider community Mike Beck (of Uncle John's Cider Mill also shares generously of his time, knowledge, cider, and hospitality to make GLINTCAP happen). There are so many more who work tirelessly to bring together this many people and ciders together with a minimum of mayhem. My warmest thanks to all of them!

What a great event. Stay tuned for when the full results will be announced in the coming weeks.

Then we finished up with a pizza party sponsored by the Michigan Cider Association. There, I was encouraged to plant apple trees, get a dog, make my own cider, and otherwise make life more awesome. And we talked about our favorite cider events around the country and who we missed seeing this year (Rex Halfpenny! Dick Dunn!), and why cider folks just love plaid so darn much. Plus there was cider, pizza, and cornhole. 

At this point, I'd be hard pressed to say what my favorite part of GLINTCAP is. I love learning more about cider through the seminar, tasting seriously with other folks keen to articulate what they experience in a cider, or getting to see the the friends I've gained through my time in the cider world. All of these are invaluable!